Monthly Archives: June 2009

CBC’s Triple Sensation: Vancouver Auditions

Triple Sensation made its way to Vancouver for the Western Canada auditions in its second episode on Monday night.  Last week, I said I’d be keeping an eye out for any familiar faces.

I was struck with déjà vu not once, but twice, by two of the featured auditioners.  Georgia Swinton and Andrew Cohen, who both recently impressed in A New Brain (Pipedream Theatre), were among forty hopefuls trying out for six spots.

Swinton was critiqued for her performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Funny Girl) by the judging panel.  Composer Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line) arbitrarily panned her song choice and suggested something funnier would have been better suited.  Swinton does have ample comedic charms as evidenced in A New Brain, and will hopefully soon have a chance to show off her range to Vancouver audiences in future roles.

triple sensation1

A New Brain’s leading man Cohen sang a stirring rendition of “The Old Red Hills of Home” (Parade).   His strong vocals, along with his monologue and dance audition, landed him one of the six Vancouver spots in the finals.

Next week the Vancouver and Toronto top sixes join in a master class session, a kind of theatrical boot camp.

Triple Sensation airs in six parts, Mondays on CBC, through July 27th.

Arts Club Update: Les Mis & Altar Boyz

Last week, the Arts Club announced a two-week extension to their run of Les Misérables, now ending August 2nd.

According to the Arts Club blog, it is now the highest-selling production in their 46 year history, even besting perennial favourite and previous record-holder Beauty and the Beast.

  	 Jeffrey Victor in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables. Photo by David Cooper.

Jeffrey Victor in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables. Photo by David Cooper.

I hadn’t planned on reviewing Les Misérables for Musicals in Vancouver, largely because it opened a month before this blog even started. That’s not to say that I haven’t seen it, nor to say that I don’t harbour any strong opinions about this production or about Les Mis in general.

I’m hoping to take in another performance between now and early next week, for two reasons.  (1) I saw it in previews, and (2) I didn’t take notes and my memory isn’t what it used to be.  Scratch that, make it three reasons. (3) I’m happy for the excuse to catch Les Misérables again.

It’s also on my to-do list to catch Altar Boyz again, outside of previews.  The first time was near-perfect, and I’m anxious to see the differences a week can make.  I should have reviews and updates on both shows up by next week.  Until then, if you haven’t seen Les Mis or Altar Boyz, get your tickets fast.  You really can’t go wrong with either show.

Altar Boyz plays until August 1st at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street).

Les Misérables runs through August 2nd at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville Street).

CBC’s Triple Sensation: Season Two

Musical theatre and reality television are not always a winning combination (think NBC shudder-fest Grease: You’re The One That I Want).

triple sensation

I was, however, glued to the 2007 season of CBC’s Triple Sensation.  The reality show has performers, aged 16-26, vying for the title and a $150,000 scholarship towards the theatre school of the winner’s choice.  The finalists are put through their paces in a weeks-long master class that spans everything from musical theatre to Shakespeare to clowning.

The first season boasted two young BC talents among the 12 finalists, Port Coquitlam’s Joel Ballard (Jesus Christ Superstar, TUTS) and Delta’s Kazumi Evans (West Side Story, RCMT).

There has been a lot of mixed reaction to Triple Sensation, much of it circling around the involvement of producer and former Livent impresario Garth Drabinsky (Ragtime, Show Boat).  Drabinsky, who has been under a perpetual cloud of legal troubles since Livent went bankrupt in 1998, was convicted this March of fraud and forgery in Ontario and is currently awaiting a July sentencing.

This second season has already been filmed, so the show will go on, regardless if one of its judges ends up behind bars.

Along with Drabinsky, the judge’s panel includes actor Cynthia Dale (TV’s Street Legal), composer Marvin Hamlisch (A Chorus Line), choreographer Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys), and director Adrian Noble (Royal Shakespeare Company).

Triple Sensation returns for a second season, Monday, June 22, with the first round of auditions taking place in Toronto.  Make sure to pay special attention to next week’s Vancouver audition episode.

