Category Archives: Theatre Under the Stars

Singin’ in the Rain; TUTS (Upcoming show)

Theatre Under the Stars brings the adapted version of the 1952 film classic Singin’ in the Rain to the Vancouver stage.

Neil Minor, Lindsay Sterk, and Lauren Bowler in the TUTS production of Singin' in the Rain.

Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolf Green, songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. Directed by Shel Piercy (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), and musical direction by Wendy Bross Stuart.  Set design by Drew Facey (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Gateway), costume design by Chris Sinosich (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), video design by Tim Matheson, and lighting design by Gerald King.

Starring Cailin Stadnyk (Evil Dead, Ground Zero), Lori Zondag, Fred Galloway (Annie Get Your Gun, TUTS), Jameson Parker, Daniel White, Neil Minor (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse), Lindsay Sterk, and Lauren Bowler (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Gateway).  Featuring Natalie Aspinall, Sierra Brewerton, Amanda Buckingham, Sarah-Zoë Catherine, Emily Fraser, Shannon Hanbury, Emily Kapahi, Angela King, Kristina Linden, Jennifer Suttis, Courtney Shields, Linzi Voth, Paul Almeida, Neil Aspinall, Dan Bowman, Angus Chiu, Cameron Dunster, Damon Jang, Joel Lahaye, Alex Nicholl, and Jim Stewart.

Theatre Under the Stars presents Singin’ in the Rain on alternating nights from July 10 – August 21, 2010 at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, Vancouver. This year, all seats are reserved, eliminating the need to line up early. Tickets are available online or by calling 1-877-840-0457.

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Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; TUTS (Upcoming show)

The third and final production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to hit Metro Vancouver this season, comes courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.

The cast of TUTS' Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcot

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera, Cats), lyrics by Tim Rice (Evita, The Lion King). Directed by Shel Piercy (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), musical direction by Kevin Michael Cripps (Footloose, Exit 22), and choreographed by Keri Minty (A New Brain, Pipedream). Costume design by Chris Sinosich (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), lighting by Gerald King and video design by Tim Matheson. Co-starring Erik Ioannidis, Jaime Piercy, Brittany Scott, Alex Gullason, Caleb Di Pomponio, Dimitrios Stephanoy, DaeYoung Danny Kim, Ashley Gelhede, Aaron Lau, Benjamin Wardle, Amanda Testini, Friedrick Po, Amber Shikaze, Scott Heatcoat, Rachel Harrison, Camilo Dominguez, and Madeleine Suddaby.

Theatre Under the Stars presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on alternating nights from July 9 – August 20, 2010 at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, Vancouver.  This year, all seats are reserved, eliminating the need to line up early. Tickets are available online or by calling 1-877-840-0457.

Saying goodbye to summer

Over the last month, there’s been so much theatre to see and so little time.  And now it all seems to be ending.  The cheeky SHINE: A Burlesque Musical finished its two-week run at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island last weekend and we also bade adieu to the toe-tapping Thoroughly Modern Millie and Annie at Theatre Under the Stars.

At the Arts Club, the Altar Boyz are spritzing their hair with product for the last time and at Pacific Theatre, the good folks from Not Another Musical Co-op are singing the last notes of Songs For A New World this weekend.     Across the water, at the Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver, comes the final curtain call for the newest object of my affection, Fighting Chance’s Rent.

Fighting Chance Production's cast of Rent; Clockwise from top left, Craig Decarlo, Christine Quintana, Jacqueline Breakwell, Anton Lipovetsky, Nick Fontaine and Cesar Erba.

Fighting Chance Production's cast of Rent; Clockwise from top left, Craig Decarlo, Christine Quintana, Jacqueline Breakwell, Anton Lipovetsky, Nick Fontaine and Cesar Erba.

I have a rather shameful admission to make . . .  I’ve never been a giant Rent fan.  Nor a Rent fan of any other size, for that matter.  It stems from a certain stubbornness that I possess when it comes to being told what to do or what to like.  In fact, I have an aversion to jumping on to bandwagons of all kinds.  It’s that contrary quality that made me disregard the film version and pooh-pooh the various Rent soundtracks.

But now, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid and have been totally taken in by Rent.  I’ve seen it three times and would have seen it again, if it hadn’t kept selling out.

Which brings us back to the end of the summer season and the sudden onset of my musical-theatre withdrawal blues.  My current state of despair is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that the fall musical season will soon be upon us.  Though, truth be told, I’m not overly enthused by this.  I’ve seen all of these latest summer shows twice and sometimes more and they’ve become familiar, like friends.  And it’s so hard to say goodbye.

