Tag Archives: Vancouver

The Fantasticks; Playhouse (Upcoming show)

The Vancouver Playhouse opens its 48th season with world’s longest-running musical The Fantasticks.

 

Simon Bradbury, Christopher Gaze and Steve Maddock in The Fantasticks at the Vancouver Playhouse.

 

Book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt. Directed and choreographed by Max Reimer (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels , Playhouse), with musical direction by Bill Sample (Beyond Eden, Playhouse). Set design by David Roberts, costumes by Christine Reimer, and lighting by Gerald King.

Starring Steve Maddock (Beauty and the Beast, Arts Club), Colin Sheen (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Playhouse), Bree Greig (Bat Boy, Patrick Street), Mark Burgess (The Drowsy Chaperone, Playhouse), Andy Toth (The Full Monty, Patrick Street), Christopher Gaze (Bard on the Beach), Simon Bradbury (Oliver!, Playhouse) and Jeff Hyslop (The Music Man, Playhouse).

The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company presents The Fantasticks from October 2- 23, 2010 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Hamilton and Dunsmuir.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 604-873-3311.

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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.

Stephen Sondheim in Vancouver (Guest Post)

I was sick and missed seeing Stephen Sondheim when he stopped in Vancouver at the end of October.  Local theatre director and producer Ryan Mooney (Rent) offered to share his thoughts on the experience.

Stephen Sondheim is arguably the best there is when it comes to musical theatre, although anyone who would argue it might need to give their heads a shake.  His résumé is impressive; his first Broadway show was West Side Story and he followed that up with Gypsy.  Not a bad start to a career.  He’s had his fair share of flops; however I was surprised to find out after checking out Wikipedia that not a single Sondheim title appears in the one-hundred longest running Broadway shows.
Stephen Sondheim
On Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 Stephen Sondheim made his first trip ever to Vancouver to speak at the Vogue Theatre as part of his “Life in the Theatre” series.  It was sponsored through APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert which is presenting an entire season of Stephen Sondheim (Passion will be up next).  I, myself, have had the opportunity to check out Sondheim speaking before when I was in NYC for his 75th birthday, so I had some idea of what a kind and personable person he was.  What I wasn’t prepared for was just how attentive he would be when I met him in person. I had the opportunity to meet him briefly and talk to him at a gala event beforehand.  He spoke highly of our city – about how our main park (Stanley Park) is beautiful.  I was there with a few friends and he mentioned how happy he was to see “some young people” at the event, since apparently it’s usually a lot of the older set at these meet and greets.

Following that, we headed to a packed Vogue Theatre for a discussion moderated by Jerry Wasserman.  I’ve heard a few people mention that they think Jerry could’ve been more prepared.  Myself, I feel like it was a crazy task to assign anyone.  Where do you even scratch the surface when it comes to a man who has had such a distinguished career?  I’ve read the Stephen Sondheim biography by Meryle Secrest and I was the emcee for Fighting Chance’s production of Side by Side by Sondheim, so I certainly felt I had some Sondheim knowledge, but I was thrilled to hear anecdotes that I hadn’t heard before. There was one moment in particular where I became acutely aware of just how quiet the Vogue Theatre was.  An entire room full of our theatre community hanging on this man’s every word.  Nobody wanted to move for fear of missing something that he had to share.  I know that I speak for many people when I say that I could’ve listened to hours more of his stories.

He spoke about how he’s writing a two-volume set of annotated lyrics to all of his shows; the first due out this time next year.  Sondheim fans (myself included) will be thrilled to get their hands on such a gem of authorship.

Kudos must be paid to Scott Ashton Swan and APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert for bringing Sondheim to Vancouver.  It was a rare treat.  I can only hope that this is the start of bringing first rate Broadway talent (in all forms) to our city, as there certainly seems to be the appetite for it.

Ryan Mooney is the artistic director and founder of Fighting Chance Productions.

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.

Tony winner Jason Robert Brown performing in Vancouver

I have some amazing breaking news for all Vancouver musical-theatre fans and performers.  Tony Award winning composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years) will be in attendance for the Friday, August 21st showing of Songs For A New World (click here for my review) at Pacific Theatre and will also be performing a post-show concert.

