As I See It

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.

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Additional music and lyrics by David Crane, Seth Friedman, Marta Kauffman, Alan Menken and Charles Strouse.
Book by David Stern, Conceived by Michael Scheman and David Stern
Directed by Chris McGregor, Musical Direction by Wendy Bross Stuart, Choreography by Dawn Ewen
A Snapshots Collective Production
Studio 1398, Festival House, Granville Island
Oct 29 to November 8, 2104

Vancouver, BC: What a delightful treat this was on a chilly Halloween night in Vancouver. "Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook" weaves songs from American composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz and others into a love story chronicling the lives of Dan and Sue through old pictures found in their attic. 

Schwartz is the composer/lyricist of Pippin, the 2013 Tony award winning musical still running on Broadway, Godspell and Wicked, among many other musicals. The producers have brought together a stellar ensemble, whose voices complemented each other beautifully, as they blended and separated in changing combinations.

Saint Joan
by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Kim Collier
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Arts Club Theatre Company
Oct 23 to Nov 23, 2014

Vancouver, BC: Wow! This is among the most outstanding productions I have seen in Vancouver. Direction, performance, technical design and implementation  - flawless. Don't think I moved a muscle throughout the play, except to give Meg Roe a standing ovation, something I don't take at all lightly.

The improbable yet true story of the French peasant girl who, during the Hundred Years' War of the 14/15th century led an army to lift the siege of Orleans, and who ultimately crowned Charles Vll at Reims, is familiar to most of us. Joan of Arc, known also as The Maid of Orleans, claimed that the Archangel Michael, and Saints Catherine and Margaret spoke directly to her, telling her to dress as a male soldier and lead an army to drive the English from France.

Today she would be put on anti-psychotic medication but amazingly at the time her revelations were acted on and the banner she wielded inspired the soldiers to many victories. Ultimately captured by the English, she was tried for heresy, and for the "crime" of cross-dressing, and burned at the stake. Two decades after her death she was declared innocent of the charges, and almost 500 hundred years later was canonized as Saint Joan of Arc. Shaw's play begins at the start of her warrior journey and ends with her death.

Hunter Gatherers
by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
directed by Ryan Gladstone
A Staircase Theatre Production
Havana Theatre
Oct 30 to November 15, 2014

Vancouver, BC: I really enjoyed the work of this young theatre company, Staircase Theatre in their previous show Cocktails at Pam's.   Hunter Gatherers by contemporary San-Francisco based playwright, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb was an equally great  choice. Director Ryan Gladstone's finely honed comedic touch and perfectly pitched performances from all four actors, did full credit to  the dark humour of the script. So much so that I made a mental note to myself to read more of Nachtrieb's plays.

 

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.

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