TUTS 2019 Opens with Mamma Mia!

With rain clouds hanging overhead, guests at Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) had a hard time seeing the stars on opening night of Mamma Mia!. However, a little rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the ABBA-inspired musical, directed by TUTS veteran, Shel Piercy.

Donna & The Dynamos
Front Row L-R: Lori Ashton Zondag as “Tanya,” Caitriona Murphy as “Donna Sheridan,” Sheryl Anne Wheaton as “Rosie.”
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Set on a Greek Isle, at the Summer Nights Taverna at Villa Donna, run by former rock chick, Donna Sheridan (Caitriona Murphy). Mamma Mia! centres on Donna’s daughter Sophie (Keira Jang) wedding to Sky (Joshua Lalisan) and her quest to discover herself by finding her father. Instead, she find a possible three fathers, Harry Bright played by Stefan Winfield , Matt Ramer as Bill Austin, and Peter Monaghan as Sam Carmichael. Along the way, a frazzled, emotional Donna is supported by her besties and former bandmates from “Donna and the Dynamos” Rosie (Sheryl Anne Wheaton) and Tanya (Lori Ashton Zondag).

“Wait 20 years for a dad, then 3 come along at once” Front Row L-R: Stefan Winfield as “Harry Bright,” Peter Monaghan as “Sam Carmichael,” Chris M. Ward as “Pepper,” Matt Ramer as “Bill Austin.” photo: Lindsay Elliott

Always a crowd favourite, the sing-along friendly, fun-filled musical comes with few surprises for most, but those who have only experienced the movie will find a different order and more music packed into the 2.5 hour production. ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Take a Chance on Me,’ ‘Super Trouper,’ ‘SOS’, ‘Waterloo’ and more fan faves keep the audience entranced! The only small question-mark was a decision by the production to have a number of the characters speaking, and singing, in different accents seemed unnecessary and distracting, as some actors appeared to stumble over their drifting accent.

The cast of Mamma Mia! photo: Lindsay Elliott

In typical Vancouverite fashion the rain didn’t seem to bother the audience, TUTS handed out rain-ponchos for those without rain gear. Francesca Albertazzi’s beautiful set really felt like Greek taverna with a sunny piazza had come to life on stage, and made us forget the rain. The weather did appear to cause an adjustment to the stage blocking, with the ensemble trying to stay under the covered area of the stage the set seemed a bit crowded during the large production numbers.

As the saying goes, come rain, come shine, the show must go on, and the company of Mamma Mia! certainly did put on a show to entertain the audience and bring a bit of Mediterranean sun to a dreary Wet Coast evening.

Mamma Mia! plays on alternating nights with Disney’s Newsies at Theatre Under The Stars in Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park until August 17th, find showtimes and tickets online at tuts.ca

Picks of the Week – May 23, 2018

The entertainment keeps coming as summer steadily creeps closer.  This weeks picks finds heaps of arts & culture to keep you out and about.

New Wave: Former Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne takes the stage at Queen Elizabeth Theatre tonight

Comedy: Get a full course of comedy when improv legend Colin Mochrie comes to the stage at The Vogue May 25 (two shows) and with VTSL at the Improv Centre May 24, and May 26 (two shows)

Abba: You’ll say thank you for the music as the Abba musical Mamma Mia! at the Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre Stage,  until August 12th

Outdoor: A pair of outdoor concerts in parks kick off the open air season,  picks include Aussie singer/songwriter Tash Sultana plays Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park on Thursday, then Bon Iver plays Deer Lake Park on Saturday evening.

MilkMilk Lemonade

Awkward: Gender, sexuality, life and death, plus a chicken names Linda are what you’ll find in the Awkward Theatre Production of MilkMilkLemonade, by Josh Conkel, playing May 23-26 at CBC Studio 700.

Haida:  Museum of Vancouver is presenting, Haida Now. A collaboration with The Haida Gwaii Museum bring 450 works together in a one of a kind collection of Haida arts and culture, until June 15.

Duo: The Vancouver Art Gallery unites the works of two dynamic female early 20th century artists Emily Carr in Dialogue with Mattie Gunterman, on view at the Gallery until September 3, 2018


Offsite: Vancouver Art Gallery presents Offsite: Shigeru Ban by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban’s Kobe Paper Log House, organized by the Gallery’s Institute of Asian Art at the Offsite Location at Shangri-La Vancouver

Culture: Musqueam, Squamish, Lil’wat, Heiltsuk, Nisga’a, Haida are collaborating for the first time so you can learn more about the cultures of these First Nations and the importance of their cultural centres at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC’s exhibition Culture at the Centre, until October 8th. d 

Resist: Also until October 8th at MOA, the new exhibit, Arts of Resistance: Politics and the Past in Latin America, invites visitors to take a closer look at the political and social significance of Latin American artistic traditions to express political realities.

