CONTEST: JFL NorthWest shares laughs with Vancouver

In just one month, JFL NorthWest, Vancouver’s comedy festival returns, for a third year of laughter, starting Thursday, March 1st until Saturday, March 10th, 2018, and you could enter to win your way to one of the festival’s hilarious live comedy shows. Once again the festival features the best and brightest of live comedy, podcasts and sketch shows. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah returns for the 3rd year, Comedy Award winning Debra DiGiovanni, Saturday Night Live alums Jay Pharoah and Sasheer Zamata, GLAAD Media Award winners and comedic couple Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher to name a few.  The laughter plays out at venues across Vancouver, including the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vogue Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, Rio Theatre, Fox Cabaret, The Comedy Mix and other spots.

New this year, JFL NorthWest introduces a new comedy film festival. The first edition of the “Vancouver Just For Laughs Film Festival” will run March 1-10. The Film Festival will include short and feature film screenings under the categories; Comedy Short Shorts, World-Wide Shorts, and Feature This! as well as industry speakers, panels, and more. The line-up for the films will be released in February.

The 2018 JFL NorthWest lineup includes:

Bill Burr, Trevor Noah (The Daily Show), Jo Koy, Brian Regan, Maria Bamford, Jay Pharaoh (SNL), Sasheer Zamata (SNL), Anthony Jeselnick, Todd Barry (Flight of the Conchords), Debra DiGiovanni (Last Comic Standing/Match Game), Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher (Take My Wife) to name just a few of the performers taking part in 100 plus shows during the festival.

JFL Northwest is also supporting local talent in the “Best of the West Series” with local faves like; Little Mountain Improv, Fox Hole Comedy,  Tinder Tales, The Ryan and Amy Show and many more. Visit for full line-up, show details and schedule and tickets. 

Enter to Win:
Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher “Back to Back

JFL NorthWest, presented in association with SiriusXM runs March 1 – 10, 2018 in venues around Vancouver. 

CONTEST: We are pleased that JFL Northwest is giving a reader & a friend the opportunity to come out to experience some live laughter, with two tickets to see the March 9th performance by Cameron Esposito & Rhea Butcher at the Rio Theatre.

To enter:

Leave a comment below telling us the person who would share the laughs with on your JFL NorthWest evening (1 entry)

Tweet the Following & Tag a comedy colleague (1 entry) :

RT to #Win a @JFLNorthWest experience @RioTheatre via @jminter #contest #JFLNW2018

Like & Comment on Facebook tagging the person you’d bring on your JFL NorthWest evening (1 entry)

Contest entries will be accepted until Noon on Monday, February 26, 2018. One winner will be chosen at random. Please note, you must be 19 years or older to enter; Rio Theatre will require photo ID to enter the theatre and bar service.

Salt-Water Moon brings simplicity to Gateway Theatre

Ania Soul, Kawa Ada & Mayko Nguyen
Photo: Joseph Michael Photography

Salt-Water Moon has been performed countless times since its debut in the mid 1980s, yet the current production at Gateway Theatre brings a fresh take to the Canadian classic.

The Factory Theatre production, on tour with Why Not Theatre is directed by Ravi Jain who reimagines David French’s story about the romantic beginnings of Jacob Mercer and Mary Snow’s relationship.  While it is the third in French’s Mercer Family play cycle, a tale about the Mercer’s a family of Newfoundland immigrants to Canada, Salt-Water Moon is really the beginning of the family’s story.   Salt-Water Moon is a snapshot of one night early in the courtship of Jacob and Mary.  The two-hander usually takes place on a stage set with the clapboard board porch of a 1926 Newfoundland home with the detailed period costumes as outlined by the playwright.  Ravi Jain has departed from this traditional take and added a new element to this staging.

Kawa Ada (left) & Mayko Nguyen (right) – Joseph Michael Photography

The gloss black stage is set with a constellation of floating candles, reflecting the night sky and creating a warmth as the stage twinkles.  Joining the two actors, Kawa Ada as Jacob and Mayko Nguyen as Mary, onstage is Ania Soul.  The soul/R&B musician provides a musical background to the poetic script and recites aloud David French’s script notes.  The notes describe the setting and actions but with the blank stage before them, the audience is allowed paint their own mental image to surround the two actors, who are dressed in simple modern street clothes.