Triple Sensation airs in six parts, Mondays on CBC, through July 27th.

Catch Me If You Can: Seattle Premiere

New York and Broadway aren’t exactly within spitting distance of our humble city, and it can take years for some of the newer productions to make their way to Vancouver.  There are a few exceptions.

Somewhat a little closer, our neighbours to the south in Seattle at 5th Avenue Theatre have played host to some memorable pre-Broadway world premieres over the years including Jekyll & Hyde, Hairspray, The Wedding Singer, and Shrek the Musical.


Head to Seattle and from July 23 through August 16, you can sneak a peek at the new musical version of Catch Me If You Can. Based on the 2002 film of the same name, it’s the story of youthful conman Frank Abagnale, who stole millions while posing as a doctor, pilot and lawyer. With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray), book by Terrence McNally (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime) and choreography by Jerry Mitchell (The Full Monty, Legally Blonde: The Musical), it could easily soon be a bona fide Broadway hit.

Currently the show is set to star Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as FBI agent Carl Hanratty, Aaron Tveit (Next to Normal) as Frank, Tom Wopat (Annie Get Your Gun) as Frank Sr., and Kerry Butler (Xanadu) as Brenda.

YouTube has a couple of clips from a preview of the show.  Catch them while they’re still up:

Aaron Tveit as Frank Abagnale Jr.

Aaron Tveit and Tom Wopat as Frank Abagnale Jr. and Sr.

Admittedly, some of these ‘pre-Broadway’ runs don’t ever make it to Broadway, and often lyrics, songs and plots will be rewritten or totally scrapped after you’ve come and gone.  But it can still be a great opportunity to see amazing Broadway talent without catching a plane to NYC.

Altar Boyz Preview (Review)

The Arts Club has been right on the mark with their musical productions this season, and Altar Boyz is no exception.  Previews began tonight and continue until opening night on June 24th.

The original cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Altar Boyz. Photo by David Cooper.

The original cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Altar Boyz. Photo by David Cooper.

I wasn’t familiar with the show before tonight but was quickly taken in by the clever spoofing of boy bands and Christian music. The plot does play a little thin at times but the enthusiastic audience was far too busy laughing to notice.

Matthew (Jeremy Crittenden), Mark (David Hurwitz), Luke (Jak Barradell), Juan (Vincent Tong), and Abraham (Geoff Stevens) dance and sing as a well-oiled machine with a mission to save souls.  Commanded by the Lord to gel their hair with product and gird their loins with pleather lest they skew to the detestable older demographic, the Altar Boyz are on the final show of their “Raise the Praise” concert tour.

The entire quintet of actors shines in each of their respective roles as teen heartthrobs, but I have to single out Tong for his acrobatics, both literal and vocal.  He was also extremely memorable last Christmas as LeFou in Beauty and the Beast (Arts Club).

Choreographer Sara-Jeanne Hosie (currently playing Fantine in Les Misérables) pays homage to the most memorable of cheesy boy band dance moves.  The Boyz’ dancing is crisp, clean and often downright hilarious.

I have to confess that I attended several boy band concerts in the late 90s, and I saw more than a few evocations of classic Backstreet Boys and *NSync steps on the Granville Island stage tonight.

Some of the lines delivered could use a little tightening, but the preview performance was divine and hopefully I’ll be back after the opening to see how the show improves.  It’s looking like Director Bill Millerd is going to have yet another hit on his hands.

Running at 90 minutes with no intermission, Altar Boyz runs until August 1st at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street).

Chess In Concert

Watching Chess In Concert on PBS’s Great Performances, over breakfast this morning, had me longing for a full-scale revival of the 80s rock musical.  The score by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson is nothing short of epic and Tim Rice’s intricate lyrics demand careful repeat listens.


I’ve listened to the original album with Elaine Paige and Murray Head countless times, but had never seen it performed before.  This version was staged in May of 2008 in London, starring Josh Groban (Anatoly), Idina Menzel (Florence), and Adam Pascal (Freddie) and is now available on CD and DVD.

