Picks of the Week – November 7, 2018

The Holiday season is underway, but this weekend we also take a moment out of the entertainment to remember the 100th anniversary of the armistice of WWI.

Ceasefire Series : Three Winters
photo: Emily Cooper

Ceasefire: The Cultch honours the Armistice with the Ceasefire Series of three plays exploring the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses,

Honour: Sunday November 11th, veterans will be honoured at the Cenotaph at Victory Square in Vancouver, starting at 10am, followed by a Remembrance Day Parade.

Dumplings: Tonight, get your fill of delightfully filled morsels as Vancouver Foodster and Tasting Plates YVR present Dumpling Fest 2018, an exploration of Dumpling dishes around Vancouver

Bloom: Thursday night, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre welcomes Troye Sivan: The Bloom Tour, with guest Kim Petras

Ache Brasil
Pic: David Cooper Photography

Brazil: Celebrate the Bossa Nova as Vancouver Latin American Cultural Centre Society (VLACC) presents a dazzling concert showcasing Brazil’s multi-faceted musical culture in Aquarela do Brasil: An Explosive Celebration of Music and Dance, November 8 & 9, 20188pm at Vancouver Playhouse.

Gum: Until December, visit Mouthfeel at Western Front, a spectacular, peculiar exhibition commissioned by the City of Vancouver about gum, co-created by students

Clockwise from bottom left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stefanie Stanley
(Mother), Brennan Cuff (The Old Man), Owen Scott (Ralphie)
pic: Emily Cooper

Ralphie: Align Entertainment brings the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, from November 2 – 17, 2018

Screening:  Thursday evening join MISCELLANEOUS Productions for a free screening for the Vancouver film premiere of Monsters, at The Annex, preceded by a new 5-minute short film, Ghosts of Productions Past.

Enemy: The Enemy at The Firehall Arts Centre is a topical, contemporary interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, running November 10 – December 1, 2018

JTJustin Timberlake brings his Man of the Woods tour to Rogers Arena for two dates Thursday and Friday night

Son: Gateway Theatre remounts, the autobiographical one-man show, Empire of the Son, a son’s tale of an emotionally distant father, running November 8 – 17, 2018

Laughs: Just for Laughs presents French comedy star,  Gad Elmaleh at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC on Thursday evening.

Sweat: The Arts Club Theatre Company continues to Sweat at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, until November 18th.

Couture: The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is the first Canadian exhibition devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturière until January 20, 2019

Art: Visit Kimoto Gallery November 2 – 24, for a new series of paintings, Water, by Vancouver artists David Wilson looking at the natural watery surroundings and rain-soaked city streets of his hometown.  

Pop: British pop singer/songwriter Lily Allen brings her sounds to the stage at Vogue Theatre on Friday night

Youth Gives A Christmas Story : The Musical, A Leg Up

The youthful cast of Align Entertainment’s A Christmas Story: The Musical.
photo: Robert Sondergaard

Align Entertainment kicks off the Holiday theatre season with A Christmas Story : The Musical.  The joyful musical is based on the film version of Jean Shepard’s semi-autobiographical anecdotal book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. The 1983 holiday classic comes to life with book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the award-winning songwriting duo behind La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.

Set in the 1940s, A Christmas Story: The Musical opens on Jean Shepard’s Manhattan radio show, and takes us back to his youth and recollections of Ralphie Parker’s burning desire to find a ‘Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model BB Gun with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time’ under the Christmas tree. Along the way we meet the the Parker family; younger brother Randy, Mother and “the Old Man”, and Ralphie’s school friends and foes.

From left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stef Stanley (Mother), Owen Scott (Ralphie), and Brennan Cuff (The Old Man).
photo: Robert Sondergaard

The musical brings all the familiar scenes from the film version to life; snowsuits,  Scut Farkus the school bully, Flick sticking his tongue to flag pole, The Old Man’s ‘major award’ – the famed leg lamp, Ralphie’s pink bunny suit, a tastefully updated Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant and of course, the visit to Santa to ask for the Red Ryder BB Gun.

While Trent Glukler as Jean Shepard, Brennan Cuff as The Old Man, Stefanie Stanley as Mother and Amanda Russell as teacher, Mrs Shields anchor the show with their solid vocals and characterizations of the ‘grown ups’, it’s the younger actors who steal A Christmas Story.  Lead by a charming Owen Scott as Ralphie, Georgiy Rhatushnyak as Randy, the company is filled with many more young actors, allowing co-producer/director Chad Matchette to create a tight, energetic, fun show.