By casting non-white actors as the Newfoundlanders, director Jain gently reminds the Canadian audiences that this is a play about immigrants, set before Newfoundland joined Confederation.  Kawa Ada, an Afghan-Canadian and Mayko Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, bring a natural realism to their dynamic, even though they are clearly older than their teenage characters.  I believe by allowing the audience to set so much of the stage in their mind, it’s easier to believe the pair’s teen angst.  Ada’s Jacob is a cocksure, charismatic boy who has matured beyond his years after a year-long stint in Toronto. Meanwhile, Nguyen’s Mary, in spite of the firm facade forged from being in-service to the local Member of Parliament’s household from an early age, maintains the innocence of small-town Newfoundland.  With a mother unable to care for her and her younger sister, who is now in the care of a convent, Mary thinks she has it all worked out, until Jacob’s return to town throws a wrench in her plans.

Kawa Ada is a commanding presence onstage, nicely balancing Mayko Nguyen’s intensity.  Although I did find it a bit hard to hear her when she was facing the back of the stage and it took a few moments to adjust to the Newfoundland dialect the play is an enjoyable opportunity to visit the other side of the country in a time long-ago. The 90 minute (no intermission) moves along quickly as your mind fills in the paint-by-numbers imagery while the actors provide the dialogue and Ania, the music.

Salt-Water Moon runs until February 24, 2018 at Gateway Theatre in Richmond.  Find tickets and times online at 

Join a Free Conversation with Abdullah Ibrahim Tonight

Abdullah Ibrahim

Sunday night, The Chan Centre for Performing Arts welcomed The Jazz Epistles : Abdullah Ibrahim with Terrance Blanchard, an evening with the jazz greats plus the band Ekaya.

The Chan Centre was filled with fans ready to get lost the smooth sounds of the eight performers gracing the stage; Ibrahim on piano and Blanchard on Trumpet.  The Ekaya sextet features; Noah Jackson (cello/bass), Will Terrill (drums), Cleave Guyton (alto saxophone/flute/clarinet), Lance Bryant (tenor saxophone), Andrae Murchison(trombone), Marshall McDonald (baritone saxophone).  Ibrahim took the stage first to set the stage, performing a solo arrangement before being joined by the rest of the players. Throughout the two-hour set each of the other musicians also broke into solos to much applause,  culminating in a lengthy minutes-long standing ovation to close the set.

In addition to Sunday’s concert and pre-show talk, Abdullah Ibrahim is giving the Vancouver audience more of his time.  Tonight, Monday February 19, 2018, the public is welcome to attend, A Conversation With Abdullah Ibrahim, presented by The Chan Centre and VCC School of Music.  The free talk with the artist takes place at 7:30pm at the Vancouver Community College Auditorium at 1155 East Broadway campus.

The sounds of The Jazz Epistles coming to The Chan Centre

Abdullah Ibrahim

This weekend experience a moment of jazz history as the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts presents The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard in a rare tribute concert, on Sunday February 18. 

In the 1950s South Africa’s The Jazz Epistles were the hip, young things of the jazz scene.  Now more than a half-century on from their landmark album Jazz Epistle Verse 1, the Jazz Epistle alumnus Abdullah Ibrahim revisits the legendary repertoire of his historic South African ensemble.

“Abdullah Ibrahim is one of the world’s great jazz pioneers and an important figure of hope and perseverance in the face of oppression,” says Joyce Hinton, Co-Managing Director of the Chan Centre. “While apartheid divided South Africa, a brave group of black artists, The Jazz Epistles, were creating brilliant jazz at a time when it was forbidden. We proudly celebrate their talent and achievements as we welcome Ibrahim alongside a fellow influential force in jazz, Terence Blanchard, to our stage for the first time.”

The Jazz Epistles were South Africa’s first black jazz band to record an album and break onto the world stage back. Six young artists blended the sound of township dancehalls with American jazz, the music of The Jazz Epistles was both innovative and brave. In 1959, The Jazz Epistles recorded their first album. Though only 500 copies were initially distributed, it was later recognized as a groundbreaking recording. Following the institution of apartheid in South Africa The Jazz Epistles were forced into exile and the sextet fled separately to Europe and North America. Two members – Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela – became music giants in their own right.

After being discovered by the late Duke Ellington, Ibrahim was signed to Frank Sinatra’s record label and quickly achieved international recognition. Ibrahim went on to release an impressive discography, playing with big jazz names such as Max Roach, Carlos Ward, Randy Weston, and many others.

