It's September and in Vancouver that means it is Fringe Festival Time. With a plethora of performances on and around Granville Island, off-island theatres such as the Firehall, The Cultch and other venues like the CBC Studio or the Waldorf Hotel, there is no shortage of choice whether your taste runs to comedy, drama or musical reviews. Check out the shows and events at the 2012 Vancouver Fringe Festival Guide and get on down to see some excellent performers, for the cost of a Fringe Membership ($5.00) and ticket prices of $10 or $12 per show.
With so many shows to see, I (GL) decided that a tag-team approach was needed so I co-opted guest reviewer Amanda Lockitch (ARL). Hopefully we will have divergent views of some of the pieces we see and that will engender some debate and discussion.
Toronto's Summerworks 2012 Festival Picks
By Guest Reviewer: Jackie Mack
This summer’s attendance at Summerworks, unlike previous years where I was watching colleagues work, was dedicated entirely to reviewing what was seen. Thus rather than arranging my picks in an order of attendance, the following reviews have been arranged in my ascending order of preference.
The Fever by Wallace Shawn. Directed by Rose Plotek
When choosing pieces to see, I was delighted to discover that one of my favourite plays, The Fever, written by Wallace Shawn, was on the roster. A one-woman piece about a privileged American/European who encounters the world’s inequalities, and does nothing to change it, was, as I remember it, entirely moving. I was careful, when inviting a friend to join me, to mention that I had no foreknowledge of this particular production, but that the script was so rich, it would be worth a trip to the theatre. While the production was disappointing, this still holds true. The play is beautifully crafted, artistically written and contains a universal and timely theme.
Sadly, this particular production left my friend and I feeling like we had been preached at for an hour. It is important to note that Julie Fox’s set, a white carpet on black floor with one wood chair and an overhead fan of a similar wood, was perfectly symbolic of the ideas and setting of the written script. Oddly, there was a buzzing sound audible throughout the performance and this gave a nice atmospheric feel to the set. In addition the lights (Rebecca Picherack), which gradually moved their focus from the audience to light the sole actress (Katie Swift) from the front, top, and back, created magnificent images of an interrogation, an electric chair and creeping animals.
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
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.
The Music Man
Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Director: Sarah Rodgers
Choreographer: Dayna Tekatch
Music Director: Christopher King
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Until August 18, 2012
Vancouver, BC: You know that The Music Man is going to be a popular show for TUTS when half the audience is singing "Seventy-six Trombones" as they march - oops I mean - walk out of Malkin Bowl. Well maybe not half the audience but quite a few, and I confess I was one of them.
The Music Man is jam-packed with well-known musical numbers from lively like the aforementioned "Seventy-six Trombones" or the "Wells Fargo Wagon" to sentimental ( "Till there Was You" and "Good night, My Someone").
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 2ocean 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.
The Taming of The Shrew by William Shakespeare
Directed by Meg Roe,
Bard on the Beach
Bard Mainstage, Vanier Park,
May 31 till September 22, 2012
Vancouver, BC: When I reviewed the 2007 Bard production of The Taming of the Shrew which I thought to be "one of the best productions I have seen at Bard", my opening remark was "What a great start to the 2007 season." I can only echo that remark after seeing Meg Roe's entertaining and exuberant interpretation of the play. It's an excellent production and a definite "don't miss it" for Bard fans.
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter; Book by Arthur Kopit
Directed by Bill Millerd
Arts Club Theatre Company
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
May 10 to June 24, 2012
Vancouver, BC: Having waltzed, foxtrotted and quickstepped across many ballrooms to many Cole Porter songs, I confess I am an unabashed fan of much of his music.
My favorite Porter musicals, "Anything Goes" and "Kiss Me Kate", are packed with songs that stick in your head and with versions by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra frequently playing as background accompaniment while I work, many of those lyrics are firmly engraved on my brain.
That being said, I have not seen either The Philadelphia Story nor the film version of High Society so after a light supper round the corner at Rangoli, I came to see this musical with no preconceived expectations - and enjoyed the show a lot.
Dragons' Improv Tank
Created by Louise Moon and Roger Fredericks
The Improv Centre, Granville Island
Vancouver, BC: Scary as I find the thought of being on stage with lines that I am supposed to have memorized, the thought of having to be spontaneous and improvise on the spot is even scarier. As one of those people who thinks of a witty comeback to a taunt hours after it would be meaningful, I have often thought it would be good for my too-serious, introverted soul to sign up for an introductory improv course to see if I could come up with anything smarter than "duh!"
The Odd Couple by Neil Simon
Directed by David C. Jones
A Frolicking Divas Production
Jericho Arts Centre
March 8 to 17, 2012
Vancouver, BC: With Vancouver's theatre community reeling from the news that the Vancouver Playhouse Company is closing its doors, some light entertainment is sorely needed. Vancouver is rich in ambitious, new independent theatre companies and one such group, The Folicking Divas, has brought the female version of Simon's Odd Couple to the Jericho stage.
The Female Odd Couple, a version written by Simon for a female cast some twenty years after his1965 original Broadway hit, features Olive Madison (Lisa Dery), an unapologetically sloppy, non-cooking independent gal and Florence Ungar (Lori Watt), an obsessive, housekeeping type, whose joy in life is to elimate any speck of dust and produce healthy home-cooked meals. When Olive lets the newly separated Florence move into her Riverside Drive apartment, it is anything but a "marriage made in heaven."
Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz,
Directed by Joe Mantello,
A Lincoln Center Theater production,
Booth Theatre, 225 West 45th St, NY
Jan 25th, 2012
New York, NY: This play was the fifth production I saw in my New-York-one-week-seven-play marathon. Amidst some really great theatre, this was the show that I found the most compelling. The story was gripping and the characters were fully developed and utterly believable.
Although I enjoy all the varied theatrical genres, my favorite form of play is one with a strong dramatic script where stakes are high and the arc of evolution of the characters is meaningful. I thus found it especially interesting to compare the emotional impact of the two dramas I saw back to back, namely Seminar and Other Desert Cities. Both plays dealt, albeit from different perspectives, with the way the creative act of writing and the written product, book or story, impacts both writer and reader. Both plays had first class acting and great production values, set, lighting, costumes etc but of the two plays, only Other Desert Cities had the "wow" factor for me; getting me right in the guts. I think the difference lies in the scripts.