Category Archives: Vancouver Playhouse

The Fantasticks; Playhouse (Upcoming show)

The Vancouver Playhouse opens its 48th season with world’s longest-running musical The Fantasticks.

 

Simon Bradbury, Christopher Gaze and Steve Maddock in The Fantasticks at the Vancouver Playhouse.

 

Book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt. Directed and choreographed by Max Reimer (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels , Playhouse), with musical direction by Bill Sample (Beyond Eden, Playhouse). Set design by David Roberts, costumes by Christine Reimer, and lighting by Gerald King.

Starring Steve Maddock (Beauty and the Beast, Arts Club), Colin Sheen (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Playhouse), Bree Greig (Bat Boy, Patrick Street), Mark Burgess (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse), Andy Toth (The Full Monty, Patrick Street), Christopher Gaze (Bard on the Beach), Simon Bradbury (Oliver!, Playhouse) and Jeff Hyslop (The Music Man, Playhouse).

The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company presents The Fantasticks from October 2- 23, 2010 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Hamilton and Dunsmuir.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-873-3311.

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Beyond Eden; Playhouse (Review)

In 1957, a controversial expedition including acclaimed B.C. artist Bill Reid and anthropologist Wilson Duff was sent to remove and preserve totem poles from the abandoned Haida village of Ninstints. The conflicts it generated, both externally and within, are the subject of the brand-new musical Beyond Eden.

Writer Bruce Ruddell weaves fantasy with history as he delves into the moral dilemmas faced by the expedition.  The characters have also been fictionalised; Reid is now Max Tomson (Cameron MacDuffee) and Duff is now Lewis Wilson (John Mann).

John Mann and Tom Jackson in Beyond Eden at the Vancouver Playhouse.

Wilson struggles with his desire to preserve the totem poles before they decay and are lost and his respect for the Haida beliefs and traditions.  The mixed-race Tomson is also on his own journey to recognising and reclaiming his heritage.

Mann, of Spirit of the West fame, is in fine form, vocally and dramatically.  Tom Jackson (North of 60) deftly plays the Watchman, a mystical guide intent on protecting the totem poles from Wilson’s interference.  The fallback into over-used stereotypes, which at times threatened to derail the production, is carefully tempered by the beautiful imagery.

There are some stunning visuals on display here, including a sequence of canoe lanterns floating above the heads of the audience, and luminescent totem poles given life as their projected carvings take motion.  Bretta Gerecke’s evocative set involving ramps and angled poles is flawless.

Composer Bill Henderson’s score is serviceable but mostly forgettable.  The use of traditionally-inspired Haida music by Gwaai Edenshaw, however, is seamlessly integrated and rises far above the weaker elements.

There are also some valiant efforts to incorporate basic character development to add some humanity to the history, but these fall way short of their goal.  The subplots involving Wilson’s attempts to reconnect with his son and wife are meandering at best and come off as insincere.  Jennifer Lines’ performance as Wilson’s wife is well-executed, but the character, as written, is superfluous and adds little to the production.

The musical is steeped heavily with both ambition and gravitas, which mostly serve it well.  As a historical narrative, it hits the mark; as a musical, it’s lacking.  Though the script and score could do with a major renovation, overall Beyond Eden is visually and thematically haunting.

The Vancouver Playhouse and Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad in co-production with Theatre Calgary present Beyond Eden from January 16 – February 6, 2010 at the Vancouver Playhouse, Hamilton and Dunsmuir.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-873-3311.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Playhouse (Review)

By whatever name you may call them, grifters, scam artists, confidence men; they’re a familiar staple of the theatre.  Think of Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, Rooster in Annie, or Harold Hill in The Music ManDirty Rotten Scoundrels follows this great tradition with an artful and comedic tribute to the art of the con.  Lawrence Jameson, a successful high-end conman, competes with two-bit scammer Freddy Benson to see who can be the first to bilk a target out of $50,000, with the loser leaving town.   The result is a ridiculous suite of harebrained and madcap schemes that translate perfectly onto the musical stage.

Josh Epstein, Elena Juatco and ensemble in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Vancouver Playhouse.

David Yazbek’s music and lyrics (The Full Monty) are fun and catchy and flow seamlessly with Jeffrey Lane’s book. The often crude and vulgar humour contrasts well with the upbeat score.  “Great Big Stuff” has Freddy longing for all the modern trappings of success including mink tracksuits and hummers in his Hummer.

Andrew Wheeler’s Lawrence Jameson is narcissistically confident and plays well off of his co-star Josh Epstein (The Producers, Arts Club).  Epstein, as Freddy Benson, is full of energy and has talent to spare but hasn’t completely made the role his own.  Too often, the character seems underdeveloped.

Elena Juatco plays the accident-prone American Soap Queen, Christine Colgate, the unwitting mark in Freddy and Lawrence’s unscrupulous bet.  Juatco is best known for making it into the top six of the second season of Canadian Idol and has since transitioned her talents to the theatre.  Her singing voice is sweet and tender but at times its thinness threatened to give way.  Ultimately it didn’t matter, as Juatco is consummately charming and radiates likeability from her first appearance to her final bow.

Gabrielle Jones, last year’s titular Drowsy Chaperone, commands attention as world-traveler Muriel Eubanks, one of Jameson’s earlier victims.  Jones is a treat as always and shines in a side story involving David Marr (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse) as Andre, one of Jameson’s accomplices.  Marr’s deadpan delivery hits the mark every time.

Nathalie Marrable co-choreographs with director Max Reimer and together they’ve done a good job making full use of the talented cast; though at several junctures the staging seemed confused and unfocused.

Director Reimer can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that his follow-up to last year’s smash success The Drowsy Chaperone is a hit.  Reimer deserves considerable credit for injecting some much-needed life into the Vancouver Playhouse’s annual musical theatre productions, after a run of somewhat lacklustre shows in the years previous to his tenure.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is an uproariously-funny down-and-dirty outing packed with laughs and enough charm and talent to win over even the toughest of critics.

The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels until December 27, 2009 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Hamilton and Dunsmuir.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-873-3311.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; Playhouse (Upcoming show)

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels begins previews at the Vancouver Playhouse this Saturday with an official opening next week.

Artistic Managing Director Max Reimer hopes to continue his winning streak after last year’s hit The Drowsy Chaperone brought new life to, and with it higher expectations for, the Playhouse’s annual musical offering.

Directed by Max Reimer, with musical direction by Steve Thomas and co-choreographed by Reimer and Nathalie Marrable, the musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is based on the 1988 film of the same name.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels stars Josh Epstein (The Producers, Arts Club) as Freddy Benson, Andrew Wheeler as Lawrence Jameson and Elena Juatco (Canadian Idol) as Christine Colgate and an ensemble including Danny Balkwill (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), Tyson Coady (A New Brain, Pipedream), Brennan Cuff, Kazumi Evans (West Side Story, RCMT), Gabrielle Jones (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse), Kiara Leigh, David Marr (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse), Katie Murphy, Jaclyn Rae, Colin Sheen and Debbie Timuss (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse).

The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company presents Dirty Rotten Scoundrels from November 21- December 27, 2009 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Hamilton and Dunsmuir.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-873-3311.