Tag Archives: Danny Balkwill

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Royal City Musical Theatre (Review)

Over 40 years after Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice created Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, it remains an incredibly popular staple of school and community theatre.  Footlight Theatre mounted a production last fall and Theatre Under the Stars will cap the trifecta with its own version this summer.

Joseph (Mat Baker) and his brothers in Royal City Musical Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

This completely sung-through show requires strong vocalists and director Valerie Easton (A Chorus Line, RCMT) has wisely cast accordingly.  Mat Baker (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Gateway) stars as Joseph and has a strong, commanding voice.  Baker shies away from some of the pop-esque stylings favoured by many other recent Josephs and succeeds because of it.  At times, Baker is still a bit wooden, but not as noticeably as he’s been in the past.

Joseph is a decidedly male-heavy show, but Jennifer Neumann (Songs for a New World, Not Another Musical) as the Narrator more than holds her own.  Neumann is a consistently strong and likable performer and here is no exception.

Danny Balkwill’s (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS) turn as the Elvis-impersonating Pharaoh is less memorable, but makes up for it  later with a killer Michael Jackson-inspired vocal number.

Joseph’s brothers are a uniformly strong ensemble and deserve equal billing with the other stars of the show; Neil Aspinall, Nic Bygate, Tyson Coady, Jeff Deglow, William Hopkins, Erik Ioannidis, Mike Kovac, Myles McCarthy, Daniel Pitout, Friedrick Po, and Lucas Testini.

Proving that there really are no small parts, Tyson Coady (A New Brain, Pipedream), who also played Pharaoh’s Butler, was a definite highlight of the evening.  His lively characterization and dance steps in one of the large ensemble numbers repeatedly drew attention away from some of the centre stage principals.

Valerie Easton does double-duty as director and choreographer and really puts this troupe through its paces.  Easton uses the large cast to her advantage, choreographing the stage into a circus of movement.

This expanded and now standard version of Joseph does go on too long; there’s no reason for the gratuitous “megamix” that has been tacked on after the finale.

By no means is Joseph one of the worst things ever to grace the stage, but it’s quality as a show doesn’t match up with its unbridled popularity with audiences.  But, as far as productions go, Royal City’s is rock-solid.

Royal City Musical Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat until April 24, 2010 at the Massey Theatre, 735 Eighth Avenue, New Westminster.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-521-5050.

Advertisements

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Royal City Musical Theatre (Upcoming show)

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is back again, this time at the Massey Theatre.  The second of three local Joseph productions audiences will see this season (Footlight, RCMT, TUTS), Royal City Musical Theatre’s version promises to deliver an excellent time.

Mat Baker as the titular character in Royal City Musical Theatre's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton, musical direction by James Bryson. Starring Mat Baker (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Gateway)  as Joseph and co-starring Danny Balkwill (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), Ken Irwin, and Jennifer Neumann (Songs for a New World, Not Another Musical).

Royal City Musical Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from April 8 – 24, 2010 at the Massey Theatre, 735 Eighth Avenue, New Westminster.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-521-5050.

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.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Footlight Theatre (Review)

I’ve seen many productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat over the years; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Footlight Theatre’s production falls somewhere comfortably in the middle.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the family-friendly tuner has become extremely popular with community and school theatre groups.  Vancouver is apparently not immune to these charms, as this is the first of three Josephs gracing local stages over the coming year.

joseph logo no frame

Based on the Old Testament story, the musical follows dreamer Joseph and his brothers using various styles of music including French ballads, country, calypso and disco.

Danny Balkwill (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS) as Joseph has a pop voice well-suited to the title role.  He mostly used his instrument to good effect, although in parts his riffing seemed excessive.

Bree Greig as the Narrator was off to an auspicious beginning in her Vancouver musical-theatre debut.  Her voice has a clear bell-like quality and she carried herself well amongst the large ensemble.

David Kemper’s Potiphar was a scene-stealer in his brief appearance and Brad Strelau’s Pharaoh was a credit to cheesy Elvis impersonators everywhere.

The children’s chorus sang earnestly under the capable direction of Elaine Lindbjerg and was absolutely precious.  Several young stars-in-the making were readily apparent during the children’s solo performances.

Live music can make or break a production and the band of Michael Creber, Buff Allen, Miles Black, Dave Ivaz, Kate Stewart and Rene Worst was nearly flawless.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is almost completely sung-through, and it can be difficult for some less-seasoned actors to properly define and develop their characters with little to no spoken dialogue.  This ensemble repeatedly fell into that trap and would have benefited from some stronger direction as to acting while singing.

This is Footlight’s first time in the larger 600-seat Michael J. Fox Theatre, which is double the audience space of their past venues.  Director Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau’s Joseph has set them off to a respectable start for what will hopefully be more successful shows down the road.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, presented by Footlight Theatre Company, plays until November 14, 2009, at the Michael J. Fox Theatre, 7373 MacPherson Ave, Burnaby.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-684-2787.

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.

Theatre Under the Stars: Summer of ’09

July is already upon us, which means that it’s only a little over a week before Theatre Under the Stars begins previews of its 2009 season.

TUTS has made some shrewd choices this year with a duo of family-friendly shows; classic crowd-pleaser Annie and the relatively new but very popular Thoroughly Modern Millie.  I’ll be posting further about both shows in the days leading up to the opening nights.

TUTS has been a summer Vancouver tradition at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park since the 1940s with only a few interruptions.  Most recently TUTS took a hiatus in 2006 after running into financial difficulties.  It was widely speculated that the two lesser-known shows staged in 2005, Big: the musical and Can-Can, failed to draw in ticket-buying audiences.

For the last two years, TUTS has safely steered towards popular and time-tested fare; Grease and Oklahoma in 2007, and Jesus Christ Superstar and Annie Get Your Gun in 2008.

Michelle Creber and Max in the TUTS production Annie. Photo by Tim Matheson.

Michelle Creber and Max in the TUTS production Annie. Photo by Tim Matheson.

Michelle Creber plays the redheaded optimistic orphan Annie alongside a slew of Vancouver stage veterans. David Adams stars as Oliver Warbucks, Colleen Winton (2008 Ovation award winner for Musical of Musicals the Musical, Fighting Chances), as Miss Hannigan, and Todd Talbot (It’s A Wonderful Life, Arts Club) as Rooster Hannigan.  Former Vancouver Playhouse artistic director Glynis Leyshon directs.

Thoroughly Modern Millie stars Broadway actress Diana Kaarina (Rent, Les Misérables) as the titular character who, in the modern tradition, moves to the big city with plans to marry not for love but for money.  The role should be somewhat old hat for Kaarina, as she previously played the role in the touring company of Millie.  Directed by Shel Piercy, the cast also includes Meghan Anderssen (Annie Get Your Gun, TUTS), Danny Balkwill (We Will Rock You, Mirvish), and Sarah Rodgers.

Previews July 10-13.  Shows play alternating nights with Annie opening July 14th through August 21st and Thoroughly Modern Millie opening July 15th through August 22nd.  Tickets available online or by calling 604-684-2787.