While the show’s American run was a flop, the original London version ran for three years and the original concept album has attracted a major cult following.

Locally, Applause! Musical Society did a concert rendition of Chess in 2003 (which I missed).  I’m crossing my fingers in the hopes that a Vancouver theatre company might dare to take on Chess sometime in the future.

The Supermusical (Review)

It’s a busy week for musicals on Granville Island.  A New Brain previewed last night, and tomorrow is the preview of Altar Boyz.  But tonight was all about the opening of The Supermusical.

The Handbagler (Angela Towndrow) is armed and dangerous.

The Handbagler (Angela Towndrow) is armed and dangerous.

The plot revolves around a city of super-heroes and super-villains who must come together to foil an extra-terrestrial plot to destroy the planet.

The Broadway Chorus uses songs from existing popular movie, TV, and stage musicals and fits them into an original script.  The tricky part is making show-specific lyrics work anew without making major changes.  This particular production borrows from fan favourites Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone and Hairspray, to mention only a few.

The best moments are in novel interpretations of well-known songs. ” A Whole New World” (Aladdin) is re-imagined by malevolent aliens viewing Earth from outer space.  “Welcome to the 60s” (Hairspray) becomes current again after some super-heroic time travel.

Extra marks go to cleverly working in the song “96,000” (In The Heights), even though many of its lyrics deal with how winning the lottery would benefit the residents of an urban multi-racial neighbourhood.

Two original songs by wife and husband team, Sarah and Gil Jaysmith are also featured, and seamlessly fit in with the rest of the catalogue.

A couple of the featured singers didn’t quite pull off some of their numbers (“Big Best Shoes” and “You Gotta Have a Gimmick”), as I strained to hear them, even from the second row.  The energy was also hit-or-miss, with some chorus members fully embracing their onstage personae and others seeming like they’d rather be somewhere else.

For ardent fans of the musical-genre, this show is worth seeing, but isn’t likely to be appreciated by the unconverted.

The Supermusical plays at 8 p.m. through June 20th at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island.  To reserve tickets, call 778-322-7182.

A New Brain (Review)

William Finn and James Lapine’s A New Brain ranks highly in my musical theatre playlist and Pipedream Theatre’s production more than lives up to expectations in its Vancouver premiere.

Roger (Tyson Coady) and Gordon (Andrew Cohen) share a hospital bedside moment

Roger (Tyson Coady) and Gordon (Andrew Cohen) share a hospital bedside moment.

Save for a spattering of inaudible lyrics lost to upstage singing and some occasional overly-loud piano, Tuesday’s preview of A New Brain went off with few hitches.

It’s Finn’s semi-autobiographical story of a song-writer, Gordon Schwinn, who is hospitalized with a life-threatening illness and faces the possibility of not being able to finish the songs he dreams of writing.

Andrew Cohen more than holds his own as the lead Gordon, amid a very strong ensemble cast.  Cohen and Tyson Coady, as his lover, Roger, score some tender romantic moments in both “Just Go” and the reprise of “Sailing.”

Georgia Swinton playing multiple roles as an overly-familiar waitress and as nurse Nancy D. is a delight to watch.

Sabrina Prada as Gordon’s mother Mimi, is a stand-out, and neatly steals the spotlight in the tail half with “Throw It Out” and “Music Still Plays On.”  I can’t wait to see her again soon in more Vancouver productions.

William Finn’s score shines best in the ensemble numbers and choreographer Keri Minty (who I last saw this spring as Sheila in Royal City’s A Chorus Line) really makes the most of them in a balancing act of cohesiveness and controlled chaos.

The show runs for approximately 100 minutes with no intermission at Performance Works on Granville Island until June 21st.  Evening performances: Wed-Sat, June 17th-20, 8pm | Matinees: Sat-Sun, June 20-21, 2pm. Tickets available at Students: $15.00 | Adults: $20.00.

PBS: Chess in Concert

A London concert version of  the pop-musical Chess featuring Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Josh Groban is set to air tonight (June 17) on PBS’s Great Performances (Shaw channel 43 in Vancouver).