Vancouver theatre

The cast of Joseph: Photo by Tim MathesonJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Directed by Shel Piercy;
Music Director Kevin Michael Cripps;
Choreographer Keri Minty
Theatre Under the Stars,
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Alternating nights to August 20th, 2010

Vancouver, BC.  TUTS could not have asked for a more perfect evening to open their 2010 season. The evening air was warm, and the strong winds that blew through Vancouver yesterday had moved on to bluster across  another part of the province.  This year TUTS have instituted reserved seating throughout, a move that seemed to be appreciated by all.

We arrived early, after enjoying a delicious meal at the Tapastree restaurant just off  Denman Street, and sat down to enjoy the lively pre-show music.

Cast members of Twelfth NightTwelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tariq Leslie
What You Will Equity Co-op,
Jericho Arts Centre
July 2 to July 24, 2010

Vancouver, BC: It is a fascinating experience to see how a directorial approach can alter one's perception of a play, particularly something so familiar as Twelfth Night. The production of Twelfth Night that I saw by Bard on the Beach in the 2008 season, was played with rapid-fire intensity and fairly sparkled with light-hearted humour.  

Trevor Devall as OrsinoThis pace of this production of Twelfth Night was much slower and more leisured. This brought out the darker aspects of the play so the overall mood of the play was heavier and more ponderous.

The Cast: Photo by Jo-Ann RichardsThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Music and Lyrics by William Finn and Book by Rachel Sheinkin
Directed by Michael Shamata. Musical Director Bruce Kellett
Arts Club Theatre/ Belfry Theatre production
Arts Club Granville Island Stage
June 15 to July 31, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I walked out of the Arts Club Theatre after seeing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee thinking, much to my surprise, that it was actually a little gem of a musical and perfectly suited to the Granville Island Stage.  I really had not anticipated enjoying it as much as I did, so kudos to Michael Shamata and his cast.

This is because four years ago when I was  writing "Rants, Raves and Reviews" for Immediate Theatre, I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Circle in the Square Theatre in New York. That's a 650 seat theatre, larger than the 450 seat Granville Island Stage - and in retrospect it seemed much more cavernous than the Stanley which also has about 650 seats. I wonder whether the barn-like nature of the New York venue, and the fact that I was seated way back in the "bleachers" contributed to my grumpiness about the show at the time (Songs, Dances, Paintings -The Curtain Falls). My comments then were that "the story line was weak, the music unmemorable and the choreography unremarkable. The show runs for about an hour and 45 minutes with no intermission and my attention began to flag after the first hour."

Allison MacDonald, Josh Epstein and Trace<br />
Neff. Photo by David  CooperThis was not so for this energetic and funny Arts Club/Belfry production, which I enjoyed a lot. Fitting in nicely with the concept of the show, Shamata inserted a "snack break" midway through the Bee which means that those of us with short attention spans and stiffening joints got to come back relaxed and eagerly anticipating the second half of the show. 

Rosie Simon as Marcy Park. Photo by David CooperAnd this time I was also thoroughly engaged by the individual characters of the young spellers and their back- stories, which actually touch on quite weighty issues like parental neglect, sibling rivalry, and perfectionism. Not to mention that I found myself laughing out loud at some of their antics.<--break->

Curtis about to teach -  my notebook at the ready!At the Arts Club Chef's Cooking Class I attended last year I had a real blast and picked up some excellent tips for the kitchen - and the barbecue.  After chatting with Joe Fortes Executive Sous Chef, Curtis Webb, and Pastry Chef Kelly Urbanoski, I was impressed by their enthusiasm for these events - and was really excited to participate in this year's Celebrity Chef class where they would be cooking and teaching.

The only problem was that owing to a moment's indiscretion on my part during the earlier interview, a kitchen secret I had closely guarded for several years would be bared to the world - or at least to the 18 people present in Sandra and Peter's kitchen for the cooking class. And what would that do for the image of urbane foodie I was so carefully cultivating?

A masquerade ball in Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: David BlueMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Bard on the Beach
Main Stage , Vanier Park
to September 25, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I confess I really love the play Much Ado about Nothing and it's mainly because of the  verbal sparring between the spirited Beatrice and the self-confident cocky Benedick. I just wish I had their gifts for the snappy comeback - but I guess I need to channel the Bard to really match their wit.

