Tag Archives: Jennifer Neumann

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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Seussical the Musical; Carousel Theatre (Upcoming show)

Carousel Theatre’s successful production of Seussical the Musical returns for a third run this holiday season.  This musical reimagining of different classic Dr. Seuss tales is great for musical lovers of all ages.

Music by Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime), lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime), book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.  Co-conceived by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Eric Idle.  Based on the works of Dr. Seuss.

Directed by Carole Higgins, musical direction by Steven Greenfield, choreography by Melissa Young, set design by Alison Green, costume design by Barbara Clayden and lighting design by Itai Erdal.

Featuring Greg Armstrong-Morris, Joel Bernabum, Darren Burkett, Kaylee Hardwood, Josue Laboucane, Taylor Lintott, Jennifer Neumann, Melissa Oei, Christine Quintana, Rebecca Talbot and Lucas Testini.

Carousel Theatre presents Seussical the Musical from December 4, 2010 – January 1, 2011 at the Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright St., Granville Island. Tickets are available online.

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.

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.

Evil Dead: The Musical; Down Stage Right (Review)

In an ideal world, reviews of each show would be done completely independently of others, not by making side-by-side comparisons.  However, in the case of the two productions of Evil Dead: The Musical running so close together, that becomes almost impossible.

In last week’s review of Evil Dead: The Musical at the Vogue I panned the music and book of the show.  After seeing the second production of Evil Dead currently playing in Vancouver, I admit that I may have been unduly harsh.

What brought on this sudden change of heart?  Simply put, the Vancouver production was better acted and better sung, and that made all the difference.  Even in a campy musical, with limited character development and a bare-bones plot, acting still matters.

With essentially the same script, lyrics and music, I got an entirely different vibe from the local production.  This version just had way more fun.

Scott Walters as Ash in Down Stage Right Production's Evil Dead: The Musical.

Scott Walters as Ash in Down Stage Right Productions' Evil Dead: The Musical.

Scott Walters (We Will Rock You, Mirvish) as Ash hammed it up, giving his eyebrows the workout of their lives with his rapid-fire facial contortions.  Meghan Anderssen (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS) as Ash’s girlfriend Linda and Ian Rozylo as perpetual horndog Scotty both brought personal flourishes to their respective roles.

Local musical-theatre dynamo Jennifer Neumann (Les Misérables, Arts Club) as Ash’s younger sister Cheryl once again brought home the goods.

Meghan Gardiner in the dual-roles of Annie and Shelley was an unfortunately weak link.  Her somewhat wooden take on the ditzy Shelley might have come off as a passable interpretation, except that much of that same stiffness was also present in her portrayal of Annie.

The actors from the second story line were also not as impressive. Matthew Graham’s Ed needed to be reined in and could have benefited from some stronger direction.  Mat Baker (Les Misérables, Arts Club) as good old reliable Jake was also disappointing.  Where most of the other actors seemed to have found a comfortable groove, Baker’s portrayal was harsh and rubbed me the wrong way.

Sylvia Zaradic’s off-stage musical direction was spot-on.  She and the band consisting of Boyd Grealy, Aaron McKinney and Kelly Brown added an extra level of drama missing from their competition over at the Vogue.

Special honours go to set designer John Bessette.  While the other Evil Dead has the use of the original Toronto and off-Broadway set, Bessette’s (presumably lower-budget) design is no cheap knockoff.  In several respects, it actually worked better from a theatrical standpoint.

I did find Ken Overbey’s choreography to be somewhat underdone.  The group dance number “Do the Necronomicon” was anticlimactic and in need of some punching up.

Overall, director Mark Carter has shaped a solid production and has coaxed some life from a show that last week I was ready to toss out.

In some ways, the differences between the two productions are like night and day.  For blood, gore and special effects the Vogue production is the clear-cut winner.  But Down Stage Right Productions has given proof to the old adage that money can’t buy everything.  For pure acting, singing, comedy and heart, Evil Dead at the Norman Rothstein Theatre can’t be beat.

Evil Dead: The Musical, presented by Down Stage Right Productions, plays until November 7, 2009; 8 PM (with additional midnight shows October 30, 31 and November 6) at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, 950 West 41st Ave (at Oak). Tickets are available online now.