For Friday the 21st only, tickets will be $65 all-inclusive; don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!

Interview with Sarah Rodgers (Thoroughly Modern Millie)

The air is sweltering in Vancouver this week, and I have plans to see Thoroughly Modern Millie again tonight at TUTS in Stanley Park.   I’m hoping against rational belief that this evening’s temperatures will cool to something more bearable.

If you haven’t already been to TUTS yet, go see both shows.  It’s a great pairing this season; the ever-popular and solid Annie (read my review) and the thoroughly fabulous Thoroughly Modern Millie (read my review).

Sarah Rodgers has spent the past few years directing musicals, but it’s been a while since she’s acted and sung in one.  This summer Rodgers is returning to her roots as she hams it up playing the villainous Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie at Theatre Under the Stars.  Rodgers gave us a few of her thoughts regarding her role.

Rodgers on musicals:

“I’ve been directing a lot of musicals in this city and having a ball with it and just loving it.  I’ve done the last three seasons at Gateway Theatre. I directed Emily, My Fair Lady and last year, Guys and Dolls.

But before that I have been a professional actor for over 15 years and I did perform in musicals years ago. But it’s been a while and I am just thrilled to be back on the stage, singing, (laughs) kicking up my heels.”

Danny Kim, Sarah Rodgers and Aaron Lau in TUTS production of <i>Thoroughly Modern Millie</i>.  Photo by Tim Matheson.

Danny Kim, Sarah Rodgers and Aaron Lau in TUTS' production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Photo by Tim Matheson.

Rodgers on preparing for the role:

“I have to learn a Chinese accent, and in all honesty, I have to learn a very over-the-top, stereotypical, and for lack of a better word, a bad Chinese accent.  Because I play a character who thinks she’s a wonderful actor.  There’s a lovely footnote in the script that says ‘it is not important that Mrs Meers’ Chinese accent be good, but it is important that she thinks it is good (laughs).’

I worked with a student of mine [at UBC] who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Canada.  He sat down with me and I taped him and he helped me greatly with the accent.  I also had to do a lot of work.   . . . a lot of coaching and work on singing, just because I haven’t sung, myself, in many years.  So of course, I’ve been working privately on that.  Just prepping and preparing vocally.”

Rodgers on the 1967 film version of Thoroughly Modern Millie:

“I am a huge fan and I was probably not born when the movie came out.   But, they were showing it in reruns. My mother and I would watch it on the television every year.  I’m a huge fan of Mary Tyler Moore and Julie Andrews. So, I know the film inside out, love it, love it, love it!  [In the play] the character Mrs Meers is very different, which is fun for me.  I’m reinventing it and making it completely new because she doesn’t play her as an Asian woman in the film at all.  They’ve totally changed it, they’ve made it even campier and it is a crazy, crazy depiction.

But of course it’s supposed to be a real send-up on the woman and I end up going to jail, I think, for my bad accent (laughs).  Mrs. Meers ends up going to jail and the Asian sidekick gets the beautiful girl, so it all works out well in the end.”

Rodgers on playing the villain:

“I’m loving it and I would say that it’s a new venture for me as an actor.  I’m not used to playing the villains, or the old broad.  I wake up one morning and suddenly I’m playing the old broad in the show.  When did that happen?  I’ve been playing ingénues all my life (laughs), I’m used to playing the Mary Tyler Moore role. It’s a great comic role, wonderful, wonderful comic role. It’s a great character part and it’s fun being the bad guy. Who knew?”

Rodgers on Beatrice Lillie:

“From the film itself, I am a huge fan of Beatrice Lillie and a lot of people of this generation don’t know [her]. But Bea Lillie was a famous vaudevillian actress and she was also, a lot of people called her the first female comedian.  I am so honoured to be playing a Beatrice Lillie role. I’m beside myself.

There’s one thing that she does in the film which is absolutely ridiculous.  She barks at the boys. She barks at them and she says ‘shu sho, shu sho.’ Of course the first thing I wanted to know was what does ‘shu sho’ mean, because that’s the one bit of Chinese that she uses in the film. She says it quite a lot and in a way that you think she’s saying hurry up, hurry up, get going, ‘shu sho.’ And it means absolutely nothing, I found out.  , Well I put it into the show.  I do it twice in the show and that’s a treat really for the diehards.”