Owen Scott (Ralphie) on table left and Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy) on table right.
photo: Robert Sondergaard

In this production, the ability to have up to 30 actors on the Michael J Fox stage, allows choreographer Melissa Turpin to create some fun Busby Berkeley-esque song and dance numbers.  Unfortunately, I feel that some of the fantasy pieces could be reduced or cut altogether, to trim the 2.5 hour run time.  While long, the youth save the day, their energy and joy at being part of A Christmas Story, invigorate the audience.  You can’t help but smile at the wide-eyed innocence portrayed by Owen in his lines and lyrics, bringing to mind the iconic film portrayal by Peter Billingsley, but making the role his own.

The detailed set by Conor Moore and great period costumes, by Maureen Robertson complete the picture and take us back to the 1940s. Having a live orchestra, under director James Bryson, ads extra depth to the performances and fills the theatre with the catchy tunes of Pasek & Paul like; It All Comes Down To Christmas, Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, Ralphie To The Rescue, and wrapping it all up with A Christmas Story, to send the audience home with a song in their heart and Christmas on the mind.

Align Entertainment’s A Christmas Story : The Musical plays at Michael J Fox Theatre until November 17, 2018. Find tickets and showtimes at alignentertainent.ca 

Backbone Makes You Sit Up & Take Notice

Backbone, now playing at the Vancouver Playhouse, is edge of your seat entertainment!

The Cultch – Backbone
Photo: Carnival Cinema

Presented by The Cultch, Australian circus troupe Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) will literally throw your perceptions of circus out the window.  Like other contemporary circus/physical theatre troupes, GOM tests the boundaries of the human body.  Backbone strips down any flashy sets and theatrics, to put the 10 acrobats and their mesmerizing abilities front and centre.  The company themselves also strip down to start the performance, swapping and changing clothing as they warm up with some tumbling and leaping. The show feels as though organically flows from beginning to end. Although it appears improvisational the movement is like a finely choreographed dance as the acrobats move from skill to skill.  The warm up leads to balance tricks, many in motion as they walk across the stage while stand (up to four performers) tall on others’ heads or shoulders. An extended set of swinging, and tossing of performers high across the stage keeps the audience’s’ eyes busy following all the action.  Backbone is full of brilliant action, I was afraid to miss a single twist, toss or tumble.

The Cultch – Backbone
pic: Darcy Grant

The company fills the Playhouse Theatre with so much energy and fun, the gap between performer and audience shrinks as everyone shifts to the edges of their seats.  The 10 members and 2 musicians, are on stage throughout the 80 minute show, tagging each other in and out of tricks to quickly change, or take a breathe.  The trust and connectivity demonstrated by the company creates sexy, but not sexual, intimacy as the ten performers become one creative movement.  In spite of the rough and raw sets and costumes of Backbone, the fluidity of their skills form a beautiful work.

Backbone will enchant everyone in the family, get your tickets soon.

Gravity and Other Myths’ Backbone, presented by The Cultch, is playing until November  4, 2018 at The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, 600 Hamilton St.
for Showtimes and Tickets visit thecultch.com

Picks of the Week – October 31, 2018

It’s Halloween night! As the veil between realms is lifted, get out and have a hauntingly good time. Then get ready to fill the longer nights of November with more entertaining picks of the week.

Fright: It’s the final night to experience the thrills and chills of the haunted houses, rides and ghouls of Fright Nights at Playland

Improv: Grab your ghoulfriends and enjoy a month of eerie laughter as Vancouver Theatresports presents Spooktober; a selection of themed shows wraps up tonight.

Glow: Van Dusen Garden invites the whole family to Glow In The Garden. Like Hansel and Gretel follow the breadcrumbs to find Halloween fun for all ages all around the garden.

Train: Tonight is the last night to right the Stanley Park Ghost Train on a voyage of the dead to explore a Celtic Halloween.

Pie: It’s your last chance to visit Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop at 348 Water Street as The Snapshot Collective presents the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Harvest: Until November 5th, Harvest Glow at Milner Gardens in Langley isthe ultimate family harvest festival; pumpkin patch, corn maze, pumpkin carving, Harvest Market with 20+ merchants.

