Vancouver theatre review

Legally Blonde: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Direction by Danny Balkwill
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Playing alternate nights until August 17th, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It was another perfect night at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver. The sky was clear, the temperature hovered around 20ºC and I didn't even need a jacket. We Vancouverites, who have sat through cold and rainy summer nights in Stanley Park, prayed to the weather fairies that these glorious days and nights would last till September, and sat back to revel in musical theatre in the park.

As for Legally Blonde: the Musical, developed from the 2001 film which in turn was based on Amanda Brown's novel Legally Blonde, - I enjoyed it so much I hope to find a time to bring my grand-daughter (California blonde of course) to see it when she comes to visit. 

 

The plot follows the journey of Elle Woods (Breanne Arrigo), blonde fashionista President of the UCLA Delta Nu, to Harvard Law School in pursuit of her ambitious preppy boyfriend, Warner (Peter Cumins) who had dumped her for the more "serious" and well-connected Vivienne (Andrea Bailey). Bringing her unique style into the classroom, Elle runs into the feared Professor Callahan (Warren Kimmel) and the supercilious attitudes of her ambitious classmates.

Hamlet
By Wlliam Shakespeare
Directed by Kim Collier
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
BMO Mainstage at Vanier Park
June 13 to September 12, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It is said that every actor wants to play Hamlet, and many great actors have, on stage and screen. So kudos to Jonathon Young for a passionate and riveting performance that drew fresh nuances from so many familiar lines and garnered a standing ovation from much of the sold-out house. In this marvelously complex play, young Hamlet has to find his path through so many issues; the revelation that the death of his revered father, the King,  was in fact a murder; when this revelation comes from his father's Ghost (Duncan Fraser) can it be real? how could his newly widowed mother turn so quickly to a new lover; what to do with the beautiful young  Ophelia when his thoughts are dominated by the need for revenge? Young makes his interpretation of every line crystal clear.

Spring Awakening
Book and Lyrics by Steven Slater
based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by David Hudgins
Musical Director Andy Toth
Choreographer  Shelley Stuart Hunt
at Studio 58, Langara College
Jan 31 to  Feb 24, 2013

Vancouver, BC: I have been waiting to see this show for several years. It seems like every time it is on in a particular city, I have either just missed it or leave before it opens so I am  glad to have finally caught this show, especially with the talented students of Studio 58 taking on what is quite a challenging work.

Based on Frank Wedekind's  controversial 1891 play, Spring Awakening, about burgeoning sexuality in a group of young people in 19th century Germany, the rock musical adaptation does not hold back in portraying the raw sexuality of the youth in question, nor the fears and the ignorance of both youth and adults in the provincial German town in which it's set.

RACE
By David Mamet
Directed by David Mackay
Mitch and Murray Productions
Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver
Running until December 1st, Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm.

Guest Review by Jo Ledingham

Vancouver, BC. This production of David Mamet’s Race (which premiered on Broadway in 2009) will have you leaping out of the starting blocks and sprinting all the way to the finish line. Directed by David Mackay, it’s all over in seventy minutes. It’s a potent, profanity-studded exposé of racism and misogyny so interlocked as to be inseparable.

It’s also an interesting bookend to Mamet’s Romance produced last fall at the Fringe. In Romance, the playwright slags lawyers and the legal system in a searing but exceedingly entertaining way: a judge who’s so medicated he can’t stay awake, lawyers who exchange racial and religious slurs and a client who may or may not be guilty of whatever the charge is – but who cares? That’s not the point.

Master Class
By Terence McNally
Directed by Meg Roe
Arts Club Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company
Sept 27 to Oct 27, 2012.

Vancouver, BC.  Voice students, Sophie (Shannon Chan-Kent) and Tony (Frédérik Robert) wander around the stage doing their vocal warm up. Manny (Angus Kellett), the accompanist, sits playing at the piano and The Stagehand (Felix LeBlanc) clomps around. It's the 1971-72 academic year at New York's Juilliard School, and the great diva, Maria Callas (Gina Chiarelli) is here to teach. The house lights are still up as Callas sweeps onto the stage and calls for them to be dimmed. We, the audience, are here to watch her conduct a master class. Sophie, Tony and Sharon (Melanie Krueger)  are the eager students who are about to become her "victims".

Attempts on her Life
By Martin Crimp
Directed by Katrina Dunn
Studio 58,
Langara College
Sept 27 to Oct 14, 2012

Vancouver, BC: Kudos to director, Katrina Dunn, and her cast  of 15 Studio 58 students, who made the one hour and 40 minutes of Martin Crimp's extraordinary "play" pass in a flash.  Martin Crimp is a contemporary British playwright and translator, whose 1997 play, Attempts on her Life, challenges conventional theatrical form and structure.  There is no storyline, no pre-defined characters and no pre-defined setting. This play consists of 17 apparently unrelated scenarios in which characters provide differing perspectives of a protagonist, Annie, whom we never actually meet on stage. Does she really exist or is she a construct of "woman" - daughter, mother, sexual object?

The Duchess  a.k.a. Wallis Simpson
By Linda Griffiths
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Theatre at UBC
Telus Studio Theatre
Sep 20 to Oct 6, 2012

Vancouver, BC.  Linda Griffith's play is a challenging piece of theatre but under the direction of Sarah Rodgers, the ten students of UBC's final year BFA class, playing 25 characters, managed to pull it off with a flair that would have made the duchess proud.  Griffiths has re-imagined the commonly known saga of the love affair between Edward VIII, reluctant heir to the throne of England,  and the charming upstart American divorcee, Wallis  Simpson, later Duchess of Windsor, for whom he renounced his crown.

She sets the story within the frame of the auctioning of the duchess's jewellery collection. The famed rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds are reflected in the jewel tones of the gorgeous costumes designed by Miriam Thom.

Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
Directed by Janet Wright
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Sept 6 to October 7, 2012

Vancouver, BC: Get your tickets for the Arts Club's Clybourne Park. It's a well acted production of a cleverly conceived and written script (winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama), and an excellent evening's entertainment.

Set in the same house in a Chicago suburb, fifty years apart, Norris's biting script examines inter-racial tensions that centre around neighborhoods and communities, and how ordinary people react to perceived threats from the insertion of "the other"  into their home environments.  

JERSEY BOYS: The story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Directed by Des McAnuff
Book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio
Lyrics by Bob Crewe
Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
Queen Elizabeth Theatre
September 5 - 23, 2012

Vancouver, BC:  I loved JERSEY BOYS. In fact, I actually have tickets to see the show again later this week.

Well what can I say? As a teen in the early sixties, living near the southern tip of Africa far from Newark, New Jersey, I and my friends used to dance to the music of The Four Seasons, along with that of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. And with the aerobic capacity of youth, we sang along loudly as we danced. Even now, the words of "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry" and "Walk Like a Man" echo in my mind and and wow -  the memories  they evoke! And talk about muscle memory.  As I listened to the music my body was just itching to get up and dance. Especially when they performed "Can't Take my Eyes off You" with its sexy rumba timing. Fortunately mind over muscle kept me sedately in my seat.

Stationary: A Recession Era Musical
Directed by Laura McLean
Written by  Christine Quintana
Music and Music Direction by Mishelle Cuttler
Rap Lyrics by Brad Cochrane
Presented by Delinquent Theatre as part of the Neanderthal Arts festival
The Cultch

Vancouver, BC. This "recession-era" musical may be about doom and gloom in Lotus-land but as long as there is a plethora of smart, talented and energetic theatre artists and fledgling companies creating shows like Stationary, there is no need for doom and gloom about the Vancouver theatre scene.

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