Archives for December 2016

Vancouver theatre: top ten 2016

Fight With a Stick produced Revolutions in an empty warehouse.

Revolutions, which was produced by Fight With a Stick is one of my favourite all-time theatrical experiences.

It’s true: in many ways, 2016 has been terrifying. The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States promises concrete horrors for years to come.

But, the way I see things, theatre provides an alternative to the values and impulses that will soon put Trump in the Oval Office. It’s no accident that the orange man went all Twitter-apeshit when the racially diverse, queer-trending cast of the musical, Hamilton, asked Mike Pence to assure Americans that the incoming administration would treat minorities fairly: theatre, especially determinedly progressive theatre like Hamilton, is in direct opposition to everything that Trump and Pence stand for. [Read more…]

A Christmas Carol reinvented—with delightful weirdness

Theatre Obscura is presenting A Christmas Carol at the Jericho Arts Centre.

Linden Banks stepped into Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol at the last minute—with ghoulish aplomb.

The pleasure is in the storytelling—and in everything from the words to the light that’s used to tell the tale.

In Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, playwright Tom Mula examines the motivation—and metaphysical placement—of Jacob Marley, who is a bit player, the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner, in Charles Dickens’s original telling of A Christmas Carol.

In the Dickens version, Marley instigates Scrooge’s redemption but, once that transformation is complete, he is left to drag his chains through lonely eternity. Mula gives Marley a break: if Marley can redeem Scrooge, the dog-sized chair-shaped Record Keeper tells him, he will be free “to pursue his greater joy.” [Read more…]

The Music Man: buoyant songs, antique perspective

The Gateway Theatre is producing The Music Man.

Meghan Gardiner is both sensible and vulnerable as Marian Paroo in The Music Man.

It’s charming. It’s tightly produced. And it’s antique.

Weirdly, The Music Man endorses lying. In Meredith Willson and Frank Lacey’s story for this musical, a con man who calls himself Professor Harold Hill arrives in River City, Iowa with plans to sell the townsfolk the instruments, uniforms, and lessons that will allow them to form a children’s marching band. The scam is that Hill, who can’t play a note, will skip town without teaching the kids how to use their instruments.

Marian Paroo, the town librarian and music teacher, sees through Hill but, when he lures her traumatized little brother out of his shell, she starts to fall for him—and is lured out of her own prim shell in the process. [Read more…]

Mary Poppins kicks butt

The Arts Club's Mary Poppins is solid holiday entertainment.

Kayla James offers a flintier Mary Poppins than Sara Jeanne Hosie gave us. Both approaches work.

Mary Poppins is back and she’s kicking butt.

The Arts Club first mounted the musical in 2013 and they’ve been reviving it as holiday entertainment intermittently since then. This latest iteration is as strong as the first.

The stage musical is significantly different from the 1964 movie, although the basic story, which is set in Victorian London, remains the same. Mary, a magical nanny, flies in on the wind to help stabilize the financially prosperous but emotionally struggling Banks family—essentially by opening the heart of George Banks, the father, to the needs and love of his young children, Jane and Michael. [Read more…]

British Columbia artists are winning over New York and London

Betroffenheit is a hit in London.

Betroffenheit, by Jonathon Young and Crystal Pite, is just about as dark—and successful—as they come.

Local artists are standing on top of the world in New York and London.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times named Ride the Cyclone one of the best shows to open in the Big Apple in 2016. And the Guardian’s Luke Jennings chose Betroffenheit as one of the year’s top ten dance performances.

Ride the Cyclone, which is a musical, started life as an Atomic Vaudeville production in 2011 and played a short run at the Arts Club’s Revue Stage before being reworked and moving on to a Chicago mounting in 2015. The Chicago interpretation, which is directed by Rachel Rockwell, opened off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on December 1st this year.  [Read more…]

Creeps packs a sucker punch worth taking

David Freeman's Creeps still packs a punch.

Adam Grant Warren and Aaron Roderick deliver breakout performances in Creeps.

It’s a stealth operation. I was watching Creeps, admiring the performances and considering the structure of the play when, all of a sudden, the emotional impact hit me and I was stifling sobs.

Creeps, which premiered at Toronto’s Factory Theatre Lab in 1971, introduces us to five guys with cerebral palsy who are labouring in a sheltered workshop. Humiliated by the menial tasks they get paid a pittance to perform—sanding blocks, folding boxes—they hole up in a washroom for the afternoon and refuse to go back to work, despite threats from a Nurse Ratched-like supervisor who keeps banging on the door.  [Read more…]

Holy Mo! There might actually be a point here

Holy Mo! A Christmas show is playing at Pacific Theatre

Playwright Lucia Frangione burdens Holy Mo! A Christmas Show with references that mean much more to her than they do to me

I wrote a whole other version of this review before I realized that Holy Mo! A Christmas Show actually has a point. I suspect that’s because playwright Lucia Frangione is speaking an almost private language.

In her new script, Frangione retells the story of the birth of Christ using clown characters. The playwright herself plays Follie, the leader of a little troupe that also includes the depressive Guff, and Buffoona, an innocent who really wants to believe in Santa. [Read more…]

The Day Before Christmas is this year’s most annoying holiday entertainment

The Day Before Christmas (Arts Club) is awful.

If your own family isn’t sufficiently annoying, you might want to consider spending the holidays with this bunch.

God, I hate these people—okay, these characters.

Act 1 of The Day Before Christmas digs itself into a deep hole artistically. Act 2 displays moderate improvement.

This new script by local writers Stacey Kaser and Alison Kelly features Alex, a busy Vancouver caterer—and Christmas obsessive. Every Christmas, Alex decorates her home in a new theme: last year it was “Christmas on the Orient Express”; this year, it’s “Russian fairytale”. Alex has photos taken of the final, perfect effect and uses them to promote her business. [Read more…]

Little Red Riding Hood is the best East Van Panto so far

Mark Chavez wrote Little Red Riding Hood, this year's East Van Panto.

Rachel Aberle’s Red can sing—and she’s just a little bit sly.

The East Van Panto is now officially the best holiday tradition in Vancouver—in my Vancouver, anyway.

I started loving this year’s panto, Little Red Riding Hood, the minute I entered the theatre. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being in an audience that has a whole whack of kids in it. Being swept along by their enthusiasm is like, I don’t know, surfing on bubbles. [Read more…]