Owen Scott as Ralphie
pic: Emily Cooper

Ralphie: Align Entertainment brings the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, from November 2 – 17, 2018.  

Fest: Music on Main invites you to immerse yourself in the diverse music of the 2018 Modulus Festival from November 2 – 6, 2018.

Gum: Until December, visit Mouthfeel at Western Front, a spectacular, peculiar exhibition commissioned by the City of Vancouver about gum, co-created by students

The Cultch – Backbone
Photo: Carnival Cinema

Acrobat: The Cultch presents Backbone, a mesmerizing take on the circus,  that leaps from the Vancouver Playhouse stage with breathtaking excitement, until November 4th.

Puck: The Vancouver Canucks play host to Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night and then host Colorado on Friday night at Rogers Arena

Play: The Arts Club Theatre Company continues to Sweat at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, until November 18th.

Couture: The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is the first Canadian exhibition devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturière until January 20, 2019

Bros: Part of The Ceasefire Series, The Believers are But Brothers is now playing at The Cultch Vancity Culture Lab until November 10th.

Roar: Saturday, head to BC Place for the final BC Lions home game of the regular season against Calgary Stampeders

Lumiere – Luna

Lights: November 2-4 are brighter as Lumiere Vancouver lights up the nights with illuminated light displays and events at Jim Deva Plaza, English Bay and šx????n?q Xwtl’e7énk Square (Art Gallery North).

Stage: The Cultch & Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre present The Ones We Leave Behind a mysterious, comedy about the redemptive power of human connection, playing until November 3 at The Cultch Historic Theatre

‘While Others Are Sleeping’ acrylic on canvas by David Wilson

Art: Visit Kimoto Gallery November 2 – 24, for a new series of paintings, Water, by Vancouver artists David Wilson looking at the natural watery surroundings and rain-soaked city streets of his hometown.  

Films: The 22nd Annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival brings both English and subtitles Asian language features and shorts from independent Asian filmmakers around North America and around the world.

Jazz: East End Blues and All That Jazz at Firefall Arts Centre, is an evening of gospel and blues, jazz and memories, with remarkable historical photos that pays tribute to the life and contributions of the historic East End Black residential community featuring a tribute to local legend Thelma Gibson and family, until November 3rd.

It’s time for A Christmas Story

As the Halloween season wraps, the calendar flips to bring on the next holiday season. To start Festive season Align Entertainment presents the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, opening November 2nd. 

Owen Scott as Ralphie
pic: Emily Cooper

The multi-Ovation Award-winning producers at Align have assembled a talented cast of local stars and young up-and-comers for the heartfelt Broadway adaptation of Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark’s beloved 1983 film. As in the film, A Christmas Story: The Musical follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, who wants nothing more for Christmas than an official Red Ryder Carbine Action BB gun.

The musical is set to an score by the Tony, Oscar, & Grammy award-winning duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan HansenLa La Land and The Greatest Showman).  The musical adaptation, updated for the stage, contains fresh surprises for fans of the film, while continuing to revisit its iconic scenes, including trips to Higbee’s downtown window displays, shopping for Christmas trees, and life lessons learned along the way (and, naturally, the leg lamp).

A Christmas Story is a quirky holiday classic about a wholesome family founded on unconditional love,” says director and co-producer Chad Matchette. “Generations have been drawn to the young protagonist, Ralphie, who is at the crux of childhood. His innocence and persistence remind us of a quieter and perhaps less-complicated era. It’s no surprise that this iconic tale was adapted into a musical. Through its utterly timeless score and evergreen optimistic message, our astonishing cast of triple-threat talents will set the stage with a festive reminder of the magic found in pursuing our dreams — big or small.”

Clockwise from bottom left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stefanie Stanley
(Mother), Brennan Cuff (The Old Man), Owen Scott (Ralphie)
pic: Emily Cooper

The musical comedy premiered on Broadway in 2012, receiving three Tony Award nominations. The work’s enchanting songs include: “It All Comes Down to Christmas,” “Ralphie to the Rescue!” and the energetic “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”  From upbeat jazzy numbers to poignant ballads, the score is carried by a diverse company of Vancouver’s brightest local talent, ranging in age from 9 to 55, accompanied by a live 12-piece orchestra. 

