Tag Archives: Vancouver Musicals

Disney’s The Lion King; Broadway Across Canada (Upcoming show)

The Vancouver debut of the Tony Award-winning musical Disney’s The Lion King is less than a month away and the local buzz continues to grow.  The Lion King is a theatrical juggernaut that has shown no sign of slowing down since it hit Broadway 13 years ago.

Phindile Mkhize as Rafiki in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from the national tour of Disney's The Lion King. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The Lion King is the eighth longest-running musical in Broadway history and this touring company is one of the seven productions currently playing worldwide, including New York, London, Hamburg, Paris, Tokyo and Las Vegas.

Starring J. Anthony Crane, Brenda Mhlongo, Nick Cordileone, Adam Jacobs, Syndee Winters, Monica L. Patton, Kolton Stewart, Monique Lee, Dionne Randolph, Tony Freeman, Omari Tau, Ben Roseberry, Jerome Stephens Jr., and Madai Monica Williams.

Disney Theatrical Productions and Broadway Across Canada present Disney’s The Lion King from July 13 – August 8, 2010, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 600 block Hamilton St, Vancouver. Tickets are still available online or by calling 604-280-4444.

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; Arts Club (Upcoming show)

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is finally here in Vancouver.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing this show since it was announced last year.  This production comes direct from a reportedly successful run at the Belfry Theatre in Victoria.  Since I always avoid reading reviews, I have no idea what kind of reaction the show has already garnered.  But, I’m hoping that the Arts Club won’t disappoint.

Josh Epstein in the Arts Club production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo by David Cooper.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is the Tony Award-winning musical comedy that follows a group of overachieving students as they vie to outspell the competition.

Music and lyrics by William Finn (Falsettos, A New Brain), book by Rachel Sheinkin and conceived by Rebecca Feldman. Starring Michael Blake, Jeremy Crittenden (Altar Boyz, Arts Club), Josh Epstein (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Vancouver Playhouse), Sara-Jeanne Hosie (White Christmas, Arts Club), Brian Linds, Alison MacDonald (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Tracy Neff, Rosie Simon, and Vincent Tong (Altar Boyz, Arts Club). Directed by Michael Shamata, musical direction by Bruce Kellett, choreography by Laura Krewski, set design by Yvan Morissette, costumes by Erin Macklem and lighting by Marsha Sibthorpe.

The Arts Club in association with The Belfry Theatre presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee from June 17 – July 31, 2010 at the Granville Island Stage, 1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-687-1644.

Disney’s The Lion King coming to Vancouver (Upcoming show)

Local Disney and musical-theatre fans alike will be ecstatic to hear that Tony Award-winning musical Disney’s The Lion King will finally be coming to the Vancouver stage in July, 2010.

Broadway Across Canada offerings have been relatively sparse in our city over the past few years and hopefully this announcement signals the beginning of a turnaround in the national touring productions that stop in Vancouver.

Based on the blockbuster 1994 animated film of the same name, The Lion King opened on Broadway in 1997 and promptly won a plethora of honours including six Tony Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, six Outer Critics Circle Awards, the New York Drama Critics award for Best Musical, the Evening Standard Award for the Theatrical Event of the Year, two Olivier Awards, a Theatre World Award, the Astaire Award for Outstanding Choreography, two Drama League Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

Choreography is by Garth Fagan, scenic design by Richard Hudson, costume design by Julie Taymor, and lighting design by Donald Holder.  The Lion King features an adapted book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi and a score by Elton John, Tim Rice, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer.

Broadway Across Canada presents Disney’s The Lion King from July13– August 8, 2010, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 600 block Hamilton St, Vancouver. Ticket prices range from $26.50 to $98.50 and go on sale in March of 2010.

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.

Back to You – the Life and Music of Lucille Starr (Review)

Back to You – the Life and Music of Lucille Starr opened the 27th season of the Firehall Arts Centre on Wednesday with a taste of Canadian rockabilly and country.  This bio-tuner, written by local playwright Tracey Power, unfortunately, has little to distinguish itself from the multitude of other similarly structured biographical musicals.

Everyone, even those who have never heard of Canadian country singer Lucille Starr, will recognise the underlying story.  Talented girl meets boy and they become big stars. Boy ends up being no good and drags girl down with him.  Girl overcomes the odds and makes it again on her own.

Beverley Elliott as Lucille Starr. photo- James Loewen

Beverley Elliott as Lucille Starr. Photo by James Loewen

That’s not to take away from the real-life Lucille Starr’s experiences and successes.  Starr made it big in a time when there was no Canadian music industry to speak of.  But this staged version doesn’t add anything new to an already overcrowded genre.

