Tag Archives: Stanley Theatre

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.

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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 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.

Les Misérables (Review)

I saw Les Misérables at the Stanley last night for a second time, and here is my review as promised.  But before that, I’d like to begin with a brief disclaimer.

I know a lot of people will vehemently disagree, but I’ll start off by saying that I’m not a huge Les Mis fan.  It doesn’t rank among my favourite musicals, and I take issue with what I consider to be some major faults (which I’ll address).   But, I also recognise that much of my animosity/indifference towards Les Misérables is due to its unwavering popularity and not because it’s actually a terrible show.

That being said, the Arts Club production of Les Misérables is not to be missed.  The Arts Club rarely disappoints, and as I’ve written before, this past season has been full of some great shows.  I’ve seen the touring version of Les Mis several times, and this one blows them all out of the water.

There isn’t a weak link to be found in this cast.  Kieran Martin Murphy (Jean Valjean) and Réjean Cournoyer (Javert) are credibly locked in a life-long battle of wills and neither wavers in their resolve.  Murphy’s plaintive “Bring Him Home” is a veritable font of emotion.

Rejean Cournoyer in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables. Photo by David Cooper.

Réjean Cournoyer in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables. Photo by David Cooper.

Les Mis may have some definitive lead roles in Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert, but it isn’t stingy with the spotlight and gives multiple performers the chance to be showcased.  Les Misérables doesn’t have one signature song; it has a half dozen or more.

Sara-Jeanne Hosie takes on the double-edged role of Fantine, unenviable only in the inevitable comparisons between hers and YouTube sensation Susan Boyle’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.”  Thankfully, Hosie’s performance is all her own and makes Boyle’s a distant memory.

Jonathan Winsby’s voice in “Do You Hear the People Sing” and “Red and Black” is in its usual powerful form and  believably communicates his character Enjolras’ charismatic convictions needed to lead the revolution.

The real revelation came to me in the beautiful singing of Rebecca Talbot’s Éponine.  During her first speaking lines I was apprehensive about her slightly rough-sounding voice.  Those concerns were completely allayed when she began to sing.  Talbot’s “On My Own” was emotional, heart-wrenching, and completely crush-worthy.

Jeffrey Victor as Marius and Kaylee Hardwood as Cosette make up the final two points with Éponine in the requisite love-triangle.  But I found myself siding with the doomed Éponine, all the more so in her dying duet with Marius “A Little Fall of Rain.”

John Mann and Nicola Lipman as the villainous Thénardiers add some much needed levity, albeit black humour, to the otherwise unending tragedies and deaths that befall almost every major character in the play.  Mann is deliciously ghoulish and Lipman is more than his match in every way.  What Lipman lacks in vocal skills, she more than makes up for with strong acting and a razor-sharp delivery.

Nicola Lipman and John Mann in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of  Les Misérables. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Nicola Lipman and John Mann in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Les Misérables. Photo by Emily Cooper.

Les Misérables was adapted into musical form from Victor Hugo’s classic French novel of the same name and has been translated into English at various time as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, and The Victims.  I’m partial to The Wretched myself.

All kidding aside, Les Misérables does have a beautiful score and multiple deservedly memorable songs, which count in its favour.  On the other hand the book is long, unwieldy, short on character development, and attempts to cram far too many characters and events into one show.  The end result can be hard to follow and it’s easy to miss plot points or details that explain character histories or motivations.  The poor character development along with the über-tragic storyline makes for many missed opportunities to really flesh out some of the emotions and stories behind the show.

None of this applies to those of who have seen the show multiple times and who have probably had more than a few listens to any of the cast albums, but I wisely advise any Les Mis virgins to read the synopsis while waiting for the show to start so as not to be left confused halfway through.

My only other complaint is the small orchestra.  I understand that it’s both an economic and a logistical problem, but the epic scale of Alain Boublil’s and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s music and lyrics really does require a full scale orchestra to do it justice.  Even so, Musical Director Bruce Kellett has done a great job of making the most of the six-man pit.

The Arts Club production of Les Misérables directed by Bill Millerd is the best I’ve seen and if you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it enough.  Despite my criticisms, I’ve seen it twice and I’m likely to catch it once more before it closes on August 2nd.

Les Misérables runs through August 2nd at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville Street).