Four-time Grammy-winning New Orleans trumpeter Terence Blanchard, considered one of the most prolific jazz musicians, with a career steeped in acclaim and spanning more than four decades, joins Ibrahim on the stage at, backed by his band Ekaya also joining the bill on Sunday night at The Chan Centre.

The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard takes place 7pm, Sunday February 18, 2018 in the Chan Shun Concert Hall at The Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC.  Ticket holders are welcomed to attend a free pre-show talk at 6:15pm in The Chan Centre’s Royal Bank Cinema.  

Fun Home grows up on The Arts Club stage

The 2015 Tony Award winning Best Musical, Fun Home makes its Canadian debut on The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island stage. Based on the graphic autobiography by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, and directed by Lois Anderson, Fun Home features the adult Alison (Sara-Jeanne Hosie) trying to overcome a bout of writer’s block.  While looking back into the moments of her life she unlocks dormant memories and feelings of childhood, growing up and coming out and most importantly her relationship with her father.

The 10 year old, tomboy, Small Alison, played in a powerhouse performance by Jaime MacLean, imagines life to be like a Partridge Family episode but her obsessive compulsive father, Bruce (Eric Craig) has other ideas.  The historic home restorer, English teacher, FUNeral HOME director runs a tight ship at home and work while fighting his own personal battles. In hindsight, adult Alison can see the cracks in her fathers veneer, living in a small town during the era of the ‘love that dare not speak its name’, he occassionally gives in to his gay urges, at times dangerously steps into predatory territory.

When she heads to college,  the Medium Alison (played by Kelli Ogmundson)  comes out to herself and her family as a lesbian.  As her father grows more manic, her mother, Helen, played by Janet Gigliotti, reveals that she isn’t the perfect sitcom mom that Alison envisioned, instead she did her best to tolerate her husband’s affairs with men and the humiliation of him being caught with underage boys.  Believing her coming out was a trigger for her father’s mental state she finally unlocks her memories and puts the puzzle pieces of his life, together with her own and overcomes her writer’s block as their stories have poured out of her pencil onto the pages.

In a time when the LGBT community has made great gains in visibility, Fun Home reminds us that not long ago things were very different for the generations before us.  While Fun Home takes the audience on an emotional journey, Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics, with music by Jeanine Tesori, are able to bring in lighthearted moments to balance.
All the performers, the youth and adult actors and musicians, in this production of Fun Home shine.  Amir Ofek’s set makes us feel at home inside the historic Bechdel home, complimented by Amy McDougall’s costumes that those of us who grew up in a similar era will remember (somewhat) fondly.

Fun Home plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until March 10th. Visit for tickets and times.

Picks of the Week – February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s lovebirds! This week Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year Celebrations offer plenty to get you out of the house, the picks of the week will help to sort out what’s on.

Chocolate: Perfect for your after dinner chocolate craving, the Hot Chocolate Festival wraps up tonight.

Romance:  Romance week at Vancouver TheatreSports League wraps up tonight but the laughter never ends at the Improv Centre.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks take to the ice twice this week; tonight vs Florida then again on Saturday against Boston.

photo: Jason Strang

Cultures:  The Cultch York Theatre has Jabberwocky, a dark puppet work inspired by Lewis Carroll, while at the Vancity Culture Lab features No Foreigners a multimedia presentation on race and home, both shows running until February 17th

Rock: Thursday night Cincinnati based rock act Walk the Moon take to the stage at the Vogue Theatre

Elle & Warner
photo: Anita Alberto Photography

Musical:  Learn to bend and snap as Align Entertainment brings the award winning, bubbly Legally Blonde the Musical to the stage at Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th

Pop: Friday night, see what the buzz is about when English songstress Dua Lipa takes to the Vogue Theatre stage.

Exhibition: The Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

Next: West Moon Theatre has dual casts tackling the Pulitzer prize winning musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 from tonight until February 17th

Lunar: Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dog Lunar Fest at Oakridge Centre and the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza through the new year.

Dragon:  At Fly Over Canada it’s a Lunar New Year double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, only until February 18th.

Moon: The Canadian Classic play, Salt-Water Moon, comes to the Gateway Theatre from February 15 – 24

Theatre: The Arts Club has the backstage antics of Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and the Tony award winning Fun Home at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Jazz: Sunday night, the Chan Centre welcomes South African Jazz legends The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard 



Next To Normal tackles mental illness

West Moon Theatre is presenting the award-winning rock musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 Theatre until February 17th.

