Dance House & Toronto Dance Theatre Celebrate Anniversaries

Toronto Dance Theatre

This weekend Vancouver’s Dance House welcomes cross-county compatriots Toronto Dance Theatre to the Vancouver Playhouse.  As Dance House celebrates their 10th anniversary, Toronto Dance Theatre celebrates their 50th with House Mix, a retrospective of the works by Artistic Director and Choreographer Christopher House.

Dance House has a goal to connect Vancouver with the world of dance, including the best of what’s right here in our country. 50 years is a feat for any organization, let alone an arts group, to celebrate, Toronto Dance Theatre assembled a collection of pieces from the last 3 decades to showcase the diversity in their company’s performances and artists. Their 90 minute showcase included;

Martingales – first performed November 2014 in Toronto
An energetic piece filled with rapid movements and playful rhythms.

Fjeld (excerpt) – first performed March 1990 in Toronto
A sculptural work inspired by the films of Ingmar Berman & Renaissance art.

Thirteen – first performed November 2017 in Bogota, Columbia
Revisiting an early Christopher House work from 1983, with the movements repurposed with a new score.

Echo Dark – first performed November 2015 in Toronto
A modern, dance set to a dark, heavy beat.

Toronto Dance Theatre

Vena Cava – first performed November 1998 in Toronto
A fast-paces, energizing show set to the music of composer Robert Moran.

Dance House continues to bring world-class dance performances, next up Betroffenheit, a collaboration between Kidd Pivot & Electric Company Theatre, March 14 – 17, 2018 at Vancouver Playhouse. Tickets online at

Pss Pss Grabs Attention at The Cultch

For theatre without dialogue, Compagnia Baccalà’s Pss Pss certainly creates a lot of buzz, on stage at The Cultch York Theatre.

Him and Her
photo: Geri Born

The award winning show stars Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari, her and him, as they take the audience on an adventure in physical-comedy.  The two performers formed Compagnia Baccalà combining careers in circus and cabaret, which both shine through in Pss Pss.  Their mostly silent performance echos comedy greats like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and even Lucille Ball, their clown-like faces able to express so much with just a raised eyebrow, or curl of the lips.  Where their facial expressions bring laughter, their physical acrobatics and gymnastics skills bring awe.

Like a circus show, Pss Pss is a series of set pieces combining all of their skills into a hilarious and breathtaking hour long performance.  While their acrobatics are awe-inspiring the moments that are perhaps the most risky are incorporating the audience.

photo: Pipo Gialluisi

As with any audience interaction the performer hopes their instincts are sharp and they choose an able and game player. On opening night the audience members really got into the spirit of the show and the man they singled out to bring onstage perfectly fit the bill, incorporating into their balancing act with ease.  Even though not part of the direct interaction, hearing the large number of children in the audience vocalize their wonder and amazement add an extra bit of joy to the experience.

Compagnia Baccalà’s Pss Pss is an hour of theatre that is sure to put a smile on your face, and a thrill in your heart.

The York Theatre plays host to Pss Pss until March 4, 2018. Visit for tickets and showtimes.

Picks of the Week – February 21, 2018

Even through the current temperatures don’t feel like it, spring is just one month away, let’s see if the picks of the week can keep us warm in the meantime

Pizza: Tonight, find some of Vancouver’s best pizzas on Vancouver Foodster’s 3rd Pizza Palooza, a roaming exploration of the city’s pizzas and flatbreads.

Extended:  At Fly Over Canada the Lunar New Year double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, now held over until February 25th.

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

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

RingTravel The Road To Wrestlemania with the WWE as they set up the ring in Rogers Arena on Friday night

R&B: Singer/Songwriter Miguel brings some soul to the PNE Forum on Saturday night

A Steady Rain : Daniel Doerksen & David Newham

Rain: 7 Tyrants Theatre starts their 10th Anniversary season with A Steady Rain at the Penthouse Studio Theatre until March 3rd.

Theatre: The Arts Club has a pair of shows on stage, experience 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.

performer: Anne Cooper photo: David Cooper

Dance: The Firehall Arts Centre welcomes the movements of From Where We Stand: A Share Evening Of Dance, two individual performances unnecessary and I Can’t Remember The Words For I Can’t Remember

Rock: German rock group at Tokio Hotel takes the Vogue Stage on Saturday night

Clowning: Taking inspiration from classic comedic works from Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,  Pss Pss by Compagnia Baccalà runs until March 4th at The Cultch York Theatre.

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.

Toronto Dance Theatre
photo: Guntar Kravis


Mix: DanceHouse presents the Toronto Dance Theatre 50th Anniversary performance House Mix at the Vancouver Playhouse on Friday and Saturday


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 

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