The first act is overly-formulaic and poorly paced.  Beverley Elliott plays Lucille as she returns to her hometown of Coquitlam for a comeback concert in 1981.  Lucille then recalls a series of loosely linked vignettes of her early days as she sings her way to fame.  Elliott does a fine job with the music but is given little opportunity to do much else beyond a few wisecracks and one-liners.

The acting and emotions are left in the hands of the versatile and always enjoyable Alison MacDonald (Songs for A New World, Not Another Musical Co-op) as the younger Lucille and Jeff Gladstone as her music partner and eventual husband Bob Regan.  MacDonald and Elliott are both accomplished singers and they easily breeze through the score.

The story is told completely through Starr’s eyes and, maybe as a result, her husband comes off as one-dimensional.  Gladstone turns on the charm but, as written, his character never quite connects with the audience.

If the show has one strength, it’s the music.  Musical director Steve Charles has successfully knit together a tight unit with musicians Jeremy Holmes and Jimmy Roy.

Luckily, the pace picks up in the second half when more attention is paid to the details and the personal emotional highs and lows of Starr’s life.  But it seems like too little too late.  Back to You, while far from a complete disaster, never ventures into anything worthwhile and is mostly ordinary and forgettable.

Back to You – the Life and Music of Lucille Starr, presented by Musical Theatreworks, plays from September 30- October 10, 2009 at the Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova St.  Tickets are available by calling the box office at 604-689-0926.

The Evil Dead Dilemma

Vancouver will soon be host to not one, but two versions of Evil Dead at the end of October.  One company was granted the professional rights, the other the amateur rights.

I’ve been scouring the web, trying to see if there is a term for when there are two productions of the same show playing in the same city.  So far, I’ve got nothing.  Perhaps somebody out there can help me out?

evildeadocr

In a relatively smaller market like Vancouver, it must be a challenge enough to compete for ticket-buying audiences when two versions of the same play or musical are staged in the same year or season.  That being said, it seems to happen with a fair bit of regularity.  Thoroughly Modern Millie played at TUTS this summer and will play again this fall at Gateway.  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is being done by Footlight this November, then again by Royal City Musical Theatre in the spring and then for a third time by TUTS next summer.  Maybe they all know something that I don’t.

The dual Evil Dead productions are in a particularly precarious position, as one is opening just a little bit more than a week before the other and there is considerable overlap between their production dates.

I’ve heard buzz around both productions and murmurs over which show will be better or which one should local audiences support.  For my part, I’m exercising some journalistic impartiality, giving equal coverage to both shows on this site. I’m also urging local musical aficionados to see both productions, if they can.

There are likely to be upsides and downsides to both (as with every show) and this site will provide reviews of both productions after their respective opening nights.

Ground Zero Theatre, Hit & Myth Productions and Keystone present the Vancouver premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical at the Vogue Theatre from October 20-31, 2009.  Tickets are available online now.

Down Stage Right Productions also presents Evil Dead: The Musical at the Norman Rothstein Theatre from October 29-November 7, 2009.  Tickets are available online now.

A Chorus Line; Broadway Across Canada (Upcoming Show)

The first stage musical I ever reviewed was a touring version of A Chorus Line back in the 90s.  This November, A Chorus Line returns to Vancouver for a one-week run.

Conceived and originally directed by Michael Bennett, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line ran for almost 15 years on Broadway and remains one of the longest-running Broadway musicals in history.

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line.  Photo- Paul Kolnik

The company on the line in the National Tour of A Chorus Line. Photo- Paul Kolnik

The National tour cast currently features Clyde Alves (Mike), Amos Wolff (Roy), Dena DiGiacinto (Bebe), Liza Domingo (Connie), Mindy Dougherty (Val), Joey Dudding (Paul), Emily Fletcher (Sheila), Michael Gruber(Zach), Derek Hanson (Don), Hollie Howard (Maggie), David Hull (Mark), Jordan Fife Hunt (Frank), Robyn Hurder (Cassie), Julie Kotarides (Vicki), Jessica Latshaw (Kristine), Ian Liberto (Bobby), Sterling Masters (Lois), Stephanie Martignetti (Tricia), Bethany Moore (Judy), Colt Prattes (Al), Rebecca Riker (Diana), Alex Ringler (Greg), Clifton Samuels (Tom), Brandon Tyler (Larry), Anthony Wayne (Richie), J.R. Whittington (Butch) and swing performers Deanna Aguinaga, Venny Carranza, Erica Mansfield and Shane Rhoades.

Broadway Across Canada presents A Chorus Line from Nov 3-8, 2009 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, 777 Homer Street.  Tickets are available online now or by phone at 604-280-4444.