Vancouver theatre review

Richard Newman and Lindsey Angell. Photo by David CooperThe Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rachel Ditor,
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
June 15 to Sept 23, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Of all the Shakespeare plays I have seen I find The Merchant of Venice to be among the most compelling yet certainly the most disturbing to watch. While taking into account the likelihood that the play's reception by a contemporary audience would be very different from an audience of Shakespeare's own time, the script sets up so many powerful and conflicting issues that one is on a non-stop rollercoaster ride.

The Cast of "Parkade: An Indie Rock Musical"Bridge Mix 2011
Presented by ITSAZOO and Enlightenment Theatre
at the W. Pender Metro Parkade between Burrard and Thurlow.
June 8 to 25 2011.

Vancouver, BC. It does not take long for newly graduated theatre students to realize that if they want to practice their art they have to make their own opportunities. The arts life of Vancouver, like other similar cities is enriched by by numerous small independent theatre companies, who must be venturesome and innovative to produce their work with limited budgets and resources. As would be expected, the range and quality of work varies greatly, and some enterprises are more successful than others,

Lois Anderson, Luisa Jojic, Ryan Beil. Photo by David BlueAs You Like It by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Mackay
Bard on the Beach,
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
June 2 to Sept 24, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Bard on the Beach opens its 2011 season with As You Like it - and like it I did, a lot. Though I have always preferred watching the intense drama of Shakespeare's tragedies to the whimsical frolics of mistaken identities and gender bending of his comedies, I really enjoyed this production.

Kirsty Provan, Holly Pillsbury, Kyla Ferrier, Stephanie Elgersma and others. Photo by Ron ReedThe Great Divorce
adapted by George Drance and Magis Theatre
from the novel by C.S. Lewis
Directed by Kyle Rideout
Pacific Theatre
May 20 - June 18, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  On my last visit to New York one of the plays I saw was The Screwtape Letters, adapted by Jeffrey Fiske from the epistolary novel by C.S. Lewis.  The letters are written by Screwtape, Satan's chief demon to his hapless nephew, Wormwood, advising him on how best to tempt humans to sin. I was enthralled by  the charismatic and dominating Screwtape, amazed at the sinuous contortions of his demonic assistant Toadpipe, and the whole experience was devilishly wicked, funny and at all times entertaining.

The Great Divorce, originally published in serial form in a religious journal, was a complementary novella to Lewis's Screwtape Letters. I was therefore quite excited to see that Pacific Theatre was staging an adaptation of this book and hoped for a similarly entertaining show.

Jennie Neumann in Hairspray. Photo by David CooperHairspray
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Bill Millerd
Musical Director - Ken Cormier
Choreographer - Valerie  Easton
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
May 7 - July 10, 2011

Vancouver, BC: There is a bumper crop of fresh talent lighting up the stage at the Stanley Theatre, joining Arts Club musical regulars, Matt Palmer, Cailin Stadnyk  and Anna Kuman in a sparkling production of Hairspray.

MacHomer
Created and Performed by Rick Miller
Directed by Sean Lynch
Designed by Beth Kates
Wyrd Productions
Vancouver Playhouse
May 11-15, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Unlike reviewers in the international press I don't have smart writers coming up with headlines for my stories but  I could not resist the challenge in the MacHomer program where 12 of their favorite MacHomer headlines are listed. Since I loved the Vancouver show - and it is now closed.... well d'oh!

According to Rick Miller, MacHomer is "essentially a tribute to the creative vision of Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) and the genius of William Shakespeare".

But it is also a hilarious and entertaining vehicle to showcase the vocal genius and on-stage charisma that Rick Miller has in spades.

From its casual origin in 1994 as a sketch for a MacBeth cast party, MacHomer in various incarnations, has toured  worldwide intermittently over 13 years, but somehow I missed seeing it until it came to Vancouver last week for a short run at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Andrew Laurenson and chorus. Photo by Michael SiderBEUTFL PRBLMS - a collectively devised production written by and performed by Andrew Laurenson, with Lesley Ewen, Billy Marchenski and Emelia Symington Fedy.
Director/dramaturge Paul Ternes
Radix Theatre Society
The Roundhouse Community Centre
May 13 to 21, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  The premise of this new work - Garry Kasparov's loss of a chess series to a computer - sounded intriguing. I was eager to see the way in which Laurenson and his collaborators would create a spellbinding story from this event. In May 1997, chess Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, world champion for twelve years running, took on the challenge of beating IBM's Deep Blue Supercomputer. Of the 6 games played, Kasparov won the first game, Deep Blue the second, three were played to a draw and the final game was won by Deep Blue. Had technology triumphed over humanity? Well not really. Since Deep Blue was designed and programmed by a team of 5 IBM scientists and one International Grandmaster, it would be more fair to say that one man was beaten by a collective.

Camille Mitchell as Mrs. Robinson. Photo by David CooperThe Graduate - adapted for stage by Terry Johnson
based on the novel by Charles Webb
and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
Directed by Lois Anderson,
Granville Island Stage,
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Apr 14- May 14 , 2011

Vancouver, BC:  It is always an interesting anticipation when one  looks at an adaptation of a work in one genre into another form, whether book to film, film to musical or film to play. It becomes even more of an interest when the new work is adapted from an iconic original. 

Matt Palmer  as Will Rogers with the Ziegfeld Girls. Photo by Tim MathesonThe Will Rogers Follies 'A Life in Revue'
Book: Peter Stone  Music: Cy Coleman
Lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolf Green
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Director James Bryson
A Royal City  Musical Theatre production
Massey Theatre
Apr 7 - 24, 2011

Vancouver, BC: The  Royal City Musical Theatre's production of The Will Rogers Follies is an entertainment packed spectacle with a gorgeously costumed ensemble of sparkling young singers and dancers supporting the principal cast of Matt Palmer (Will Rogers), Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Betty Blake), Tyson Coady (Clem Rogers), Laura McNaught (Ziegfeld's favorite) and Dimitrios Stephanoy (Wiley Post).

It is somewhat embarrassing for me to admit that in all the time I have lived in Vancouver I have never been out to the Massey Theatre nor seen one of the Royal City Musical Theatre productions until now. But last night I finally made it out to New Westminster to see the The Will Rogers Follies and I will definitely be watching out for their future productions.

Nicola Lipman in Another Home Invasion. Photo by Trudie LeeAnother Home Invasion by Joan MacLeod
Directed by Richard Rose
A Tarragon Theatre production
Arts Club Theatre Company Revue Stage
Mar 31 - Apr 23, 2011

Vancouver, BC: Take a finely tuned script with not a wasted word, a "there but for the grace of God" story, and a performer who completely embodies her character - and you have a show that grabs its audience and does not let go for a full 70 minutes.

Nicola Lipman is Jean, a feisty senior, who is worn out by anxiety about her beloved husband, who is increasingly showing signs of dementia. She is willing to move out of their family home and into a care home and her heart is set on the local Kiwanis facility which has rooms for couples. But she and her husband have been on a wait list for two and a half  years and now he needs more supportive care.  Will they be separated, or have to be relocated, heaven forbid, to Abbotsford?

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