A Christmas Story: The Musical runs November 2 – 17, 2018 at the Michael J. Fox Theatre, 7373 Macpherson Ave, Burnaby.  Tickets for Align Entertainment’s 2018/2019 Season, including A Christmas Story: The Musical, plus Annie (February 1-16, 2019) are available online at alignentertainment.ca

Free Film Screening of Miscellaneous Productions “Monsters”

Vancouver’s MISCELLANEOUS Productions is a non-profit, charitable society using art as a path for social change and personal transformation in culturally and socially at-risk youth – empowering them to be fully participating citizens.

Monsters
pic Chris Randle

Last year, the company debuted, Monsters – an anti-racism, anti-bullying play with hip hop and World music and dance. Funding from Heritage Canada allowed for MISCELLANEOUS Productions to document the production on film, which is making its Vancouver debut November 8th. Screening in Canadian communities this fall, the film forms the basis of dialogues and performing arts workshops with/for culturally and socially inclusive multi-barriered youth.

Monsters is a transdisciplinary musical theatre work loosely based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It explores how and why a community creates and supports a ‘monster’, how collusion functions, and how people are often attracted to individuals with loud, brash, forceful or aggressive personalities but are unaware of how incredibly damaging they can be.

Monsters premiered in October of 2017 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. Following the Vancouver opening of Monsters, components of the production toured to Catalonia in November 2017.

Ghosts of Productions Past
pic: Chris Randle

On Thursday November 8th, MISCELLANEOUS Productions is holding a FREE screening for the Vancouver film premiere of Monsters, at The Annex, 823 Seymour Street.  The Monsters film screening will be preceded by MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ 5-minute short film, Ghosts of Productions Past. Making its World Premiere, the short is a new and nasty feminist satire of the whiteness of the Canadian theatre scene, #MeToo, #TimesUp and the recent disturbing events at various North American theatre companies.  

MISCELLANEOUS Productions’ Free Screening of Monster, with Ghosts of Productions Past, takes place November 8, 2018 at 7pm. Doors open at 6pm, admission is free but seating is limited.  Due to scenes of violence, the screening is not recommended for children 12 or under. 

The Arts Club makes you Sweat

The Tony-nominated play, Sweat, is now on stage at the Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.  A co-production with Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, this production is the Canadian Premiere of playwright Lynn Nottage’s second Pulitzer prize winner.  A gritty, raw drama that gives the audience a glimpse into the lives of a small group of residents of Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest cities in the USA.

In spite of being written earlier, Sweat, shows how the era of deindustrialization during the George W Bush presidency, set up the election of Donald Trump. It’s easy to connect the characters in Sweat with the current Trump base.  As a result, the play could have very different reception depending on the demographics of the audience, city and country.

Sweat starts off in 2008 with a visit to a probation officer by two recently released convicts; Jason and Chris. In flashback we see the start of the story, in 2000 a group of friends and co-workers hang out at a local tavern.  We witness the disintegration of friendships and family as two co-workers, Tracey and Cynthia, compete for the same managerial promotion at ‘the factory’. When Cynthia gets the job, jealousy pushes Tracey to spread rumours that she only got the promotion because she is black. This begins the splinter in their friendship, which is further strained when Cynthia is forced to lock-out her friends and family when the union votes against the factories offer of concessions.  As the strike wears on the picket-line brings stress to all involved. Racism and anger grows as ‘scabs’ are hired to do their work for cheaper.  This leads Jason and Chris to impulsively make disastrous decisions in the heat of the moment, leading us back to the beginning and the probation office.

The whole company of Sweat admirably bring the realism of the characters to life, Nicole St. Martin as Tracey and Marci T. House as Cynthia especially stand out as the driving forces in the conflict.  While is it well written, the play feels a bit long at 2.5 hours (including intermission). It felt like Ms Nottage tries to packs in so much social commentary about, socio-economics, race relations, political history, with news/sports clips and music also helping to set the era, that the story feels bloated.  In spite of so much dialogue in the play, the ending felt abrupt with little resolution, at this moment letting the audience draw their own conclusion as to the fate of this collective. Also taking away from the climax, some unfortunate technical issues with lighting and audio in the final scenes distracted from the performances on stage.  However, if you like gritty, political, blue-collar dramas, Sweat is definitely in your wheelhouse and worth viewing.

Sweat plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until November 18, 2018. Tickets are available from The Arts Club box office or online at artsclub.com