Air: At The Dance Centre, Aeriosa is a breathtaking aerial productions combine the techniques of dance and rock-climbing, using rope rigging systems to find new movement, May 24 – 26.

Parker Art Salon

Salon: Open free to the public on Saturday and Sunday, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, the Parker Art Salon features artist talks, studio tours at 2pm and 4pm, live music, and more.

Opening: Kokoro Dance invites public to an Open House of KW Studios,  at 111 W Hastings, tour the new 5,600 studio including spaces for dance, theatre, music rehearsal, creation, production, and recording, catch lively entertainment, speeches, and refreshments on Saturday 3-6pm.

Kick: Whitecaps FC take to the pitch when they play host to New England at BC Place on Saturday.

Play: ITSAZOO presents the Western Canadian Premiere of David James Brock’s award-winning drama, WET, May 8-27, 2018 in the intimate basement of The Russian Hall.

Rides: Weekend just got more exciting as Playland reopens on weekends with three added rides for the family’s excitement.

Say I Do to Mamma Mia at Arts Club

MammaMiaFrom the opening notes of the overture to the final sing-along curtain call, Mamma Mia now play at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, will have you dancing in your seat.

The feel-good jukebox musical inspired by the hit music of Abba is composed by Abba’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and written by Catherine Johnson with this production directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton.  Set Designer David Roberts’ beautiful set transports the audience to the beaches and tavernas on the fictional Greek Island of Kalokairi.

Mamma Mia opens as Sophie Sheridan (Michelle Bardach) prepares for her wedding to fiancé Sky.  Raised by single mother, innkeeper, Donna, Sophie seeks to know who her father is and discovering her mom’s diary she discovers three possible fathers.  Inviting all three, Sam, Bill and Harry, to her wedding unbeknownst to Donna, with none of them, other than Sophie, really sure why they are all on the island, all sorts of miscommunication comedy ensues.  Donna is supported by her two long time girlfriends and former girl-group bandmates, Rosie and Tanya.

Throughout the 2 hour musical the story of love, female empowerment, and friendship is perfectly woven into the familiar Abba songs.  Amongst the solid storytelling, some numbers are just for the sheer fun of it, enter Donna and the Dynamos who’s camp costumes takes the audience back to the heyday of the Swedish quartet.  The Dynamos, Rosie and Tanya, are played with just the right blend of slapstick and camp by Cathy Wilmot and Irene Karas Loeper (respectively), while Stephanie Roth brings a perfect balance of power and emotion to Donna’s vocals.  With Ms Bardach vocally matching Roth’s, the two leading ladies anchor Mamma Mia with the grace and strength.  Among the male leads Michael Torontow as Sam, stands out with a strong voice and leading man charisma.  Local theatre veterans, Warren Kimmel as Aussie Bill and Jay Hindle as Harry, while not carrying as much of a musical load, bring a nice blend of comedy and fatherly friendship to their roles, in spite of Hindle’s distractingly wavering British accent.

While there appeared to be a couple prop and wardrobe slips on opening night, not surprising in such a physically challenging song and dance production, the veteran cast improvised their recovery with seamless ease.  The overall spirit of Mamma Mia and the joyous Abba music is sure to win over even the hardest demeanour with smiles and laughs throughout the show, especially during the rousing encore as the company (and many audience members) reprise Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.

Mamma Mia plays at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre until August 12th, with special sing-along performances on July 28th. Visit artsclub.com for showtimes and tickets.

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year one and all!

As 2014 comes to a close, I thank you for reading along with my adventures and supporting the events in Vancouver.

Here’s to a fun-filled, 2015 shared with your loved ones!

And thanks to Happy New Year 2015 on YouTube, I’ll share with you a New Year favourite.


Picks Of The Week: May 8, 2013

It’s time to celebrate our Mom’s! Remember Mother’s Day is this Sunday May 12th.

Show:  Take Mom out for some fun and step back a few decades with The Music Of Abba featuring Arrival a cover band from Sweden when they bring the music to River Rock Show Theatre on Sunday May 12th

Stage: Dreamgirls will make you happy when the multi-Tony Awards winning musical opens at Arts Club Theatre May 9th. Running until July 7th, 8 shows are already sold out so book tickets soon!