Antonio (Allan Morgan), Beatrice<br />
(Jennifer Lines), Margaret (Sarah Afful) and Ursula (Patti Allan)<br />
comfort Hero (Almeera Jiwa)  Photo: David Blue

Christine Willes as Clara Epp. Photo by Tim MathesonHerr Beckmann's People by Sally Stubbs
Directed by Katrina Dunn
A Flying Start production from Playwrights Theatre Centre and Touchstone Theatre
Playwrights Theatre Centre Studio
June 10-19, 2010

Vancouver, BC: The world premiere production of Herr Beckmann's People by Vancouver playwright, Sally Stubbs, is on this week at Festival House on Granville Island. A thought-provoking play sensitively performed by a strong cast, this is well worth seeing.

The play explores the choices made by a once close-knit family in Germany, before and during World War II, and how these choices continue to reverberate in the family psyche almost three decades later. A question that has been pondered ever since the realities of the Holocaust became known, is "how could ordinary people in an educated, cultured nation, participate in or facilitate the brutalities that were committed against their fellow human beings?"

Damion and Rebeca Sugden and ensemble - Tanguera: the sultry tangoForget about your superheroes. Forget about "swifter, higher, stronger". The fittest athletes not to compete in an Olympic Games are performing in Vancouver this week. It's the cast of Burn The Floor, the  dance spectacular that reinvents International Ballroom and Latin Dance in a show that is absolutely riveting.

They are fresh off their Broadway run - where I loved it so much that I saw it twice in two weeks  - see Burn The Floor - New York Theatre.

And guess what,  I already have my ticket for the Vancouver show.

So what's so special about this show? The music will rock you to the core and the percussion rhythms of Georgio Rojas with vocalists Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia will make you want to get up and dance.

Kathleen Pollard and Luisa JojicTrunk
Written and directed by Jeremy Waller
Box Studio
Craning Neck Theatre
April 9 to 17, 2010

Vancouver, BC: Trunk is an original play by Vancouver playwright/director Jeremy Waller. Selected for workshopping through the  2009 Playwright's Colony at BC's Playwrights Theatre Centre, this is its premiere production.

Staged in the Box Sudio - a large "white box " space, presently configured with seating for just over 20 people per show, the dominant set piece is a two tiered metal scaffold on wheels,  with white sheeting hiding the interior or drawn back to reveal the skelton of the structure.

A large battered trunk also features prominently - on the floor, or swinging, suspended like a pendulum, from the scaffold.

This is THE TRUNK - metaphor for the suppressed fears, anxiety and anger that, compounded by obsessive religiosity,  turns Dylan into a violently abusive husband and father. The pain he inflicts on his wife and children devastates their lives and continues into the third generation.

At least that is what I think this play is about - that the effect of profound psychological dysfunction is felt far beyond the next generation. 

However I must confess that while I felt the anger, the energy and the passion reverberate in the room along with David Mesiha's often pounding original music,  I did not always follow the story and the transitions in time and space were often disconcerting and too abstract for my straining mind to get.

So with that caveat I will continue and if I get anything wrong I encourage the writer, cast or dramaturgs or others who have seen the show, to comment and point out my error. Or if you prefer you can review my review on the ReviewFromTheHouse Facebook Fan Page.

 

Norm Foster, Peter Anderson, Cailin Stadnyk. Photo by David CooperThe Love List
by Norm Foster
Directed by Max Reimer
Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company
Vancouver Playhouse
Mar 6 -10, Mar 25 - April 10, 2010

Vancouver, BC:  Confession number one! I came home from opening night of The Love List and in accordance with my New Year's Resolution to get my thoughts down before they get forgotten (see Queen Lear), went straight to my computer to start on my review. But instead I found myself writing a list! 

With a little difficulty I came up with the Top Ten qualities of my Ideal Man. Isn't it always easier to think of the ten things you don't like?  I carefully wrote my Top Ten as legibly as I could. We've all  heard about mistakes due to doctor's illegible handwriting.

But alas - my expectant ear heard no  knock on my door.  Maybe it's our condo access security system that blocked Mr.Perfect from reaching my door. Or maybe you really need the right paper from that Gypsy match making entrepreneur at "Got A Match."  Anyone have her address? or email?

Guest Reviewer: Malcolm Page

The Drowning Girls
by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalik
Directed by Charlie Tomlinson
A Bent out of Shape production
Studio: Gateway Theatre, Richmond
March 4 to 13, 2010

Vancouver, BC: The Drowning Girls prompted for me a question rarely asked: why did these people write, or devise, this? The subject is the ‘Brides in the Bath’ murders in Britain of 1912-14. George Smith drowned three wives after they had made wills leaving their money to him, and the first two were initially found to be accidental. Smith's technique for killing comes at the end, a kind of climax. Canadian audiences must be presumed to know nothing of these facts, which probably were found in the old Penguin series, ‘Famous Trials.’

Was the starting point a feminist one, woman as victim? The girls allude briefly to the inferior position of women at the time, though the authors appear not to know of the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870-82.

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