Interview with Sarah Rodgers (Thoroughly Modern Millie)

The air is sweltering in Vancouver this week, and I have plans to see Thoroughly Modern Millie again tonight at TUTS in Stanley Park.   I’m hoping against rational belief that this evening’s temperatures will cool to something more bearable.

If you haven’t already been to TUTS yet, go see both shows.  It’s a great pairing this season; the ever-popular and solid Annie (read my review) and the thoroughly fabulous Thoroughly Modern Millie (read my review).

Sarah Rodgers has spent the past few years directing musicals, but it’s been a while since she’s acted and sung in one.  This summer Rodgers is returning to her roots as she hams it up playing the villainous Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie at Theatre Under the Stars.  Rodgers gave us a few of her thoughts regarding her role.

Rodgers on musicals:

“I’ve been directing a lot of musicals in this city and having a ball with it and just loving it.  I’ve done the last three seasons at Gateway Theatre. I directed Emily, My Fair Lady and last year, Guys and Dolls.

But before that I have been a professional actor for over 15 years and I did perform in musicals years ago. But it’s been a while and I am just thrilled to be back on the stage, singing, (laughs) kicking up my heels.”

Danny Kim, Sarah Rodgers and Aaron Lau in TUTS production of <i>Thoroughly Modern Millie</i>.  Photo by Tim Matheson.

Danny Kim, Sarah Rodgers and Aaron Lau in TUTS' production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Photo by Tim Matheson.

Rodgers on preparing for the role:

“I have to learn a Chinese accent, and in all honesty, I have to learn a very over-the-top, stereotypical, and for lack of a better word, a bad Chinese accent.  Because I play a character who thinks she’s a wonderful actor.  There’s a lovely footnote in the script that says ‘it is not important that Mrs Meers’ Chinese accent be good, but it is important that she thinks it is good (laughs).’

I worked with a student of mine [at UBC] who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Canada.  He sat down with me and I taped him and he helped me greatly with the accent.  I also had to do a lot of work.   . . . a lot of coaching and work on singing, just because I haven’t sung, myself, in many years.  So of course, I’ve been working privately on that.  Just prepping and preparing vocally.”

Rodgers on the 1967 film version of Thoroughly Modern Millie:

“I am a huge fan and I was probably not born when the movie came out.   But, they were showing it in reruns. My mother and I would watch it on the television every year.  I’m a huge fan of Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews. So, I know the film inside out, love it, love it, love it!  [In the play] the character Mrs Meers is very different, which is fun for me.  I’m reinventing it and making it completely new because she doesn’t play her as an Asian woman in the film at all.  They’ve totally changed it, they’ve made it even campier and it is a crazy, crazy depiction.

But of course it’s supposed to be a real send-up on the woman and I end up going to jail, I think, for my bad accent (laughs).  Mrs. Meers ends up going to jail and the Asian sidekick gets the beautiful girl, so it all works out well in the end.”

Rodgers on playing the villain:

“I’m loving it and I would say that it’s a new venture for me as an actor.  I’m not used to playing the villains, or the old broad.  I wake up one morning and suddenly I’m playing the old broad in the show.  When did that happen?  I’ve been playing ingénues all my life (laughs), I’m used to playing the Mary Tyler Moore role. It’s a great comic role, wonderful, wonderful comic role. It’s a great character part and it’s fun being the bad guy. Who knew?”

Rodgers on Beatrice Lillie:

“From the film itself, I am a huge fan of Beatrice Lillie and a lot of people of this generation don’t know [her]. But Bea Lillie was a famous vaudevillian actress and she was also, a lot of people called her the first female comedian.  I am so honoured to be playing a Beatrice Lillie role. I’m beside myself.

There’s one thing that she does in the film which is absolutely ridiculous.  She barks at the boys. She barks at them and she says ‘shu sho, shu sho.’ Of course the first thing I wanted to know was what does ‘shu sho’ mean, because that’s the one bit of Chinese that she uses in the film. She says it quite a lot and in a way that you think she’s saying hurry up, hurry up, get going, ‘shu sho.’ And it means absolutely nothing, I found out.  , Well I put it into the show.  I do it twice in the show and that’s a treat really for the diehards.”

Tickets are still available through Tickets Tonight. Thoroughly Modern Millie plays every other night at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park at 8 pm until August 22nd.

Thoroughly Modern Millie; Theatre Under the Stars (Review)

Thoroughly Modern Millie is Theatre Under the Stars’ second offering this summer, and what a show!  Adapted from the 1967 musical film of the same name which starred Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing, the 2002 stage version won the Tony Award for Best Musical.

The book is by Richard Morris (the original 1967 screenwriter) and Dick Scanlan.  The stage musical borrows some of its score from the movie as well as from Tchaikovsky, Al Jolson, Victor Herbert, and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore.  The new music is by Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, or Change, Shrek the Musical) and new lyrics are by Dick Scanlan.

Set in New York City in 1922, it’s the story of a small-town Kansas girl Millie Dilmount who’s afraid to end up “old and grey at 29.” She comes to the big city to seek her fortune in the modern way; she wants to marry her future boss. Millie is enthusiastically played by local actor Diana Kaarina, who not that long ago returned from Broadway (Rent, Les Misérables) and touring productions in the US (Thoroughly Modern Millie).

Diana Kaarina as Millie in TUTS' production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Photo by Tim Matheson

Diana Kaarina as Millie in TUTS' production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Photo by Tim Matheson

Kaarina is definitely a triple threat and she owns the role, singing, tapping, and acting her heart out.  The opening number “Not For The Life of Me/Thoroughly Modern Millie” crackles with energy and choreographer Shelley Stewart Hunt’s choreography really spotlights the talented cast.

I’ve been enamoured with Meghan Anderssen since she stole the show last year as Annie Oakley at TUTS.  This summer she plays the aspiring actress Miss Dorothy Brown and once again she tries to steal the show at every turn.  And if not for the incredibly strong cast of leads, she undoubtedly would have succeeded.

Anderssen’s comic timing is perfection in everything that she does.  Her introductory duet with Kaarina, “How the Other Half Lives,” has some great moments between the pair.  To her credit, Anderssen has chemistry with all of the actors she is paired with over the evening.

Seth Drabinsky, who wowed local audiences a few years back in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Pickled Productions), makes his TUTS debut as Millie’s tightly-wound boss Trevor Graydon.  Drabinsky displays his operatic training in a masterful quick-tongued homage to the Gilbert & Sullivan patter song with “The Speed Test.”  He and Anderssen deftly show off their joint romantic and comedic chops in “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life” and “Falling in Love.”

Composer Tesori’s new score falters a bit with her songs for Millie’s love interest Jimmy Smith.  “What Do I Need With Love” and “I Turned The Corner” are largely forgettable as performed by the woefully miscast Danny Balkwill.  Balkwill lacks the easy charm and onstage charisma necessary to win over the audience.

Sarah Rodgers returns to the musical stage after a prolonged absence and gleefully relishes in the character part of Mrs. Meers.  As the failed-actress turned white-slave trader, she does a bang-up job of self-promoting herself as a star in “They Don’t Know.”

Mrs Meers spends the entire show hiding in yellow-face and sporting an atrociously terrible accent, masquerading as the Chinese matron of the Priscilla Hotel. The original 1967 film cast Asians in the roles of the villainous henchmen in a less-than-subtle display of racist stereotyping.  When the musical was adapted for the stage in 2002, the henchmen were changed into Mrs. Meers’ unwilling accomplices.

The characters Ching Ho and Bun Foo, played by Aaron Lau and DaeYoung Danny Kim, are the only ones who have a clue about what’s actually going at the Priscilla Hotel.  But they’re unable to warn anyone since they only speak (and sing) in Chinese.  Through the clever use of subtitled laundry, the audience is able to understand the dialogue.  Lau and Kim do a great version of Jolson’s “Mammy” redone in Chinese as “Muquin.”

Nancy Herb certainly has the right sultry nightclub sound for socialite Muzzy Van Hossmere, and vocally I have no complaints about her.  But I wanted so much more from her that just wasn’t anywhere to be found.  I’ve always seen Muzzy as sassy, campy and a bit of a diva.  The role has previously been played by Carol Channing, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Leslie Uggams, all of whom made the role their own, essentially by playing themselves.  Even though she has two starring numbers in the show, “Only in New York” and “Long As I’m Here With You,” Herb faded into the background.  I’d love to see her bring some attitude and life into the character.

Chris Sinosich’s costumes are modern and jazzy and I loved her take on Muzzy Van Hossmere’s over-the-top nightclub get-ups.

