Vancouver theatre review

Carousel Theatres cast: James and the Giant Peach James and the Giant Peach
Based on  the book by Roald Dahl
Book by Timothy Allan McDonald
Words and Music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Carousel Theatre for Young People
Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island
Dec 6, 2014 to Jan 4, 2015

Deb Williams, Julian Lokash & Patti Allan. Photo by Tim Matheson.Vancouver, BC: Carousel Theatre's James and the Giant Peach is a visual feast to delight everyone from wide-eyed six year olds to their misty eyed grandparents. The design team of Al Frisk (Set), Lights (Gerald King), Puppets (Annett Mateo) and props (Heidi Wilkinson) have created an playing space filled with a riot of bright bold colours and objects,  in which Barbara Clayden's charming and imaginative costumes still succeed in standing out. The John Fluevog shoe junkie sitting beside me was casting looks of envy at the feet of the Bugs, clad in gorgeous Fluevog footwear.

The musical tells of the adventures of James Henry Trotter, a young boy living in an orphanage because his parents were eaten by an escaped rhinoceros. Taken to live with his only remaining family, wicked aunties Spiker (Patti Allan) and Sponge (Deb Williams), James encounters a mystery man who concocts a magic potion to help him. But things go badly wrong and James finds himself at sea on a giant peach with a collection of bugs:  Centipede (Scott Bellis), Grasshopper (Alex Rose), Earthworm (Jonathan Wimsby - who also plays the mysterious Man), Spider (Maykayla Moore) and Ladybug (Kaylee Harwood).

James is played by young Julian Lokash with the confidence and aplomb one would expect of an established actor. He put heart and soul into being James and it shows.

 

Wide Awake Hearts
By Brendan Gall
Directed by Brian Cochrane
Hardline Theatre & Twenty Something Theatre Production
Little Mountain Gallery (195 E 26th)
till Dec 20th, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Why, you might ask, would a screenwriter turned indie film producer write scorching sex scenes starring his wife, and then cast his longtime "best" friend to play her leading man? That's the starting premise of Wide Awake Hearts, a witty, fast paced play, that opened Friday night in the very intimate theatre space at Little Mountain Gallery, just off Main Street. It's just one puzzle posed by this metatheatrical work, in which "real life" and film making intertwine.

Gall does not give his four characters names but calls them A, B, C and D; a hint that these people are more ephemeral than real?  With the exception of character A who runs the gamut from confident self-promotion to jealousy, paranoia and violence, Gall's "real life" characters are as two dimensional as their celluloid counterparts. But luckily the ability of this cast to work the snappy dialogue keeps the energy high.

Speed -the-Plow
By David Mamet
Directed by David Mackay
A Mitch & Murray Production
Studio 16 (1555 W 7th Ave., Vancouver)
Nov 13 to 29, 2014

Vancouver, BC: From their opening lines, Aaron Craven and Craig Erickson take off with the hypermanic intensity of Mamet's fast moving script. Bobby Gould (Erickson) is the recently promoted Director of Production in  a major Hollywood studio, headed by Richard Ross. Bobby's long time friend Charlie Fox (Craven), who has been waiting for ever for his own big break, bursts into his office with news that a big Hollowood name from another studio wants to "cross the street" and make a prison film of a script brought to him by Fox. But they have to get the project green-lighted by Ross before 10 am the next day.

 

Urinetown: The Musical
By Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis
Directed by Donna Spencer
Musical Direction by Steve Charles
Choreography by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg
Firehall Arts Centre
Nov 1- 29, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Take a biologically impossible premise, add songs with clever, funny lyrics, thrown in brilliant choreography with parodies of top hit musicals, provide a big bad corporate CEO in cahoots with corrupt cops and conniving politicians... call it Urinetown: The Musical and you have a hilarious satirical show that adults love, even though they are eons past their preschool bathroom-humour phase.

Blue Box
written and performed by Carmen Aguirre
directed by Brian Quirt
A Nightswimming Production
Arts Club Theatre Company
Revue Stage Granville Island
Oct 9 to  Nov 1, 2014
Vancouver, BC:  Carmen Aguirre is a true powerhouse of a performer. With minimal set or props, just her intense delivery softened by an engagingly sly smile as she zaps her audience with another provocative anecdote, she kept me riveted to her story. And what a tale she weaves!

Three Tall Women
By Edward Albee
directed by Terence Kelly
PAL Studio Theatre (581 Cardero St.)
Oct 23 to Nov 9, 2014

Vancouver, BC: I really liked this show; this is a play you do not want to miss. Albee's intriguingly crafted work is sensitively interpreted by the cast of Anna Hagan, Beatrice Zeilinger, Meaghan Chenosky and Matt Reznek.

