Broadway Across Canada’s Kinky Boots wrapped it’s tour stop in Vancouver this weekend selling out most shows at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The Tony Award winning musical, adapted from the 2005 British film of the same name, has a timeless theme of diversity and inclusiveness that stands out as topical in the current political environment.
Loosely based on a real-life story, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price, (Curt Hansen) the 4th Generation in Price & Son shoe factory, who longs to break away from the family business and his father’s expectations to live his own life with fiance Nicola in London. When his Father passes, Charlie is forced to accept the realities of being responsible for the livelihoods of the small town factory’s staff, many of whom he has known his whole life. In a chance meeting with Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a London drag queen, he falls upon an unusual niche market that he hopes will save the factory and the employees. After accepting that footwear is in his blood, the pressures of being responsible for the factory workers take their toll on his relationships. Both Charlie and Lola try to shake off the expectations placed upon them by society and their fathers, leading them to the inevitable epiphany that moves the musical’s story along to it’s rousing climax.
The book by Tony award winner, Harvey Fierstein, brings plenty of laughs and heart without being too heavy handed with the production’s theme. The contrast between the Price and Son factory folk and Lola and her troupe of drag queens provide the opportunity to enforce the message of accepting other as they are. Cindy Lauper’s music and lyrics, much like her own pop career, swing from quiet heartfelt ballads to over-the-top dance-pop production numbers. Lola and the drag queens give Director / Choreographer Jerry Mitchell the obvious opportunity for colourful over the top dance numbers but these were almost expected from the performers. It is the factory pieces or when two sides of the cast combine that really awoke the audience, seeing the contract of the drably garbed staff keeping up with the long legged, high-kicking queens.
While Kinky Boots has closed in Vancouver, it continues on Tour around Canada and the US. It was also announced this week, that J Harrison Ghee will be making his Broadway debut when he takes over the role of Lola in the New York production in March.
If you can catch Kinky Boots on tour, Broadway or in London’s West End, I hope you’ll come away with a bit of joy in your heart.
Sunday night, Duran Duran brought their Paper Gods World Tour to Rogers Arena in Vancouver. While known as 80s New Wave icons, the group hasn’t stopped recording and touring in the ensuing decades, keeping there fingers in the industry through changing styles, genres and tastes.
Their fans have stuck with them too, an effervescent energy bubbled through the arena in anticipation of the group taking the stage. When they did, to the title track “Paper Gods” it was like thousands of teenage fantasies came true as the female dominated audience cheered and danced their hearts out for the next two hours.
Over the years Duran Duran has had an ever-changing line-up, tonight it was a trio of original members, Simon Le Bon, John Taylor and Roger Taylor. Nick Rhodes was back in London attending to some family issues so in his place on keyboards was the multi-talented American singer/songwriter MNDR. Nick was present in the backing video montage to “Pressure Off”, the lead single to Paper Gods album, for which producer Nile Rodgers also joined them onstage.
Balancing old with new, the setlist included something from nearly every one of their past albums; Wild Boys, Hungry Like The Wolf, A View To A Kill, Notorious, Planet Earth (which included a Space Oddity, David Bowie tribute), Ordinary World, White Lines, The Reflex, Girls On Film, Save A Prayer (including a couple lines of Little Red Corvette as a nod to Prince) and Rio. It was nice to see some of the audience members had brought their children to share their fave music with another generation and everyone (except for maybe the couple next to me) danced the night away and most likely spent their journey home humming a Duran Duran tune.
The Paper Gods Tour continues tonight, August 30th in Calgary and then through the U.S. West Coast and south.
MUSE – Drones World Tour – Rogers Arena – December 10, 2015
Last week, British trio, Muse made a stop at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on their Drones World Tour. Oft considered one of the best live acts, the group has a reputation for putting on a spectacle that precedes them to the stage. This tour doesn’t disappoint, with 112 dates around the world, Muse are making sure that everyone gets a chance to experience their live presence.
Presented in the round, on the North American leg, Drones tour starts off with a symphonic display of illuminated aerial orbs leading to the arrival of the band. Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard along with touring member Morgan Nicholls filled the arena with sounds, lights and technology for their two hour set. The set up of the stage kept the audience to the lower bowl and made it feel a lot most intimate than expected. The revolving central stage with catwalks to the ends ensure there’s no bad seats in the house. With a setlist including hits from all their studio albums plus the 2015 release, Drones, every fan had their best experience.
Drones Tour continues around North America through January before heading back to Europe. Catch them if you can and see why they’re one of the best live acts.
