Tag Archives: Jak Barradell

Hairspray; Arts Club (Upcoming show)

The hit musical-comedy Hairspray dances its way on to the Arts Club stage this May. Based on the cult John Waters movie of the same name starring Ricki Lake, Sonny Bono and Divine, the Tony-winning musical ran for six years on Broadway.

Adam Charles and Jennie Neumann in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Hairspray. Photo by David Cooper.

Music by Marc Shaiman (Catch Me If You Can), lyrics by Scott Wittman (Catch Me If You Can) and Marc Shaiman, and book by Mark O’Donnell (Cry-Baby) and Thomas Meehan (Cry-Baby). Directed by Bill Millerd, musical direction by Ken Cormier, and choreographed by Valerie Easton. Set design by Ted Roberts, costumes by Alison Green, and lighting by Marsha Sibthorpe.

Starring Jay Brazeau (Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse), Meghan Anderssen (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), J. Cameron Barnett, Jak Barradell (Altar Boyz, Arts Club), Darren Burkett (Seussical, Carousel), Adam Charles (White Christmas, Arts Club), Starr Domingue, Kayla Dunbar (The Park, Studio 58), Allison Fligg (Footloose, Exit 22), Ian Yuri Gardner, Kimberly Gelera, Alana Hibbert, Anna Kuman (White Christmas, Arts Club), Lelani Marrell, Laurie Murdoch, Jennie Neumann (Seussical, Carousel), Matt Palmer (Annie, Gateway), Milo Shandel, Colin Sheen (Fantasticks, Playhouse), Cailin Stadnyk (Singin’ in the Rain, TUTS), and Robyn Wallis.

Arts Club Theatre Company presents Hairspray from May 12, 2011 – July 10, 2011 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville St.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-687-1644.

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Footloose; Exit 22 (Review)

It was 30 years ago this past January that the junior and senior classes of an Oklahoman high school asked for permission to hold a prom.  The year was 1980 and in most places in America this wouldn’t have been an issue, but this was Elmore, a town that had outlawed public dancing since its founding almost a century earlier.

At the time, a local Pentecostal preacher was quoted in People magazine as saying that “no good has ever come from a dance.”  Another resident forecast a surge in teenage pregnancies, “because when boys and girls breathe in each other’s ears, that’s the next step.”

With those dire warnings about the slippery slope of dance freshly planted in my head, I sat in the audience at the Performance Arts Theatre at Capilano University, awaiting the opening bars of Exit 22’s production of Footloose.

The show begins with Chicago teen Ren McCormack (Nolan Wilson) and his mother Ethel (Emily Fraser) moving to the rural Texas town of Bomont, after Ren’s father leaves his family ‘to find himself.’  Ren has difficulty adapting to small-town life and the town has similar trouble adapting to him.  He soon discovers that Bomont, under the direction of Rev. Shaw Moore (Sean Parsons), has banned all dancing within city limits.  It’s left to Ren and his friends to try and help a town move on from a tragic past.

Footloose was adapted in 1998 as a stage musical from the 1984 film of the same name, which in turn was loosely based on the real-life events in Elmore, OK.  The musical was only a moderate success, but has taken on a healthy second life through high school and college productions.  Most recently, there were plans to make a film version of the musical starring Zac Efron, but that project appears to be dead in the water.

That film’s producers have apparently had second thoughts, and I soon found out why: the stage musical itself is a complete wash.  Maybe those naysaying dance prohibitionists were onto something afterall.  It is not an exaggeration to say that it seems unlikely that there is anyone who could spin gold from the dross that is Footloose.

The dialogue is trite and patronising, and the majority of the adult characters are shallow and unlikeable.  Despite the inherent limitations of the material, the all-student cast does an admirable job of salvaging what they can.  The onstage talent is evident, even if it is repeatedly eclipsed by the abysmal script.

Jak Barradell (Altar Boyz, White Christmas) as Ren’s best friend Willard is a tumbling and dancing machine.  Brittany Scott as Willard’s love interest Rusty, belts a spirited rendition of “Let’s Hear it For The Boy.”  Other notable cast members to look out for in the future include Kathy Fitzpatrick, Allison Fligg, and Morgan Dunne.

Promising actor Sean Parsons’ (Rent) portrayal of Rev. Moore doesn’t quite ring true.  The good reverend is frustrated with his daughter Ariel’s (Megan Bayliss) rebellious ways throughout the show but for the most part does little more than shake his head disappointedly at her antics.  When he finally hits her in a moment of anger, it comes without warning and with little explanation.

Not too long after that, Ariel sports a black eye courtesy of her dropout ex-boyfriend Chuck Cranston played to a sleazy tee by Victor Hunter. Neither of these incidents receives a satisfactory resolution nor are they addressed further.

When Ariel reveals what is supposed to be a big secret to Ren, I doubt there was a single person in the audience who hadn’t already figured it out.

That is the heart of the problem with this musical: there is no dramatic tension, no surprises.  There are lots of little scenes and lots of movement, but we are given few chances and even less reason to care about the characters.  The show is also hampered by director Gillian Barber’s unfocused staging, which is quite literally all over the place.

The energetic dancing and vocals showcase a wealth of potential and the youthful cast gives it their all, but there isn’t enough talent in the world to overcome this lame duck of a show.

Exit 22 presents Footloose until Apr 3, 2010 in the Performing Arts Theatre at Capilano University, 2055 Purcell Way, North Vancouver, in the Birch Building. For more information, or to buy tickets, phone 604-990-7810 or email boxoffice@capilanou.ca.

