Category Archives: Down Stage Right

What About LUV?; Down Stage Right (Review)

After a steady diet of familiar musical-theatre staples, it’s a welcome change of pace to see some lesser-known shows make their way on to the Vancouver stage.  What About LUV?, presented by Down Stage Right Productions, more than fits the bill.  The show reunites director Mark Carter , actors Scott Walters and Meghan Gardiner and much of the behind-the-scenes team from last year’s DSR production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

Neil Minor, Meghan Gardiner and Scott Walters in Down Stage Right's What About LUV?

Actors Neil Minor, Walters and Gardiner do a bang-up job in this musical adaptation of the successful Tony-winning 1964 Broadway play LUV.  The trio play neurotic and whiny New Yorkers who at various points informally vie to see which among them is the most miserable.

All of the action is set on a New York City bridge and begins when Milt (Minor) stops Harry (Walters) from killing himself after a serendipitous reunion.  The two former classmates end up tangled in a convoluted love triangle with Milt’s wife (Gardiner).  Gardiner really shines as the uptight Ellen.

What About LUV?, at times, is smart and bitingly funny.  The actors take turns being paired off in a series of musical duets and straight acting scenes, and each takes their fair share of the spotlight to showcase their respective talents.

Much of the comedy is silly in the vein of Jerry Lewis and Walters takes to it like a neurotic fish to water.  Walters’ facial contortions and his scenes with his brown paper bag alone are worth the price of admission.

The first act started a bit slow and it took a while to warm to the show’s concept.  The second act, which picks up one year after the first, is much stronger.

Choreographer Ken Overbey has filled the show with a series of inspired little moments that left the audience smiling.  John Bessette’s set is simple but effective.

Kudos to light designer Darren Hales for his artful use of lighting.  I’ve said before that I usually only notice lighting when it’s done wrong, but here I took notice several times because it was done so well.

The beauty of What About LUV? is in its simplicity. All of its elements come together into a neatly-wrapped quirky gem of a show.  This is definitely a must-see.

What About LUV?, presented by Down Stage Right Productions, runs until November 13 at the Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright St., Granville Island.  Tickets are available online or at the door.

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What About LUV?; Down Stage Right (Upcoming show)

Down Stage Right Productions celebrates its twentieth anniversary with the Vancouver premiere of What About LUV?  What About LUV? is a hilarious twist on a love triangle gone horribly awry.

Neil Minor and Meghan Gardiner in Down Stage Right's What About LUV?

Based on the play LUV by Murray Schisgal, book by Jeffrey Sweet, music by Howard Marren and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam). Directed by Mark Carter (Evil Dead, DSR), musical direction by Sylvia Zaradic (Evil Dead, DSR), choreography by Ken Overbey (Evil Dead, DSR), lighting design by Darren Hales and set design by John Bessette.

Starring Meghan Gardiner (Evil Dead, DSR), Neil Minor (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse) and Scott Walters (Evil Dead, DSR).

Down Stage Right Productions presents What About LUV? from November 3 – 13 at the Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright St., Granville Island.  Tickets are available online or at the door.

Evil Dead: The Musical; Down Stage Right (Review)

In an ideal world, reviews of each show would be done completely independently of others, not by making side-by-side comparisons.  However, in the case of the two productions of Evil Dead: The Musical running so close together, that becomes almost impossible.

In last week’s review of Evil Dead: The Musical at the Vogue I panned the music and book of the show.  After seeing the second production of Evil Dead currently playing in Vancouver, I admit that I may have been unduly harsh.

What brought on this sudden change of heart?  Simply put, the Vancouver production was better acted and better sung, and that made all the difference.  Even in a campy musical, with limited character development and a bare-bones plot, acting still matters.

With essentially the same script, lyrics and music, I got an entirely different vibe from the local production.  This version just had way more fun.

Scott Walters as Ash in Down Stage Right Production's Evil Dead: The Musical.

Scott Walters as Ash in Down Stage Right Productions' Evil Dead: The Musical.

Scott Walters (We Will Rock You, Mirvish) as Ash hammed it up, giving his eyebrows the workout of their lives with his rapid-fire facial contortions.  Meghan Anderssen (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS) as Ash’s girlfriend Linda and Ian Rozylo as perpetual horndog Scotty both brought personal flourishes to their respective roles.

Local musical-theatre dynamo Jennifer Neumann (Les Misérables, Arts Club) as Ash’s younger sister Cheryl once again brought home the goods.

Meghan Gardiner in the dual-roles of Annie and Shelley was an unfortunately weak link.  Her somewhat wooden take on the ditzy Shelley might have come off as a passable interpretation, except that much of that same stiffness was also present in her portrayal of Annie.