In a unique turn, this production is double cast with two separate casts taking on the challenging musical’s heavy content and numbers.  The double cast allows for two interpretations of the characters and brings a different dynamic to the alternate performances.  The performance I had the privilege of seeing was the opening night for Cast A.  Director Chris Lam has noted that the expanded cast promotes diverse casting and representation, as the younger cast of many recent graduates have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals.

Next To Normal looks at a family with a mother with Bipolar Disorder and the fall out that her mental illness has on the rest of her family.  Diana (played in Cast A by Marie West) is consumed by her illness and with the support of husband Dan, (Mark Wolf) tries various treatments to find a ‘normal’ life.  Daughter Natalie (Katrina Teitz) overachieves in hopes of attaining her mother and father’s recognition but Diana’s illness, and her brother Gabe, who seemingly can do no wrong, always seems to take their attention from her.  As Diana and the family battle the ups and down of her illness the audience can’t help but have a sense of anxiety too in the unknown that lays ahead for them.

A musical as well known as Next To Normal and the award-winning performances of the original Broadway casts, puts a lot of pressure on the cast to make their own mark on the characters.  Chris Lam’s direction strips the play to its bare bones, focusing on the characters and exposing their flaws and fears.  In the intimate space of Studio 16, and with the very stripped down staging, the audience is so close to the action it feels like they’re sitting in the kitchen with the family.

The small orchestra is also onstage with the players, at first a worry that the music would overtake the acting but the instrument volume was just right.  While there was some audio technical issues during the second act, one speaker wasn’t working well, making the audio slightly difficult to hear at times, the cast put their hearts into their vocals. Marie West tears into the songs, tackling the Tony Award winning role with all her might but at times her vocals were difficult to distinguish on the polyphonic numbers.  Mark Wolf’s voice stood out with the perfect level to fill, but not overpower, the small room. Wolf and Blake Sartin (playing Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend) harmonize perfectly in their answer to each other on “A Promise’.  Katrina Teitz was a bit pitchy but her characterization of the put-upon Natalie showed her potential for the future.  Having seen Daren Dyhengco, who like Teitz is a grad of Capilano U Theatre program, only in the dramedy The Day Before Christmas, I wasn’t sure how he would carry the heavier message and cornerstone songs of Next To Normal but he too showed great lead actor potential.

West Moon Theatre’s Next To Normal runs at Studio 16, 1555 W 7th Ave, until February 17, 2018.
Tickets are available online at


Katy Perry wraps up The Witness Tour in Vancouver

Katy Perry – Rogers Arena – February 6, 2018

Last week, Katy Perry brought her Canada/US leg of The Witness Tour to a close in Vancouver.  Supported by local songstress, Carly Rae Jepsen, the finale of the tour was an added night, used to film the tour for future use.

After 52 tour dates, the pop star showed little signs of tiring, pumping through the 20 song set with high energy throughout the 2 hours.  First up, Carly Rae Jepsen sparkled as she got the audience on their feet with some of her lively tunes.  Her half hour warm up set had the crowd, especially those in the VIP pit bouncing to her effervescent pop. Rounded out by her hits, Cut To The Feeling, Really Like You and Call Me Maybe which had everyone singing along.

Once the arena filled up, the lights went down except for the hundreds of illuminated Katy Kat ears adorning many of her fans. Then the all eyes were on the all-seeing eye on screen, as it parted to welcome Katy Perry with a roar from the audience.  The youngest fans, in particular, went wild as the star made her way on stage singing “Witness” to kick off The Witness Tour show.

For the next hours, the singing along, dancing and cheering continued with great joy.  If the onstage show isn’t enough, watching the happiness of the little fans is contagious and can’t help but bring a smile to one’s face.  The keyword for any Katy Perry show, is fun, as the star and her dancers make it seem like they’re enjoying every moment of the set. The multimedia, the dancers, stage sets and costumes really make a point that Katy knows her beloved Katy Kats but makes sure that the show doesn’t includes enough for the grown ups to enjoy the staging and music.  From “Witness”, to the encore of “Fireworks” all her top hits plus a few numbers from the Witness album  were included in the setlist. As is the norm for a Katy Perry show, fans were included, bringing up a sparkling little star to wish upon a star then a dad to help swish swish some giant basketballs on his birthday. As the end of the show neared and 11pm came around, some of the youngest fans tired and were seen being carried out of Rogers Arena, and home to dream about seeing their pop hero live.  For many, their first overall concert experience or for others their first Katy Perry concert was one they won’t soon forget.