Vancouver theatre review

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.

Titanic –A New Musical
Story and Book  by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Director/choreographer Max Reimer
Musical Director Kevin Michael Cripps
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Until August 18th, 2012

Vancouver, BC: For an avid ballroom dance cruiser who has set sail, so to speak, on 2 ocean liners and several large and small cruise ships in the past three years, a musical about an "unsinkable" ocean liner that actually sinks could be deemed an odd choice for entertainment, especially just before boarding another ship as I will do in a weeks or so.  But previously, before leaving on a Cunard cruise round the British isles, I had read  quite a bit about the Titanic, and a visit to the Titanic Museum in Halifax on another dance cruise later that year ago was also a fascinating but sobering experience. Perhaps partly because of that, for me the emotional impact of this TUTS production was quite intense.

This Theatre Under the Stars production of Titanic - A New Musical is different from TUTS more usual style of musical theatre but under the direction of Max Reimer, it is definitely one of the best shows that I have seen there.  Obviously the subject matter does not lend itself to lots of upbeat song and dance musical numbers, but there were many moments of humour, and the singing, both individual and in the ensemble pieces was excellent.

The audience of course, unlike the passengers and crew who are full of excited anticipation on stage, knows from the first minute that these characters and this marvelous ship are doomed. Despite every minute of emotional angst that derives from the powerful impact of this dramatic irony (and I was almost moved to tears in several parts) the show is entertaining and is definitely well worth seeing.

Meg Roe,Laara Sadiq, Ming Hudson, Rachel Aberle, Sarah Donald. Photo by David Cooper.The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood,
Directed by Vanessa Porteous,
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Oct 20 to Nov 20, 2011

Vancouver, BC: I loved the tag-line for this show - The Untold Story of the Original Desperate Housewife".  But do not let this mislead you into thinking this is in any way a television style comedy-drama. The Penelopiad is an exquisitely narrated re-imagining of Homer's Odyssey, from the perspective of Penelope, faithful wife of Odysseus, who waited twenty years for him to return from fighting the Trojan War.

Originally written as a novella by Atwood and then adapted for the stage, the play is structured with two basic elements. The first is the narrative thread recounted by Penelope (Meg Roe) from Hades where she is haunted by the shades of her slave girls who were murdered by her son Telemachus  at  the behest of the finally returned Odysseus. 

Dean Paul Gibson and Sabina Allemann. Photo: Trudie Lee.Tosca Cafe
Created and staged by Carey Perlhoff and Val Caniparoli
Répétiteur: Nancy Dickson
A Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company/ Theatre Calgary presentation of
the American Conservatory Theater of San Francisco production.
Vancouver Playhouse
Oct 8 to 29, 2011

Vancouver, BC: There was magic in the air on opening night at the Vancouver Playhouse when music, movement and theatre came together in a show that made me want to dance but also brought tears to my eyes.

Nol Simonse, Peter Anderson, Dean Paul Gibson. Photo: Trudie Lee.The story of the bartender at the Tosca Cafe is told, in the  main, wordlessly through movement, look or gesture, and it is so perfectly done that you can follow every scenario as if there were a spoken text.

Ryan Mooney as the wily PseudolusA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Book by Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Cathy Wilmot
Music Director Sarah Jaysmith
Choreographer  Dawn Ewen
Fighting Chance Productions
Jericho Arts Centre
Oct 4 - 22, 2011

Peter Stainton as Sennex with the courtesansVancouver, BC: What happens when that ancient Roman playwright Titus Maccius Plautus meets twentieth century playwrights Larry Gelbart and Burt Shevelove,  figuratively of course? You get Pseudolus (the play) turned into A funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, where stock characters (young lovers, obstructionary old man, clever slave) play out slapstick comedy with storylines borrowed from ancient Greek theatre.

The cast of Ride the Cyclone. Photo by Fairen BerchardRide The Cyclone
Book by Jacob Richmond
Lyrics and music: Brooke Maxwell & Jacob Richmond
Atomic Vaudeville
Revue Stage, Granville Island
Sept 28 to Oct 15, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Wow! That was the erudite word that popped into my head a few moments after this show started and when it ended 90 minutes later the "wow" was still there, even more so.

Sarah Jane Pelzer as Jane Doe. Photo by Feiran BerchardSo ride your bike, car, take a bus or ferry or walk down to Granville Island and catch this show before it closes here next week to head up to Whitehorse for a run.

Jennica Grienke, Agnes Tong, Stephanie Moroz, Andrea Houssin: Photo by David CooperThe Crucible  by Arthur Miller
Directed by Jane Heyman
Studio 58 at Langara College
Sept 29 to Oct 16, 2011.

Vancouver, BC:  "The play's the thing!" and Arthur Miller's play written almost 60 years ago has not lost one iota of its power to captivate. The Crucible is set in Salem village, Massachusetts in 1692, notorious for the witch trials resulting in nineteen people hanging for supposedly being witches. Miller's play premiered on Broadway in 1952, five years after the House Committee for Un-American Activities had begun an investigation into communist influence in the Hollywood movie industry.  Several hundred actors, directors and screen writers accused by this committee were blacklisted and their lives and careers ruined. The Crucible serves an allegorical function, the religious hysteria of seventeenth century Massachusetts stands in for the anti-communist hysteria of the 20th century. Both forces  were driven by rabid believers who forced innocent people into the moral dilemma of false confessions or naming names of associates, to save their own lives.

Emma Middleton, Scott Button, Jordan Kerbs Top: Alex Pangburn. Photo by Tim MathesonThe Trial of Judith K by Sally Clark
Directed by Tom Scholte
Theatre UBC
Frederick Wood Theatre,
Sept 29 to Oct 8, 2011 - shows at 7:30 PM

Vancouver, BC: Black Comedy? Absurdist theatre? Whatever genre this play falls into, "The Trial of Judith K" would be a difficult script for even a professional company to pull off well and this student production did not entirely succeed in doing so. Without a copy of the script in front of me I am also finding this hard to write about, since other than Jordan Kerbs who plays the title role, each of the other cast members play at least three separate characters (twenty in total) and it's hard to keep them straight in my mind. But here goes.

Anita Wittenberg, Donna White, Brian Linds, Emilee-Juliette Glyn-Jones, Alex Diakun. Photo by David Cooper.Circle  Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker
Directed by Nicola Cavendish
Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Sept 22 to Oct 22,2011

Vancouver, BC:  The best aspect of this production for me was the way David Roberts' set design and Ted Roberts' lighting came together to create a realistic setting of a typical studio space in a school or community centre. At first we see only a opaque, reflecting rear wall of the studio up stage but back lighting reveals a corridor with more rooms opening off the far side.  I really liked this effect - it transported me back to some of the weird and wonderful classes I took at local community centres.

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