Tag Archives: Gateway Theatre

Annie; Gateway Theatre (Upcoming show)

Dancing orphans, stray dogs and a singing billionaire return to the Metro Vancouver stage once again as Gateway Theatre presents the family favourite Annie as their 2010 Christmas musical.

Michelle Creber in Gateway Theatre's Annie. Photo by David Cooper.

The musical marks a special anniversary for Gateway. “We’re celebrating 26 years at Gateway by producing Annie, the musical we started with,” says executive and artistic director Simon Johnston. “Annie’s irrepressible optimism and hope for the future is an important message for all of us.”

Book by Thomas Meehan (The Producers), music by Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie), and lyrics by Martin Charnin. Directed by Johnna Wright, musical direction by Allen Stiles, choreography by Kennith Overbey, set design by Drew Facey, and costume design by Carmen Alatorre.

Starring Michelle Creber, Timothy E. Brummund, Nora McLellan, Matt Palmer, Barbara Tomasic and Pippa Mackie. Featuring Jessie Chan, Bridget Esler, Murielle Faifman, Maria Go, Kaila Kask, Aviva Knowles, Caroline Mawhinney, Fiona McIntyre, Laura Reynolds, Colette Richardson, Makena Zimmerman, Arne Larsen, Andrea Bailey, Matthew Beairsto, Vanessa Coley-Donohue, Andrew Cownden, Xavier de Salaberry, Jeff Deglow, Cameron Dunster, Brandyn Eddy, Madelyn Kriese, Stephanie Liatopolous, Brittany Scott, and Tamara Vishniakoff.

Gateway Theatre presents Annie from December 9 – 31, 2010, at the Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-270-1812.

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Thoroughly Modern Millie; Gateway (Review)

Running different productions of the same musical within a relatively short period of time inevitably invites comparisons, for better or for worse.  Having seen the TUTS production of Millie half a dozen times this past summer, I’m familiar with both the strengths and the weaknesses of the book and score.  I had such high hopes for Gateway Theatre’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. On paper it shows so much promise, but ultimately falls short.

The cast of Gateway's Thoroughly Modern Millie.

There is a lot to like about this production.  Choreographer Kennith Overbey has charged the dance numbers with an intense energy that truly carries the show.  The freneticism of the love-wearied office pool as they tap out their frustrations in “Forget About the Boy,” was almost enough to make me forget some of the other flaws in this show.

Overbey makes excellent use of the incredibly strong male and female choruses.  Among the standouts are Georgia Swinton, Damon Jang, Dimitrios Stephanoy, Meagan Ekelund and Doran Satanove.  There is more than a hint of sex appeal in the alcohol-infused “The Nutty Cracker Suite,” which in less capable hands could have easily been boring and hackneyed.  That same rawness is also welcomely present in the male chorus in “Long as I’m Here with You.”

The ten-piece orchestra is at the top of its game and brings the jazzy score to life, with what seems like minimal effort.  Musical theatre companies around town should take note: cutting back on the size of pit orchestras and live accompaniment can exact a heavy toll on your show.  That richness of sound can’t be replicated by other means.

Lauren Bowler (The Producers, Arts Club) is a strong actress and singer, but doesn’t come off as terribly likeable in the title role of Millie Dillmount.  Her characterisation played like it was from a more serious show, not the one she was in.

Diana Kaarina (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS) was reliably consistent in the role of Miss Dorothy, a role she honed in the US national tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  I found myself wishing that Kaarina had been cast as Millie here, a role she completely owned at TUTS this summer.

Denis Simpson plays wealthy socialite and songstress Muzzy Van Hossmere in what appears to be incredibly bad whiteface.  I was hoping for something special in Simpson’s two musical performances “Only in New York” and “Long as I’m Here with You,” and I was still waiting when the final curtain fell.  The fault doesn’t lie with Simpson, but with the uninspired staging consisting of simply facing the audience head-on with limited movement and singing, à la high school.

I’ve seen Simpson dance and sing enough times to know that this wasn’t a case of a director staging around a performer’s weak spots.  Whatever the reasoning behind this creative decision, the poor direction in these numbers pulled down the show’s energy.

The same barebones approach to staging also hurt the comedic number “They Don’t Know.” As the villainous Mrs. Meers, Irene Karas’ accent careered perilously close to the edge and her dragon lady was missing some needed bluster.

Mat Baker’s vocals and dancing were well-suited to the role of Jimmy Smith, but was otherwise bland and not particularly charismatic.  On the other hand, Gaelan Beatty was perfectly charming as the somewhat pompous Trevor Graydon.

Jen Darbellay’s costumes are colourful and eye-catching, though a bit more variety would have been welcome.  The scale of Drew Facey’s set properly conveys the height of the New York cityscape without dwarfing the actors.

All of the technical elements are there, but the show lacks heart.  It should be full of humour and fun, but the quick pace of this staging seems to gloss over many of the best lines and scenes.  That being said, the energetic choreography, top-notch orchestra, and strong chorus alone make Thoroughly Modern Millie worth the price of admission.

Gateway Theatre presents Thoroughly Modern Millie until January 3, 2010 at the Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-270-1812.

Thoroughly Modern Millie; Gateway (Upcoming show)

Thoroughly Modern Millie opens at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond this Friday.  Millie was already one of TUTS’ offerings this past summer, so it will be familiar territory for some.

Mat Baker and Lauren Bowler in Gateway Theatre's production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Having really enjoyed seeing Millie at the Malkin Bowl, I’m eager to see how this production will compare.  Starring Lauren Bowler, Mat Baker (Evil Dead, DSR), Diana Kaarina (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), Irene Karas, Minh Ly, Raugi Yu, Gaelan Beatty, and Denis Simpson.

Directed by Simon Johnston and assistant director Natasha Nadir, musical direction by Allen Stiles, choreography by Ken Overbey, set design by Drew Facey, costume design by Jen Darbellay, lighting by Ereca Hassell, sound design by Chris Hind, stage managed by Angela Beaulieu and assistant stage manager Jamie Tait.

Gateway Theatre presents Thoroughly Modern Millie from December 10, 2009 – January 3, 2010 at the Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-270-1812.

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.