Tag Archives: Meghan Anderssen

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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Bat Boy: The Musical; Patrick Street (Upcoming show)

The tabloid-inspired Bat Boy: The Musical opens in Vancouver this week, courtesy of Patrick Street Productions (The Full Monty, Into the Woods).
With book and lyrics by Keythe Farley & Brian Flemming and music by Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde: The Musical), the award-winning Bat Boy premiered off-Broadway in 2001.  Bat Boy: The Musical stars Scott Perrie (High School Musical 2, URP), Bree Greig (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Footlight), Scott Bellis, Katey Wright (The Full Monty, Patrick Street), Timothy Brummund, Hector Johnson, Matt Palmer, Ian Rozylo, Katie Murphy (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Playhouse), and Meghan Anderssen (Thoroughly Modern Millie, TUTS).

Scott Perrie in Patrick Street's Bat Boy: The Musical. Photo by David Cooper.

Directed and choreographed by Peter Jorgensen, musical direction by Sean Bayntun, set design by Julie Martens, costume design by Amir Ofek, projection and video design by Conor Moore, lighting design by Jeff Harrison, and make-up, wigs, and prosthetics by Jan Ballard.
Patrick Street Productions presents Bat Boy: The Musical from April 7 – 18, 2010 at the Norman Rothstein Theatre, 41st & Oak St, Vancouver.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-684-2787.

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.

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.