Tag Archives: Granville Island

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical (Review)

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical is not so much a traditional musical as it is a bawdy version of TV’s old variety shows.  Think of a cross between burlesque and an adult-only Muppet show.  The show is a reworked version of an improvised one-act, originally known as By the Seat of Our Panties, presented at the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival in 2008.

The book by Sam Dulmage and The Wet Spots is thin, but works nevertheless.  Theatre owner Shine Mionne (Cass King) and her troupe of burlesque performers are approached by a producer who promises to revitalise the ailing show with buckets of money.  Various hijinks, gags, and word-play ensue.

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Cass King as Shine Mionne in SHINE: A Burlesque Musical

The original music by first-time musical theatre writers the Wet Spots (John Woods and Cass King) has some bright spots and a tonne of potential, but isn’t given the full opportunity to shine as brightly as it should.

The female cast is full of incredibly strong personalities and they almost completely overwhelm the male contingent of the show. Michael Smith as wealthy producer Richard Suit is nowhere nearly up to the challenge of matching the stage presence or vocal abilities of his female co-stars.  Both of Smith’s songs, “When You Deal With A Suit” and “Matinee Crowd” fell unfortunate victim to his weak singing voice and weren’t given a fair airing.

The tempo of certain songs (“Everybody Wants to be A Star” and “Rocky Horror”) could also use some reworking to better steady the pace of the overall show.  There were too many slow numbers.  SHINE’s score would also be better served by the use of live music as opposed to the current pre-taped backing tracks.

None of these criticisms should take away from the overwhelming positives of SHINE.  I went in not knowing what to expect, but was completely won over.

Cass King is a natural performer and brings to life the “Perversions of Yesteryear.”  Her speaking delivery is peppered with shades of Katharine Hepburn and she periodically channels various other classic stars of the silver screen.

“Broadway Love Song” wryly spoofs a musical-theatre ballad and makes for a strong closer to the first act.

The chorus/ensemble comprised of Violet Femme, April O’Peel, Calamity Kate and Sister Madly, Keri Horton and Fairlith Harvey provide a rock-solid backing to SHINE; there’s not a single weak link in the bunch.  Choreography by April O’Peel and Melody Mangler is inspired and sinfully fun.

Gemma Isaac as an overeager grad student and Teddy Smooth as an aspiring young actor make wild and dirty magic in “The Nasty.”  Noelle Pilon as Lulu Von Doozy, the resident diva, is a force of nature and sells all of her numbers with relative ease.

SHINE is chockfull of clever moments and snappy dialogue; it will absolutely and thoroughly entertain you and leave you wanting more.

SHINE: A Burlesque Musical is presented by Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society and The Wet Spots and plays from August 12-22, 2009; Wed-Sat @ 8 PM, at the Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright St, Granville Island.  Tickets are available online or call 1-800-838-3006.  SHINE is an adult-oriented show which contains nudity and themes of healthy sexuality and is not suitable for those under the age of 18. Age restriction strictly enforced.

Altar Boyz held over four more weeks; Les Misérables also extends four more shows.

I’m a huge fan of both Arts Club shows that  I’ve reviewed this summer.   Altar Boyz is a pop-heavy 90 minutes of non-stop laughs and fun and while the story of  Les Misérables is  dark and tragic, the individual and ensemble performances are excellent.  I’ve been urging you to catch them both before they close, and now there’s some good news for those who still haven’t had the chance.

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This summer’s Arts Club shows have been bringing in the crowds by the droves, and just last month Les Misérables at the Stanley Industrial Alliance was given a two-week extension until August 2nd to help accommodate their record-breaking sales.

Now the Altar Boyz, playing on the Granville Island Stage, are following suit with their own four-week holdover.  The Altar Boyz will now run until Saturday, August 29th.

Not to be outdone, Les Misérables has added another four performances to their already lengthened run.  The new additions are as follows:

Tuesday, August 4           7:30 pm

Wednesday, August 5    2 & 8 pm

Thursday, August 6         8 pm

The newly announced batch of tickets goes on sale at 10 am, Thursday, July 16th and can be purchased online or by by phone at 604-687-1644.

Altar Boyz (Updated Review)

I know that I’d promised you my updated take on Altar Boyz last week, but I didn’t get a chance to see it again at the Granville Island Stage until this weekend.

The show has definitely accrued more polish, since when I first saw it in previews.  My original concern about missed comedic timing and line deliveries has been completely rectified.

All of the actors have settled comfortably into their roles, and are pitch-perfect, dancing machines.

David Hurwitz plays it up for laughs as the closeted Catholic Mark and balances the fine line between character and caricature.  I’m rarely comfortable with the fallback of using gays or other minorities as comic relief, but Hurwitz carries it off smoothly.  Hurwitz’s “Epiphany” had the audience cheering and I especially appreciated his over the top boy band style riffs.

The original cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Altar Boyz. Photo by David Cooper.

The original cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Altar Boyz. Photo by David Cooper.

Jeremy Crittenden (Matthew), Jak Barradell (Luke), and Geoff Stevens (Abraham) each have multiple shining moments.  Crittenden has the classic boy band idol look and plenty of onstage charisma to back it up.  His rendition of “Something About You” is a guaranteed charmer.

Barradell gives a solid performance and really shows off in his solo in “Body, Mind & Soul!”

Stevens’ “I Believe” solo is crystal clear in its simple melody and sets the stage for the inevitable happy ending.

Originally I highlighted Vincent Tong, and once again I have nothing but praise for his performance as Juan.  “La Vida Eternal” both pokes fun at the short-lived Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias Latin music trend and shows off Tong’s vocals and strong dance moves.

Whether you loved them or hated them, 90s boy bands were ubiquitous for a reason.  Yes, they were attractive to the tween and teen set and their in-formation dance steps set many a straight female and gay male fan heart aflutter.  But the icing on the carefully pre-packaged cake was the infectious music and the catchy hooks.

If comparing the Altar Boyz as a musical against standard Broadway (classic or modern), the show doesn’t really have a prayer.  No one’s going to mistake the score for Sondheim.  But as a spoof of the boy band phenomenon, the score achieves the intent of composers Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker.  Adler and Walker have crafted a score that could have easily topped the pop charts a decade ago (minus the humor-laden lyrics).

In that regard Altar Boyz hits its mark.  The songs seem to be staying with me, whether I want them to or not.

The show’s book is practically non-existent; a Christian boy band attempting to cleanse the souls of every audience member before their concert is done.  The barely-there plot really doesn’t matter though, as the show consistently entertains with strong laughs, high energy vocals and  smooth dance moves.

A big part of the show’s success should be attributed to the four-piece band under Musical Director Sasha Niechoda.  Much of the show’s energy comes directly from the live music.

Sara-Jeanne Hosie’s choreography is even sharper than before if possible.  There’s really no excuse to miss this show, if you haven’t already seen it.  The Arts Club has set itself a high bar to pass for next season’s musicals.  But, if past experience is any indication, they’ll do it with flying colours.

Running at 90 minutes with no intermission, Altar Boyz runs until August 1st at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street) in Vancouver.