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 

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

Legally Blonde brings Elle Woods to Michael J Fox Theatre

Oh My Gawd, You Guys! Align Entertainment is bringing the award winning Legally Blonde the Musical to Michael J Fox Theatre in Burnaby, February 2 – 17, 2018.

Elle & Warner
photo: Anita Alberto Photography

Perfectly coordinated for Valentine’s Day, pretty in pink Elle Woods and her dog Bruiser show you can’t judge a book by its cover, then she gets ‘serious’ and chases ex-beau Warner from the Hollywood Hills to Harvard Law School.

“Legally Blonde reminds us that you don’t have to be pigeon-holed to one persona – you can be the sorority queen and a whip-smart whiz if you want, and win at both life and love,” says director and co-producer Chad Matchette. “The show has a great message, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously and fun is what we at Align Entertainment are all about! We love to present big, bright and boisterous productions where it doesn’t matter if you’re performing on stage or seated in the audience, everyone is having a blast. Take family, friends or that special someone – we promise exceptional entertainment and a smashing time at the theatre!”

Molly Spinola as Bruise Woods

Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon comedy, Legally Blonde the Musical was adapted for the stage by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin (music & lyrics) with Heather Hach (book).  The second show in their 2017-18 season, following last autumn’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Align Entertainment continues their success of bringing together local theatre veteran and up-and-coming talents plus in this case of Legally Blonde, two four-legged friends, make their stage debuts in this production. Metro Vancouver pooches, Molly Spinola is playing Bruiser Woods while Seamus O’Kelly plays Rufus .

Legally Blonde the Musical, runs February 2 – 17, at Michael J Fox Theatre, 7373 Macpherson Ave Burnaby.  For showtimes and tickets visit alignentertainment.ca

Canada 150! Where to Celebrate Canada Day 2017

After a year long build up Canada 150 celebrations reach their peak this weekend.  With Canada Day, July 1st falling on Saturday there’s plenty of time to relax after your celebrations. Here’s a few of the events happening around Metro Vancouver this Canada Day.

Canada Day At Canada Place

Canada Day at Canada Place: 9:45am – 10pm July 1 / 8:30am – 6:30pm July 2 Canada Place, Jack Poole Plaza and Canada Place Way.
For Canada 150, Western Canada’s largest celebrations spread over two days, July 1 & 2, featuring the Canada Day parade, Citizenship Ceremony, Canadian Forces Displays, Kids Zones, Pancake Breakfast, five Concert Stages with Sam Roberts, FEFE, