Category Archives: Touring Shows

Disney’s The Lion King coming to Vancouver (Upcoming show)

Local Disney and musical-theatre fans alike will be ecstatic to hear that Tony Award-winning musical Disney’s The Lion King will finally be coming to the Vancouver stage in July, 2010.

Broadway Across Canada offerings have been relatively sparse in our city over the past few years and hopefully this announcement signals the beginning of a turnaround in the national touring productions that stop in Vancouver.

Based on the blockbuster 1994 animated film of the same name, The Lion King opened on Broadway in 1997 and promptly won a plethora of honours including six Tony Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, six Outer Critics Circle Awards, the New York Drama Critics award for Best Musical, the Evening Standard Award for the Theatrical Event of the Year, two Olivier Awards, a Theatre World Award, the Astaire Award for Outstanding Choreography, two Drama League Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

Choreography is by Garth Fagan, scenic design by Richard Hudson, costume design by Julie Taymor, and lighting design by Donald Holder.  The Lion King features an adapted book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi and a score by Elton John, Tim Rice, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer.

Broadway Across Canada presents Disney’s The Lion King from July13– August 8, 2010, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 600 block Hamilton St, Vancouver. Ticket prices range from $26.50 to $98.50 and go on sale in March of 2010.

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A Chorus Line; Broadway Across Canada (Review)

There’s a certain school of thinking that says that higher ticket prices equate to a better show.  My experiences with touring professional musicals would suggest that isn’t always the case.  I’ve often found them to be uneven and not always worth the high price of admission.

Luckily, A Chorus Line is more hit than miss.    Following 17 dancers auditioning for roles in the chorus line of a Broadway musical, The Tony award-winning show sets high expectations, billing itself as the best musical ever.

The calibre of acting was largely topnotch and the dancing spectacular.  The sheer athleticism and grace of the cast was on full display in this beautifully choreographed production.

ACL- 10 - The company on the line

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line. Photo- Paul Kolnik

A Chorus Line works best when the audience finds all of the competing dancers to be sympathetic and likeable.  Not all of the actors were able to pull this off.  On opening night, Julie Kotarides subbed in for Rebecca Riker in the role of Diana.  Kotarides was serviceable in the part, but was nothing to write home about.  Her singing voice was pretty, but her acting felt one-dimensional and left me indifferent.

Anthony Wayne’s Richie pulsed with a manic energy which translated well in his dancing.  His delivery, however, seemed to be a jivey throwback to 70’s style media portrayals of African-Americans that bordered perilously close to being offensive.

Maggie as played by Hollie Howard was tepid and forgettable.  Her vocals were a bit more memorable, but not in a good way.  Maggie’s high notes in “At the Ballet” were painful to hear and took away from what is otherwise a beautiful song.

The negatives were largely outshone by the myriad of positive performances. Bethany Moore was note-perfect and extremely likeable as the awkward Judy Turner.  Brandon Tyler’s Larry was a dervish in dance shoes as he moved with reckless abandon across the stage.  Emily Fletcher smouldered as the sexually aggressive Sheila, commanding attention with a raise of her eyebrows or a toss of her hair.

A Chorus Line was truly groundbreaking when it debuted in the mid-70s, but many parts of it have not aged well.  Mindy Dougherty as the artificially-enhanced Val made the most of the once risqué number “Dance: 10; Looks: Three.”  But modern audiences have long since become accustomed to ‘tits and ass,’ and the song barely registers today.

I had high hopes for Joey Dudding who played Paul.  One of the emotional highlights in the show for me is Paul’s monologue.  Properly delivered, it deftly rises to an emotional crescendo.  Dudding raced through it and arriving at the end seemed to cry almost as an afterthought, barely phoning it in.

A Chorus Line features several gay characters as revealed through songs or monologues.  The sexualities of many other male characters are left undefined.  As such, these are usually played straight, for lack of a better word.  It was nice to see, in this production, to see many other of the dancers not all played as hyper-masculine heterosexuals.

This line is a solid, strong production that is worth the ticket price for the dancing alone.  That plus some inspired acting and vocal performances make A Chorus Line a must-see.

A Chorus Line, presented by Broadway Across Canada, plays at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer Street from Nov 3-8, 2009.  Tickets are available online now or by phone at 604-280-4444.

Evil Dead: The Musical; Ground Zero (Review)

The Evil Dead fans came out in droves for the opening night of Evil Dead: The Musical on Thursday night.  The current of excitement was tangible outside the Vogue as they lined up in the damp Vancouver air.  Inside, the atmosphere was far more akin to a rock concert than to that of a typical night out at the theatre.

Musical-theatre patrons can be a devoted and passionate lot, but they generally don’t show up to see Les Misérables or A Chorus Line in stage makeup or costumes.  The Evil Dead crowd was a definite exception to that rule.

The Cast of Evil Dead: The Musical playing The Vogue Theatre. Photo- Sean Dennie, Photoganda.

The Cast of Evil Dead: The Musical playing The Vogue Theatre. Photo- Sean Dennie, Photoganda.

The musical version comes with a built-in fan base thanks to director Sam Raimi’s cult horror Evil Dead film trilogy.  Movie fans were amply represented in the opening night’s audience as evidenced by their enthusiastic appreciation of inside jokes referencing Raimi and his films.

For those unfamiliar with the movies, Evil Dead follows five college students spending their spring break at an old abandoned cabin in the woods.  An ancient evil is released and blood, gore and mayhem ensue.

Producers, publicists and the press in other cities have repeatedly compared Evil Dead: The Musical to that other camp classic, The Rocky Horror Show.  Sadly, Evil Dead doesn’t quite live up to the billing.

Sure, there are some passing similarities to Rocky Horror, but there really should be no comparison.  The songs and lyrics plumb the depths of awfulness.  Not in the way of being so bad that they’re actually good.  These are just bad, in the truly worst sense of the word.  And it’s a shame.  The slasher and horror genre are ripe for musical parody, but the book and the music here just aren’t up to snuff.

The sound quality was noticeably spotty and I struggled to catch many lines as mics dropped in and out with little regard to who was actually supposed to be speaking or singing.  Conversely, lead actor Tyler Rive was over-amplified throughout the show.

With that said, based on the audience’s reaction, the quality (or lack thereof) of the music, lyrics, or plot was inconsequential.  They roared and cheered with delight each time that a familiar line from the film was recited, or a body was dismembered, or when a demonically-animated corpse made sexually suggestive pelvic thrusts.  I have to assume that only part of that enthusiasm was due to alcohol or other intoxicants.

Much of the excitement revolved around the gratuitous use of blood and gore.  Patrons pay a premium to sit in the first five rows of the theatre, which are termed the “Splatter Zone.”  At intermission ushers handed out plastic ponchos to protect against the second act onslaught of stage blood which rained from all directions onto the audience members in the “Splatter Zone.”

High art it definitely ain’t.  Evil Dead may not be everyone’s particular cup of blood, but for the sheer spectacle and concert-style atmosphere it’s worth checking out.  Excitement about the theatre is always a good thing in my book, even if the material doesn’t deserve it.

Evil Dead: The Musical, presented by Ground Zero Theatre, Hit & Myth Productions and Keystone plays an extended run until November 14, 2009 at the Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-280-4444.

A Chorus Line; Broadway Across Canada (Upcoming Show)

The first stage musical I ever reviewed was a touring version of A Chorus Line back in the 90s.  This November, A Chorus Line returns to Vancouver for a one-week run.

Conceived and originally directed by Michael Bennett, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line ran for almost 15 years on Broadway and remains one of the longest-running Broadway musicals in history.

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line.  Photo- Paul Kolnik

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line. Photo- Paul Kolnik

The National tour cast currently features Clyde Alves (Mike), Amos Wolff (Roy), Dena DiGiacinto (Bebe), Liza Domingo (Connie), Mindy Dougherty (Val), Joey Dudding (Paul), Emily Fletcher (Sheila), Michael Gruber(Zach), Derek Hanson (Don), Hollie Howard (Maggie), David Hull (Mark), Jordan Fife Hunt (Frank), Robyn Hurder (Cassie), Julie Kotarides (Vicki), Jessica Latshaw (Kristine), Ian Liberto (Bobby), Sterling Masters (Lois), Stephanie Martignetti (Tricia), Bethany Moore (Judy), Colt Prattes (Al), Rebecca Riker (Diana), Alex Ringler (Greg), Clifton Samuels (Tom), Brandon Tyler (Larry), Anthony Wayne (Richie), J.R. Whittington (Butch) and swing performers Deanna Aguinaga, Venny Carranza, Erica Mansfield and Shane Rhoades.

Broadway Across Canada presents A Chorus Line from Nov 3-8, 2009 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer Street.  Tickets are available online now or by phone at 604-280-4444.

Evil Dead: The Musical (Upcoming Show[s])

Evil Dead: The Musical makes its Vancouver premiere– wait a second.  I’m having a major case of déjà-vu.  I feel like I’ve already written this before. Oh, that’s right, I did write this . . .  last week!

Just to be clear, there is now a second and entirely different production of Evil Dead: The Musical playing in Vancouver this Halloween.  Is anyone else feeling a bit awkward?

Let’s try it from the top.  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.

evildeadtouring

Evil Dead: The Musical has drawn multiple comparisons to The Rocky Horror Show for its funny take on the low-budget Evil Dead horror trilogy.  I, for one, am looking forward to seeing both productions and both casts.  After multiple listens of the cast recording over the past week, I’m definitely getting into the Halloween spirit.

Evil Dead: The Musical features Kevin Corey, Lynley Hall, Bruce Horak, Daniel Mallet, Cailin Stadnyk, Jamie Tognazzini, Tyler Rive, and Guilly Urra.  Many local theatre-goers will remember Ovation Award winner Stadnyk from roles in past Arts Club and TUTS’ productions.

Directed by Kevin McKendrick, choreography by Glenda Stirling, and musical direction by Brent Rock, Evil Dead: The Musical plays October 20- 31, 2009 at the Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St.  Tickets are available online now.