Theatre Seen

The Farnsworth Invention
by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Matthew Bissett
Ensemble Theatre Company
Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street.
Plays July 19, 22, 25, 31 (talk back), and August 3, 6, 9th at 8 PM with 2 pm matinees on July 21 and 27.

Legally Blonde: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Book by Heather Hach
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton
Musical Direction by Danny Balkwill
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Playing alternate nights until August 17th, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It was another perfect night at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver. The sky was clear, the temperature hovered around 20ºC and I didn't even need a jacket. We Vancouverites, who have sat through cold and rainy summer nights in Stanley Park, prayed to the weather fairies that these glorious days and nights would last till September, and sat back to revel in musical theatre in the park.

As for Legally Blonde: the Musical, developed from the 2001 film which in turn was based on Amanda Brown's novel Legally Blonde, - I enjoyed it so much I hope to find a time to bring my grand-daughter (California blonde of course) to see it when she comes to visit. 

 

The plot follows the journey of Elle Woods (Breanne Arrigo), blonde fashionista President of the UCLA Delta Nu, to Harvard Law School in pursuit of her ambitious preppy boyfriend, Warner (Peter Cumins) who had dumped her for the more "serious" and well-connected Vivienne (Andrea Bailey). Bringing her unique style into the classroom, Elle runs into the feared Professor Callahan (Warren Kimmel) and the supercilious attitudes of her ambitious classmates.

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert
Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Musical Direction by Christopher King
Choreography by Shelley Stuart Hunt
Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
Playing alternate nights until August 17th, 2013

Vancouver, BC:  Last year I saw the Broadway revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying with Nick Jonas in the role of J. Pierrepont Finch. It says a lot for the enthusiasm and energy of the TUTS cast that I enjoyed this evening's entertainment under the stars in Vancouver as much as the star-studded show I saw in New York.

Hamlet
By Wlliam Shakespeare
Directed by Kim Collier
Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival,
BMO Mainstage at Vanier Park
June 13 to September 12, 2013

Vancouver, BC: It is said that every actor wants to play Hamlet, and many great actors have, on stage and screen. So kudos to Jonathon Young for a passionate and riveting performance that drew fresh nuances from so many familiar lines and garnered a standing ovation from much of the sold-out house. In this marvelously complex play, young Hamlet has to find his path through so many issues; the revelation that the death of his revered father, the King,  was in fact a murder; when this revelation comes from his father's Ghost (Duncan Fraser) can it be real? how could his newly widowed mother turn so quickly to a new lover; what to do with the beautiful young  Ophelia when his thoughts are dominated by the need for revenge? Young makes his interpretation of every line crystal clear.

Disembarking in New York after 12 weeks of travel in South America and South Africa, I had two days to catch some theatre before traveling home. Unlike my usual systematic approach approach, this time I had not booked any tickets. So on Saturday morning I ventured into the theater district with a list of possibilities and the objective of seeing one drama and one new musical. I was lucky enough to get good last minute seats for both Kinky Boots and The Assembled Parties.

Kinky Boots
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper
Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth
Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell
Music supervision, arrangements and orchestration by Stephen Oremus
At the Al Hirschfeld Theatre
Opened March 2013

Dreamgirls
Book and lyrics by Tom Eyen
Music by Henry Krieger
Directed by Bill Millerd
Choreographed by Valerie Easton
Arts Club Theatre Company,
Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
May 9 - July 7, 2013

Vancouver, BC: Told largely through a sequence of musical numbers, Dreamgirls is the story of the rise to fame of a trio of young black female singers,  Deena (Karen Holness), Lorrell (Starr Domingue) and Michelle (Crystal Balint) under the manipulative direction of their manager, Curtis Taylor (Darren Herbert) while Effie (Aurianna Angelique) - big voice, big heart, big body - loses out.

Spring Awakening
Book and Lyrics by Steven Slater
based on the play by Frank Wedekind
Music by Duncan Sheik
Directed by David Hudgins
Musical Director Andy Toth
Choreographer  Shelley Stuart Hunt
at Studio 58, Langara College
Jan 31 to  Feb 24, 2013

Vancouver, BC: I have been waiting to see this show for several years. It seems like every time it is on in a particular city, I have either just missed it or leave before it opens so I am  glad to have finally caught this show, especially with the talented students of Studio 58 taking on what is quite a challenging work.

Based on Frank Wedekind's  controversial 1891 play, Spring Awakening, about burgeoning sexuality in a group of young people in 19th century Germany, the rock musical adaptation does not hold back in portraying the raw sexuality of the youth in question, nor the fears and the ignorance of both youth and adults in the provincial German town in which it's set.

RACE
By David Mamet
Directed by David Mackay
Mitch and Murray Productions
Studio 16, 1555 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver
Running until December 1st, Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm.

Guest Review by Jo Ledingham

Vancouver, BC. This production of David Mamet’s Race (which premiered on Broadway in 2009) will have you leaping out of the starting blocks and sprinting all the way to the finish line. Directed by David Mackay, it’s all over in seventy minutes. It’s a potent, profanity-studded exposé of racism and misogyny so interlocked as to be inseparable.

It’s also an interesting bookend to Mamet’s Romance produced last fall at the Fringe. In Romance, the playwright slags lawyers and the legal system in a searing but exceedingly entertaining way: a judge who’s so medicated he can’t stay awake, lawyers who exchange racial and religious slurs and a client who may or may not be guilty of whatever the charge is – but who cares? That’s not the point.

Guest Review by Danielle Benzon

Far Side of the Moon 
Written and Directed by Robert LePage
Performed by Yves Jacques until Nov 4, Lepage from Nov 6 to 10, 2012
Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodwards

Far Side of the Moon is a story about vanity, narcissism, family ties and, inevitably, space exploration. The Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodwards in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts provides the perfect setting for this piece. Although still highly technically creative as is the trademark of an Ex Machina production, Far Side of the Moon has an existentialist sparseness to it that effortlessly evokes the loneliness of space and of the human condition.

An Enemy of The People
Adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the play by Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Doug Hughes
A Manhattan Theatre Club Production
Samuel J Friedman Theatre
October 20, 2012

New York, NY. My dilemma: a one day stopover in  New York en route to a dance cruise; only one time slot open to see theatre, and the usual cornucopia of tempting on-stage offerings. But when I saw that Manhattan Theatre Club was staging a version of Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of The People”, this play became the instant pick for my one theatre spot.  Some years ago I had the privilege of studying Ibsen’s 12 realist prose play cycle with an Ibsen scholar. My favorite  was not any of his rather depressing  plays, where the protagonists shoot themselves or fall off a bridge or a tower (can you name the plays?) or even the ambiguously optimistic  "A Dolls House"  but it was in fact "An Enemy of The People." The thematic thread of holding steadfast to scientific fact and principle despite massive pressure to sugar-coat the truth appealed to me. 

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