Evil Dead: The Musical (Upcoming show)

Evil Dead: The Musical makes its Vancouver premiere this year just in time for Halloween.  Based on the series of Evil Dead cult films, the musical version is a campy take on the horror genre.

Scott Walter as Ash in Down Stage Right's production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

Scott Walter as Ash in Down Stage Right's production of Evil Dead: The Musical.

This made-in-Canada musical has already amassed its own cult following and promises to be a great time.  I’m not overly familiar with the show, but spent this past weekend listening to the original cast recording.  Five college kids staying in a cabin during spring break encounter an ancient evil and bloody (but hilarious) mayhem ensues.

Evil Dead: The Musical is presented by Down Stage Right Productions in its 19th season.  Starring Scott Walter (We Will Rock You, Mirvish) as Ash and co-starring the talents of Meghan Anderssen (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS), Mat Baker (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Meghan Gardiner, Matthew Graham, Erik Gow, Ian Rozylo and Jennifer Neumann (Songs for a New World, Not Another Musical Co-op).

Directed by Mark Carter, choreography by Ken Overbey, and musical direction by Sylvia Zaradic, Evil Dead: The Musical plays from October 29- November 7, 2009; 8 PM (with additional midnight shows October 30, 31 and November 6) at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, 950 West 41st Ave (at Oak). Tickets are available online now.

Songs For A New World (Review)

Sometimes less really is more.  Songs For A New World, presented by Not Another Musical Co-op, is an extremely minimalist production.  It’s a small four-person cast, there is little in the way of a set, and the stories told on stage are often left up to the interpretations of the audience.  That simplicity allows the actors and Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics (Parade, The Last Five Years) to soar, and they do.

Although there is no plot, the show is bound together with overarching and entwining themes, and while the actors do not play the same characters throughout the show, they do develop and grow.  The complexities of the music and of the human experience are always at the forefront and make for a captivating experience.

new world

Jennifer Neumann, Jonathan Winsby, Daren Herbert and Alison MacDonald; the cast of Songs For A New World

The cast have all been seen in recent Vancouver productions.  Daren Herbert (Man 1) and Jennifer Neumann (Woman 1) played Richie and Maggie respectively in Royal City’s A Chorus Line in the spring.  Neumann also shared the stage with Alison MacDonald (Woman 2) and Jonathan Winsby (Man 2) in the recent Arts Club smash hit Les Misérables.

Herbert’s softer falsetto contrasts beautifully with Winsby’s powerful baritone and both Neumann and MacDonald are in equally fine form vocally.  Each one has the chance shows off in their solos and yet still come together to complement each other in the many harmonies.

The ever-charismatic Jonathan Winsby demonstrates his prowess as a leading man in both “The World Was Dancing” and “She Cries.”  Jennifer Neumann is fearless yet guarded in “I’m Not Afraid;” then she lets loose in her duet with Winsby, “I’d Give it All For You.”

Alison MacDonald is a bundle of neuroses threatening to jump out of an apartment window in “Just One Step” and then is a fierce and romantically-frustrated Mrs. Claus in “Surabaya Santa.”  Daren Herbert shows off in “Steam Train” and then is a dynamo of raw emotion in “King of the World.”

I find something new in Brown’s score on each and every listen, but my favourite has always been the oft-recorded “Stars and the Moon.”  Alison MacDonald embraces the song with open arms and hits all the right notes, emotionally and musically.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented Sara-Jeanne Hosie co-directs and co-choreographs with Shane Snow.  Their synchronised choreography worked well in “The Steam Train” but in other numbers, was far too distracting.  Brown’s score is piano-centric and the three piece band receives almost as much attention as the actors.  Pianist Sean Bayntun, percussionist Sam Hutchison and bassist Hugh Macdonald make beautiful music together.

Songs For A New World is a work of art and should be contemplated and savoured.  Come for both the amazing talent and the sumptuous score and you won’t be disappointed.

Songs For A New World is playing August 12th – 29th, 2009 at Pacific Theatre, located at 1440 West 12th Avenue. The show runs Wednesday – Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on August 22nd and 29th at 2pm.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-684-2787.