When Three Tall Women premiered in 1994 off Broadway, it garnered for Albee the Pulitzer Award for Drama, the Drama Critics Circle Award for best play and the Outer Critics Circle award for best off-Broadway play, among many other accolades.  Interestingly I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. When I thought back to the 95/96 Vancouver production, the first time I saw this play, I remembered thinking at the time that it was a whole lot of talking and there was not much going on. This time,  being 20 years more "mature" and with two more decades of life experiences behind me, I understood, and was caught up in, just how much was in fact "going on" in this play.

img_6624-w500-h500.jpgDarling, A Musical
Music and Lyrics  by Ryan Scott Oliver;  Book by Brett Ryback
Directed and choreographed by Dawn Ewen
Musical direction by Steven Greenfield
Springboard Theatre Production
Renegade Production Studios, 125 East 2nd St., Vancouver
October 8 to 18th, 2014

Vurs-w500-h500.jpgancouver, BC: Many of Vancouver's successful independent theatre companies were started by the entrepreneurship of new grads or young actors to provide a vehicle through which they could practice their craft of theatre and gain practical  experience in performance, technical or production aspects. Springboard Theatre was founded a year ago by Capilano University Musical Theatre Program grads, Michelle Bardach, Kayla Heyblom and Katie Purych with the objective of putting on a musical that was youthful and provocative, and had not been done before in Vancouver. The musical they selected was Darling, the Musical written by Ryan Scott Oliver and  Brett Ryback in 2009.

Set in 1929 Boston just before the Great Crash, Darling gives a gritty, down-and-dirty twist to Barrie's tale of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling and the Lost Boys.

My Rabbi
my_rabbi_-_kayvon_kelly_joel_bernbaum_image_derek_ford_2-1-w500-h500.jpgWritten and performed by Kayvon Kelly and Joel Bernbaum
Directed by Julie McIsaac
A Sum Theatre Production.
Firehall Arts Centre,
Oct 7 to 18, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Two boys, Arya (Kayvon Kelly) and Jacob (Joel Bernbaum)  growing up in Saskatoon, meet at fifteen and become close friends; as close as brothers. Arya's family are Iranian Muslims.  Jacob's family is Jewish. Neither boy is devout, and the family's religious differences play no part in affecting their friendship. At times of stress such as parental illness, they are there for each other.
They grow up and Jacob moves to New York to become a rabbi while Arya goes to Iran to learn about his origins. They keep in touch by letter for a while...
The play opens with Arya, now a devout Muslim,  and Jacob, now a Rabbi in Toronto, each at prayer. A chance encounter in a Toronto street reunites them. But the bombing of buses and cafes in Israel is being echoed by the bombing of synagogues in Toronto. Can this bond of friendship between Muslim and Jew endure through religious, philosophical and  political differences?

img_1179_-_shot_4_-_money-w500-h500.jpgCymbeline
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Anita Rochon
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 4 to Sept 17, 2014

img_1435_-_money-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, BC: Cymbeline is one of the lesser known Shakespearean dramas with many characters taking on alternate identities. It is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I have never seen performed, studied or even read until now. In Cymbeline, the plot is rather convoluted and the Bard uses many of his familiar devices and characters - the poison that simulates death, disguises that are un-believably effective, lost royal heirs that are raised in poverty, the deceitful betrayer who besmirches the reputation of the virtuous heroine - and I honestly wasn’t expecting to be riveted to the stage as I am when I watch one of his great tragedies. 

But I really loved this production. Anita Rochon’s direction was crisp and incisive and this talented group of actors were able to push the limits of the multiple role casting to provide the comedic sharpness that this play needs.

img_0607_-_money-w500-h500.jpgEquivocation
by Bill Cain
Directed by Michael Shamata
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 2 to Sept 19, 2014
Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean

Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean “connection”  as the 4th play in a Bard on the Beach season. These plays such as Mark Leiren -Young's "Shylock" or Stoppard's "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern", that are not of the Shakespeare's writing yet complement the current productions, add a different dimension to the Bard on the Beach experience.

This year, Bill Cain’s "Equivocation", though not specifically related to any of the three other plays on stage,  was an excellent choice and I found the play witty and thought-provoking. Filled to the brim with allusions recognizable to the Shakespearean “in” crowd, it presents an tantalizing imagined tale of how Equivocation's Shakespeare character, Shagspeare, comes to produce one of the Shakespearean tragedies most admired and performed to this day. I'll leave it to you to find out which one.

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