Kaarina opens the second act strongly with the powerhouse “Forget About The Boy” and the resulting extravaganza of romantically frustrated tap-dancing office workers is pure satisfaction.

Music Director Christopher King’s orchestra is near-perfect and the music is definitely what makes the show shine in the wide open spaces of the Malkin Bowl. The bright resounding tones of the brass especially give the beautiful score its vintage happy-go-lucky feel.

Shel Piercy’s directions are always top-notch and this is no exception.  Thoroughly Modern Millie’s cast is thoroughly bursting with talent and it’s a sensational must-see for the summer.  I already can’t wait to see it again.  Tickets are still available through Tickets Tonight. Thoroughly Modern Millie plays every other night at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park at 8 pm until August 22nd.

Annie; Theatre Under the Stars (Review)

I love the inherent charm and romanticism in Theatre Under the Stars.  Something about watching live musical-theatre performers under an open sky on a cool summer night brings back the notion of a simpler time.  Where the flights of fantasy we see on stage no longer seem so implausible.

Going back to reality however, begs the question whether simpler times ever actually existed, or if they’re merely childhood memories artfully framed by nostalgic wishing.  The good old days surely don’t apply to the years in the 30s during the Great Depression.

It’s in that unlikely setting that TUTS first feel-good musical of the season takes place.  The family classic Annie opens with a group of orphans gathered around the radio, listening to the opening overtures of Charles Strouse’s score.

With lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan, Annie has been a family favourite for the last 32 years and unfortunately its age is showing.  The story is peppered with cultural references from the 30s as remembered from the 70s.  Mentions of Jack Dempsey or Don Budge don’t exactly hit home with a contemporary crowd.  It also doesn’t help that the show’s most memorable songs are all in the first act.

Luckily, the TUTS cast has talent enough to gloss over the show’s weaknesses.  Nine-year-old Michelle Creber plays the titular orphan as well any seasoned veteran.  Actual seasoned veteran David Adams, who plays Oliver Warbucks, has some great chemistry with Creber.  His Warbucks is somewhat human compared to how others have played the role and his affection for his young ward is therefore more believable.

David Adams, Michelle Creber, and Dana Luccock in TUTS' production of Annie.  Photo by Tim Matheson

David Adams, Michelle Creber, and Dana Luccock in TUTS' production of Annie. Photo by Tim Matheson

The orphan chorus, as played by Sophie Leroux, Loritta Lin, Eve O’Dea, Christina Peluso, Roan Shankaruk, Nicol Spinola, Olivia Steele-Falconer, Sophie Visscher-Lubinizki and Allison Wall, is charming and brimming with talent.  Their spunky version of “Hard Knock Life” gets the show off and running on a high note.

I never envy the job of the actor who is cast as Miss Hannigan.  Carol Burnett’s cinematic turn as the boozy orphanage director is a hard act for anyone to follow.  Theoretically, Miss Hannigan has some of the best one-liners in the show, and Colleen Winton plays them up for all they’re worth.  But they didn’t get much response from the audience; which says more about the audience and the show itself than it does about Winton’s performance.  Many of the lines just aren’t as funny when you know they’re coming.

Todd Talbot and Carolyn Bergstrand as Rooster Hannigan and Lily St-Regis liven up the show with their brand of comedic villainy.  Winton, Talbot and Bergstrand are smooth as butter with “Easy Street.”

Not everything in Annie hits the mark.  Dana Luccock’s portrayal of Warbucks’ secretary Grace Farrell is flat and somewhat one-noted.  There were also a few problems with the sound, but nothing that can’t be ironed out.

Kudos to Francesca Albertazzi for her set design.  It is both pretty and practical and works well within the limitations of the Malkin Bowl.  Former Playhouse Artistic Director Glynis Leyshon makes her TUTS directing debut and has crafted a solid show.

Though the musical itself may be getting a bit tired, it’s a great choice for the family-friendly TUTS.  Tickets are still available through Tickets Tonight. Annie plays every other night at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park at 8 pm until August 21st.

Brief Update

My apologies for not staying on the ball with daily postings.  I do have a bunch of stuff to finish and post for you this week.  By tomorrow I should have reviews for both TUTS shows, Annie and Thoroughly Modern Millie, written and posted.  I also have an interview with Millie cast member Sarah Rodgers to put the final touches on.

As well, I interviewed the star of Piaf: Love Conquers All which plays next week  at the Firehall Arts Centre.   I’ll have more details on all of these shows in the respective reviews and postings as they’re put up.