White Christmas: The Musical; Arts Club (Review)

While I’m a sucker for Disney musicals, after four straight years of Beauty and the Beast as the annual Christmas musical at the Arts Club, it was time for a change.  This year’s holiday production at the Stanley is White Christmas, the 2004 nostalgia-laden stage adaptation of the 1954 Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye film.

The show’s book, by David Ives and Paul Blake, although only five years old, doesn’t stray too far from the original, nor does it attempt to insert any sort of modern sensibilities.  If you’re searching for any overarching larger themes or social messages here, don’t bother.  White Christmas is a throwback to a simpler time when pretty much any problem could be solved by simply mounting a Broadway-style revue.  Is war getting you down? Facing foreclosure and financial ruin?  Put on a show!

Monique Lund and Sara-Jeanne Hosie in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical. Photo by David Cooper.

In this instance, retired army buddies turned musical stars Phil Davis and Bob Wallace, played by Todd Talbot (Annie, TUTS) and Jeffrey Victor (Les Misérables, Arts Club), decide to help out their former commanding officer General Waverly.  Waverly, as played by Réjean Cournoyer (Les Misérables, Arts Club), has sunk all of his money into a Vermont inn and is about to lose his shirt due to unseasonably warm weather and a lack of snow to placate the tourists.

Arts Club veterans Monique Lund (Beauty and the Beast, Arts Club) and Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Les Misérables, Arts Club) are sister act Judy and Betty Haynes who join forces, professionally and romantically, with song-and-dance duo Davis and Wallace.

Talbot and Victor have better onstage chemistry together than they do with Lund and Hosie respectively, which is perhaps a more unintentionally faithful following of the buddy-musical film genre than intended.

After playing Mrs. Potts for the past four Christmases in Beauty and the Beast, Susan Anderson easily breaks into her new role as busybody Martha Watson.  Anderson takes the opportunity to show off her vocal and dance skills in “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” and exceeds all expectations, in what should be a supporting role.

In an already markedly strong chorus, Jak Barradell, Jeremy Lowe and Laura McNaught stand out from the pack with their energy and charisma.

This show’s strength comes shining through in the big group dance numbers including “Let Yourself Go” and “I Love a Piano.”  Valerie Easton’s choreography is a loving tribute to the old movie musicals that have long since fallen out of fashion, where dancers once hoofed and tapped energetically for the cameras, broad smiles not wavering for a single beat.

White Christmas is as warm and familiar as an old friend and seems destined to become another Arts Club holiday tradition.

Arts Club Theatre Company presents Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical until December 27, 2009 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville St.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-687-1644.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical; Arts Club (Upcoming show)

Christmas is coming early to Vancouver this year.  The Arts Club production of White Christmas begins previews tonight and opens officially November 18th, 2009.

Based on the 1954 musical film starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, the stage version debuted in 2004 with a book by David Ives and Paul Blake and music by Irving Berlin.

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Todd Talbot, Laura McNaught, Jeffrey Victor, Sara-Jeanne Hosie in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of White Christmas. Photo by David Cooper.

Starring Sara-Jeanne Hosie (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Monique Lund (Beauty and the Beast, Arts Club), Todd Talbot (Annie, TUTS), Jeffrey Victor (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Susan Anderson (Beauty and the Beast, Arts Club), Réjean Cournoyer (Les Misérables, Arts Club), with Robert Allan, Jak Barradell (Altar Boyz, Arts Club), Darren Burkett (A Chorus Line, RCMT), Adam Charles (A Chorus Line, RCMT), Anna Kuman (A Chorus Line, RCMT), Jeremy Lowe (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Kristie Marsden (Company, Arts Club), Marianne McCord, Laura McNaught (A Chorus Line, RCMT), Keri Minty (A Chorus Line, RCMT), Shane Snow (The Full Monty, Patrick Street), Fiona Vroom, Mark Weatherley, and Rachael Withers (Les Misérables, Arts Club).

Arts Club Theatre Company presents Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical from November 24– December 27, 2009 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville St.  Tickets are available online or 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.

Altar Boyz Preview (Review)

The Arts Club has been right on the mark with their musical productions this season, and Altar Boyz is no exception.  Previews began tonight and continue until opening night on June 24th.

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.

I wasn’t familiar with the show before tonight but was quickly taken in by the clever spoofing of boy bands and Christian music. The plot does play a little thin at times but the enthusiastic audience was far too busy laughing to notice.

Matthew (Jeremy Crittenden), Mark (David Hurwitz), Luke (Jak Barradell), Juan (Vincent Tong), and Abraham (Geoff Stevens) dance and sing as a well-oiled machine with a mission to save souls.  Commanded by the Lord to gel their hair with product and gird their loins with pleather lest they skew to the detestable older demographic, the Altar Boyz are on the final show of their “Raise the Praise” concert tour.

The entire quintet of actors shines in each of their respective roles as teen heartthrobs, but I have to single out Tong for his acrobatics, both literal and vocal.  He was also extremely memorable last Christmas as LeFou in Beauty and the Beast (Arts Club).

Choreographer Sara-Jeanne Hosie (currently playing Fantine in Les Misérables) pays homage to the most memorable of cheesy boy band dance moves.  The Boyz’ dancing is crisp, clean and often downright hilarious.

I have to confess that I attended several boy band concerts in the late 90s, and I saw more than a few evocations of classic Backstreet Boys and *NSync steps on the Granville Island stage tonight.

Some of the lines delivered could use a little tightening, but the preview performance was divine and hopefully I’ll be back after the opening to see how the show improves.  It’s looking like Director Bill Millerd is going to have yet another hit on his hands.

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