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.

Impresario awaits sentencing, famous friends come to his defence

Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb’s two-day sentencing hearing ended Tuesday, with Justice Mary Lou Benotto scheduled to sentence on August 5th.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb were convicted of fraud and forgery in an Ontario court in March and have been awaiting their sentences both legal-wise and in the court of public opinion.

Garth Drabinsky

Former Livent executive, Garth Drabinsky

For anyone who wasn’t paying attention to professional musical theatre in Canada through most of the 90s, Drabinsky was the driving force behind the theatre production company Livent.  In its heyday, Livent produced multiple hit musicals and had its fingers in theatres in Toronto, Chicago, New York and Vancouver.

The 1995 construction of the then-Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver was accompanied by a tidal wave of publicist-generated excitement.  Up until that point, our city had been temporary host to varying touring productions of Broadway shows, but the Ford Centre would ostensibly mean bigger-budget shows with longer runs that weren’t beholden to the economics and logistics of transporting sets.

I covered live theatre for a youth publication, at the time, and I reviewed most, if not all, of the Livent productions that came to town including Joseph, Phantom, Showboat and Sunset Boulevard.

The building formerly known as the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, now just The Centre.

The building formerly known as the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts, now just The Centre in Vancouver.

That was before it all came crashing down. In August of 1998, Drabinsky and Gottlieb were forcibly removed from their offices and found themselves facing a $225 million lawsuit from Livent’s new management.

Out came the allegations of cooked-books, financial mismanagement, corporate theft, and fraud.  Gottlieb and Drabinsky were investigated by American and Canadian authorities and were eventually indicted in New York, although they never showed up in the U.S. court to face the music.

Now that the duo has been convicted in Canada and are awaiting sentencing, some notable artistic luminaries have come out to have their say as well.  For a man who, by all accounts, defrauded investors of half a billion dollars, Drabinsky seems to have no shortage of famous friends defending him

Several of those filed letters with the court in support of Drabinsky:

Actor Martha Henry, Companion of the Order of Canada, compares him to such figures as Orson Wells [sic], Donald Trump, Oscar Wilde, Harry Houdini and Conrad Black (perhaps some artistic foreshadowing?). [emphasis mine]

She continues, “I hope it’s possible to take into account Mr. Drabinsky’s very real strengths (how much poorer our mythology would be without him) and consider leniency in his sentencing.  Garth will, and should, live to flourish again.  And again, and again.  We look forward to reading about his next adventure and in many ways, we admire him and wish we all had some of his intelligence, his showmanship and his bold, risk-taking vision.”

Emmy and Tony award-winning Actor Christopher Plummer writes, “. . . [T]his is the only side of Drabinsky that I know – Garth the Optimist, the Achiever, who, lest we forget, has never ceased to stimulate the Arts and contribute to the culture of his own country with such ferocity and such conviction.”

Ragtime author E.L. Doctorow contributes, “There is a life history here of someone raising himself by his own bootstraps to the pinnacle of his profession.  That he has, after years of visionary theatrical entrepreneurship, come to this, I cannot view as anything less than a personal tragedy.”

Livent’s productions did often win critical acclaim and amassed 19 Tony awards.  And, despite the terrible things Drabinsky has been accused and convicted of, I’ll always be grateful for his support of Ragtime, one of the first musicals that really inspired my interest in the genre.

ragtime2

I’m not questioning Drabinsky’s influence on Canadian theatre and the arts, but he and some of his supporters seem to be living in a different world than the rest of us.  People were defrauded of hundreds of millions of dollars, countless jobs were lost and who really knows how many lives were ruined by this man’s actions.

But, you wouldn’t know that from the almost hagiographic letters of support filed with the judge.  Based on those, you could be forgiven for thinking he was up for another prestigious award.

While the new revival of Ragtime (unaffiliated with Drabinsky) on Broadway is cause for celebration, where Drabinsky will be hanging his hat on its opening night in November, is still up in the air, at least until the 5th of August.