Playland: Saturday May 11th is Playland Community Day, for the second year $10 from every Playland ticket purchased on the day will go to support the Hastings Community Little League in hosting the 2016 Little League Canadian National Tournament.

Skate: Canadian legends; Kurt Browning, Joannie Rochette, Virtur & Moir, Jeff Buttle and Patrick Chan are among the stars talking to the ice at Rogers Arena on Friday May 10th for Investors Group Stars On Ice Canada presented by Lindt

Soccer: David Beckham may have moved on but LA Galaxy is still packed with soccer elite and is always a big draw when they come to town to face the Whitecaps FC.

Pop-Up Shop: Looking for a great last minute gift for Mom? Stop by the Urban Tea Merchants pop-up shop on the Holt Refrew sky bridge until May 12th. Beautifully packaged and unique TWG Tea gifts and keepsake tins are perfect for Mother’s Day shopping.

Mamma Mia – Broadway Across Canada

Mamma Mia – Queen Elizabeth Theatre – August 16, 2011

Mamma Mia : The MusicalFor one week only Mamma Mia returns to Vancouver.
Opening night brought a full house to see the musical comedy inspired by the music of Abba.  Mamma Mia is set in a small Greek Island and tell the tale of Sophie, well performed by Chloe Tucker, a young woman about to be married. Having never known her father, finds her mother, Donna’s diary and invites three possible men to her wedding to find out which one is her father and have him walk her down the aisle.  The ensuing drama of Donna seeing the three former suitors for the first time in 20 years is played out in Abba songs, like S.O.S., Our Last Summer and The Winner Takes It All.
Donna’s longtime friends and former backup singers from her days in the girl group, Donna & the Dynamos, provide her a shoulder to cry on as well as much of the comic relief thoughout the play.  Played by Alison Ewing as thrice divorced (and seeking more) Tanya and Mary Callanan as the rubenesque, “free woman” author Rosie, the duo are a power house when performing together and completely grab the spotlight in their solo numbers, Does Your Mother Know and Take A Chance On Me, respectively.  Add in Kaye Tuckerman’s Donna and the trio truly make a great girl group, perfectly playing off  each other for their ‘one night only reunion” to Super Trouper.  However, at time’s I felt, Tuckerman’s hugely powerful voice and intensity on her own seemed to overpower the more intimate songs feeling like she was just angry than mixed of emotions and melancholy the character.  The three potential fathers were well acted by James Michael Lambert, John-Michael Zuerlein and Tony Clements but were definitely out-sung by the female cast.
As a whole the company was a good match, unlike a previous performance I’d seen of Mamma Mia with a noticeably weaker cast member standing out for the wrong reason.  Here everyone held their own, making for a good ensemble and displaying good chemistry.  The chemistry seem even more noticeable during the finale as the actors break character slightly.  After the wedding and story of Sophie and Donna concludes the entire cast break into rousing renditions of Dancing Queen as they take their bows.  Part way through the song “Donna & The Dynamos” appear in their Abba inspired costumes to be followed on the next verse by the ‘Fathers’ in their own versions of the costumes.  The Super Group then lead the cast into the songs Mamma Mia and Waterloo, wrapping up the production on a feel good mood with the audience on their feet clapping and dancing (and in some cases singing) along as they leave the theatre.  Leaving on such a fun musical high, make the tiny criticisms of the production insignificant.  Grab your friends and “take a chance” on Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver until August 21, 2011.  Tickets are still available at Ticketmaster.ca 

Desert Island Discs – Disc 8

(Read disc 1, disc 2, disc 3 disc 4, disc 5, disc 6, disc 7)

ABBA – Super Trouper

I know, I’m revealing my inner ‘pop-tart’ with these last few discs but these are important for memories as much as quality.
This album came out in 1980 just as music started to ‘matter’ to someone my age (figure it out for yourself) we luckily had a teacher who allowed us a record player in the classroom. With a little censorship for our ‘young ears’ we were allowed to play records during recess and lunch. I also recall, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 soundtrack and John Lennon/Yoko Ono being played occasionally as well but ABBA seemed to meet the most consensus amongst the young audience.
Fueled by hit singles; The Winner Takes It All, Super Trouper, Lay All You Love On Me plus On and On and On this record got a lot of play in class as well as out of class on radio. It just always seemed to be ‘there’.
For that matter, ABBA songs, always seem to be there, even after all these years, you still hear them.  As cheesy as they might be have that great ‘something’ that makes them perfect pop songs; they’re simple, you can easily sing along to them, they’re catchy without being too annoying.

I bet you’re humming right now!