The actors from the second story line were also not as impressive. Matthew Graham’s Ed needed to be reined in and could have benefited from some stronger direction.  Mat Baker (Les Misérables, Arts Club) as good old reliable Jake was also disappointing.  Where most of the other actors seemed to have found a comfortable groove, Baker’s portrayal was harsh and rubbed me the wrong way.

Sylvia Zaradic’s off-stage musical direction was spot-on.  She and the band consisting of Boyd Grealy, Aaron McKinney and Kelly Brown added an extra level of drama missing from their competition over at the Vogue.

Special honours go to set designer John Bessette.  While the other Evil Dead has the use of the original Toronto and off-Broadway set, Bessette’s (presumably lower-budget) design is no cheap knockoff.  In several respects, it actually worked better from a theatrical standpoint.

I did find Ken Overbey’s choreography to be somewhat underdone.  The group dance number “Do the Necronomicon” was anticlimactic and in need of some punching up.

Overall, director Mark Carter has shaped a solid production and has coaxed some life from a show that last week I was ready to toss out.

In some ways, the differences between the two productions are like night and day.  For blood, gore and special effects the Vogue production is the clear-cut winner.  But Down Stage Right Productions has given proof to the old adage that money can’t buy everything.  For pure acting, singing, comedy and heart, Evil Dead at the Norman Rothstein Theatre can’t be beat.

Evil Dead: The Musical, presented by Down Stage Right Productions, plays until November 7, 2009; 8 PM (with additional midnight shows October 30, 31 and November 6) at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, 950 West 41st Ave (at Oak). Tickets are available online now.

The Evil Dead Dilemma

Vancouver will soon be host to not one, but two versions of Evil Dead at the end of October.  One company was granted the professional rights, the other the amateur rights.

I’ve been scouring the web, trying to see if there is a term for when there are two productions of the same show playing in the same city.  So far, I’ve got nothing.  Perhaps somebody out there can help me out?

evildeadocr

In a relatively smaller market like Vancouver, it must be a challenge enough to compete for ticket-buying audiences when two versions of the same play or musical are staged in the same year or season.  That being said, it seems to happen with a fair bit of regularity.  Thoroughly Modern Millie played at TUTS this summer and will play again this fall at Gateway.  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is being done by Footlight this November, then again by Royal City Musical Theatre in the spring and then for a third time by TUTS next summer.  Maybe they all know something that I don’t.

The dual Evil Dead productions are in a particularly precarious position, as one is opening just a little bit more than a week before the other and there is considerable overlap between their production dates.

I’ve heard buzz around both productions and murmurs over which show will be better or which one should local audiences support.  For my part, I’m exercising some journalistic impartiality, giving equal coverage to both shows on this site. I’m also urging local musical aficionados to see both productions, if they can.

There are likely to be upsides and downsides to both (as with every show) and this site will provide reviews of both productions after their respective opening nights.

Ground Zero Theatre, Hit & Myth Productions and Keystone present the Vancouver premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical at the Vogue Theatre from October 20-31, 2009.  Tickets are available online now.

Down Stage Right Productions also presents Evil Dead: The Musical at the Norman Rothstein Theatre from October 29-November 7, 2009.  Tickets are available online now.

Evil Dead: The Musical (Upcoming show)

Evil Dead: The Musical makes its Vancouver premiere this year just in time for Halloween.  Based on the series of Evil Dead cult films, the musical version is a campy take on the horror genre.

Scott Walter as Ash in Down Stage Right's production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

Scott Walter as Ash in Down Stage Right's production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

This made-in-Canada musical has already amassed its own cult following and promises to be a great time.  I’m not overly familiar with the show, but spent this past weekend listening to the original cast recording.  Five college kids staying in a cabin during spring break encounter an ancient evil and bloody (but hilarious) mayhem ensues.

Evil Dead: The Musical is presented by Down Stage Right Productions in its 19th season.  Starring Scott Walter (We Will Rock You, Mirvish) as Ash and co-starring the talents of Meghan Anderssen (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), Mat Baker (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Meghan Gardiner, Matthew Graham, Erik Gow, Ian Rozylo and Jennifer Neumann (Songs for a New World, Not Another Musical Co-op).

Directed by Mark Carter, choreography by Ken Overbey, and musical direction by Sylvia Zaradic, Evil Dead: The Musical plays from October 29- November 7, 2009; 8 PM (with additional midnight shows October 30, 31 and November 6) at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, 950 West 41st Ave (at Oak). Tickets are available online now.