Primal Scream and The Cult rolled through Vancouver on their West Coast co-headlining tour. The British acts both attracted a solid crowd to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to hear them recount their 3 decades of music. Primal Scream were up first for the early arrivals, bounding on stage with their mix of indie-pop, alt-rock. Followed by the harder sounds of The Cult. Both bands sounded tight, as you’d expect of groups with this much experience under their belts. Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie and The Cult’s Ian Astbury voices gave a hint to the years of singing (and possibly some audio issues with their mics) but still sounded good as they energetically worked the stage.
Giving a slightly ‘Mick Jagger-esque’ but fairly quiet presence on stage Gillespie worked hard to fill the room with energy as the audience started to fill the venue, drawing more of the fans lingering in the lobby. The band’s set showcased the range of musical styles they’ve experimented with since their early-80s start.
Astbury’s stage presence was a slightly more erratic state. Seemingly distracted with fixing his setlists and other things underfoot, his random chatter ranged from an introduction in French to political musings to sarcastic outbursts. Co-songwriter Billy Duffy solidly kept the bands’ sound moving throughout the set filled with The Cult classics and new music from their upcoming Hidden City album, the newer tracks suiting Astbury’s mature vocals and revealing the duo’s continued skill and keeping their audience onside.
The enthusiasm amongst the fans of both acts kept the atmosphere in the theatre boisterous as a core groups of fans gave back solid spirit, singing and cheering their onstage memories of youth.
British rock acts Starsailor and Embrace just wrapped up their co-headlining North American tour this weekend. Both bands made a splash in the early 2000s but after a few quiet year are back on the road, they made a recent stop at The Imperial in Vancouver. Starsailor was on hiatus from 2009 until 2014 but the regrouped quartet sounded good as ever. Embrace’s last album was in 2006 and the band spent the last few years on solo endeavours their latest group project was a self-titled 2014 album.
At their Vancouver show, the bands played about an hour long set each, covering their hits and a couple of new tracks. The Imperial is a great small venue and the perfect spot for an intimate show for the bands to reconnect with fans. Starsailor took the stage first and after their enthusiastically received set the band members met with fans in the lobby, taking photos and autographs until it was time for the Embrace set. Embrace’s set welcomed some very enthusiastic ex-pat fans who’s boisterous energy filled the room as the band kept the tempo up to encourage the dancing fans.
If you managed to catch the co-headlining tour, you were lucky but keep your eyes and ears out for more from Starsailor and Embrace.
Now playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, One Man, Two Guvnors is an uproarious funny comedy starring Andrew McNee as the ‘one man’, Francis Henshall. Set in 1963 Brighton, England the play is performed in a classic British farce/vaudeville style.
Between scenes the cast take turns performing musical numbers alongside The Craze, the on-stage skiffle-band who ushered in the acts and perform songs that help reinforce the Swingin’ 60’s British invasion ambience. The plot, based on the 18th Century Italian comedy Servant of Two Masters, revolves around the confusion of Francis trying to hold down two jobs, with subplots of mistaken identity, con-artists and love-triangles. The juggling of predicaments results in hilarious slapstick and physical comedy, coming mostly from McNee and Andrew Cownden’s senior citizen character, Alfie. The remainder of the brilliant cast enhance McNee’s antics and even when playing the straight-man tongues are firmly planted in cheeks. Many break the ‘fourth wall’ for a wink and a nod to the audience but McNee smashed it down to venture out and speak directly with the audience and to choose unsuspecting audience members to ‘assist’ onstage for added hilarity. The show makes the audience feel like they’re participating in the fun rather than just watching from the pews.
One Man, Two Guvnors runs at The Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 22, 2015, catch it before it sells out!
British alternative rock band, Elbow made their way to the stage at the Commodore Ballroom last week in support of their recently released album – Take Off And Landing Of Everything. The quintet; Guy Garvey, Mark Potter, Craig Potter, Richard Jupp and Pete Turner, plus a pair of violinists back-up performers. were in fine form as always as they arrived before the packed house. The demographically diverse audience were enthusiastic in their response to the band as they played a selection from their six studio albums. Lead singer Guy Garvey had the audience in his hands as he encouraged them to clap along and mimic his signature hand gestures throughout the show. Some humourous anecdotes preceded many of the singles, even though many of the tunes have a melancholy feeling. The anthemic nature to Guy’s voice and the bands ‘big’ sound fills the room and brings much joy to the audience, especially some the ladies.