Category Archives: Vancouver

Good News; APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert (Upcoming show)

APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert kicks off its 2010-11 season with a concert staging of the 1927 musical Good NewsGood News was one of the biggest shows of the ‘20s and includes such songs as “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “The Varsity Drag,” “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “You’re the Cream in My Coffee.”

APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert stages concert versions of rare, shelved or forgotten musicals that are are rarely mounted by most companies.  Also in the coming season are Mame, Unsinkable Molly Brown and Little Me.

Book by Lawrence Schwab and B.G. DeSylva, lyrics by B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown, and music by Ray Henderson. Directed by Cathy Wilmot, with music direction by Caitlin Hayes.

APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert presents Good News from November 25 – 27 at Studio 700, CBC, 700 Hamilton, Vancouver.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 1-800-838-3006.

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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.

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.

Grease; Broadway Across Canada (Review)

I feel it’s best for all of us if we forget the television travesty that was Grease: You’re the One That I Want.  So, I offer my sincerest apologies for bringing it up once again.  For those of you lucky enough to have missed it, the 2007 reality show had young actors and actresses competing to portray the lead roles of Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski in the Broadway revival of Grease. The entire endeavour was a creative sellout and the eventual production, featuring winners Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, was largely panned by most major Broadway critics.

Brad Lawson, Marc Winski, Patrick Cragin, Patrick Joyce, and Matt Nolan perform “Greased Lightnin'.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Upon learning that the touring role of Danny Zuko was being played by Matt Nolan, a finalist from that show which shall-no-longer-be-named, I didn’t harbour much hope for the success of this show.  So, I was pleasantly surprised by his performance on the opening night of Grease at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

For most Grease fans, Danny Zuko will forever be indelibly tied with John Travolta’s film portrayal and everyone who has played Danny since must endure the inevitable comparisons.  Matt Nolan embodied the too-cool-for-school attitude of the character without trying to mimic Travolta’s mannerisms.  Nolan was extremely likable; an overgrown kid not entirely sure of himself.

The same can’t be said of Alyssa Herrera’s Sandy.  Herrera suffered from a severe lack of stage presence and she struggled to stand out from the chorus.

The secondary roles of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies were all played adequately, though none of them really delivered anything special.

Though touring shows aren’t expected to measure up to Broadway standards when it comes to sets and costumes, this production really fell short of the mark.  Some of the sets looked like hastily-painted cardboard backdrops, while the costumes in the opening looked similarly cheap.

I was a bit underwhelmed by the whole thing, until some of the bigger dance numbers. Joyce Chittick’s choreography was slickly executed and helped lift the show from its inauspicious beginning.

This current production also incorporates some of the more popular songs from the movie that weren’t originally part of the stage version including “Grease (Is the Word)” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

Some of the grittiness and more mature bits have either been glossed over or removed entirely.  In the song “Greased Lightning”, lyrics have been changed from “the chicks will cream” to “the chicks will scream” and “pussy wagon” is now “draggin’ wagon.”  Rizzo’s second-act pregnancy scare is brushed off as no big deal.  Though, in fairness, it can be hard to remember that these twenty-something actors are all supposed to be playing teenagers.

But, no one has ever accused Grease of trying to be serious theatre.  On opening night, the theatre was laden with patrons of all ages, many of whom were avid fans of the movie.  At several junctures throughout the show, I could hear audience members singing along with their favourite songs.  The appeal of Grease isn’t in its barebones plot; it’s in the nostalgia and the catchy songs.  And on that count, Grease more than delivers.

Grease, presented by Broadway Across Canada, runs until October 31, 2010, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 600 block Hamilton St, Vancouver. Tickets are available online or by calling 604-280-4444.

Mimi (Or A Poisoner’s Comedy); Touchstone Theatre (Upcoming show)

Touchstone Theatre celebrates its 35th season with a lineup of original Canadian musicals and music theatre.  First up, is Mimi (Or A Poisoner’s Comedy)Mimi, which debuted to good reviews in Toronto last season, is billed as a comedy about a young French aristocrat who takes up poison as a hobby.

Jennifer Lines in Mimi (Or A Poisoner's Comedy). Photo by Emily Cooper.

Lyrics and music by Allen Cole, book and lyrics by Melody A. Johnson and Rick Roberts. Directed by Katrina Dunn, musical direction by Steven Greenfield. Set design by David Roberts, costumes by Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh, lighting by Gillian Wolpert.

Starring Donald Adams, Greg Armstrong-Morris, Peter Jorgensen, Jennifer Lines, Linda Quibell, and Sanders Whiting.

Mimi (Or A Poisoner’s Comedy), presented by Touchstone Theatre, runs until November 20, 2010, at the Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova Street, Vancouver. Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-689-0926.

The Sound of Music; Footlight Theatre (Upcoming show)

The classic musical The Sound of Music hits the local stage this November, courtesy of Footlight Theatre.


Music by Richard Rodgers (Cinderella, Pal Joey), lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (Carousel, The King and I), and book by Howard Lindsay (Anything Goes) and Russel Crouse (Anything Goes).  Directed and choreographed by Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Footlight), with musical direction by Monique Creber. Costumes by Chris Sinosich (Singin’ in the Rain, TUTS), set design by Marshall McMahen and lighting by Des Renard.

Starring Bree Greig (The Fantasticks, Playhouse), Steve Maddock (The Fantasticks, Playhouse), Carolyn Bergstrand (Annie, TUTS), David Blue and Grace Fatkin. Featuring Kaitie Allinger, Deanna Baker, Michelle T. Baynton, Liane Berlin, Sierra Brewerton, Michelle Briggs, Devon Busswood, Brittany Cairns, Tyson Coady, Vanessa Coley-Donohue, Michelle Creber, Sara Davidson, Elaine Francis, Emily Fraser, Luke Alexander Gair, Shannon Hanbury, Jake Hildebrand, Darryl Hol, Denise Johnson, Talar Kaladjian, Kathleen Kelly-Driscoll, Shantini Klaassen, Steven Krajnyak, Laura Luongo, Aubrey Maddock, Matt Mazur, Myles McCarthy, Carol Miller, Eve O’Dea, Shannon Pauls, Joanne Perkins, Susan Reid, Taylor Robinson, Natalie Sharp, Olivia Steele-Falconer, Robin Sukorokff, Alyssya Swales, Helen Volkow, Nancy Von Euw, Jeffrey Wallace, Michael Wilkinson, Jacob Wolstoncroft and Alison Wright.

Footlight Theatre Company presents The Sound of Music from November 5 – 20, 2010, at the Michael J. Fox Theatre, 7373 MacPherson Ave, Burnaby. Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-684-2787.

Sweeney Todd; Fighting Chance (Upcoming show)

Just in time for Hallowe’en comes Sweeney Todd, presented by Fighting Chance Productions. Director Ryan Mooney promises a fresh and sexy take on the Sondheim masterpiece and has set it in the round to bring the audience closer to the action.

 

Alex McMorran and Cathy Wilmot in Fighting Chance's Sweeney Todd.

 

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods) and book by Hugh Wheeler (A Little Night Music). Directed by Ryan Mooney (Hair, Fighting Chance), with musical direction by Vashti Fairbairn (Hair, Fighting Chance).

Starring Alex McMorran (The Wedding Singer, Fighting Chance), Cathy Wilmot (Forbidden Broadway, Fighting Chance), Arne Larsen (Rent, Fighting Chance), Sabrina Prada, Chris Harvey (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Krista Gibbard, David Nicks, Jeremy Hanlon-Fournier, Eric Alexander Steel (Hair, Fighting Chance), Laura Luongo, Lauren Gula, (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Gateway), Kate Leinweber, Reginald Pillay, Matt Hume (A New Brain, Pipedream), Nick Fontaine (Rent, Fighting Chance), Patrick Maloughney and Danielle Lemon.

Fighting Chance Productions presents Sweeney Todd from October 13 – 30, 2010 at the Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery, Vancouver. Tickets are available online or by calling 604-224-8007 ext. 3.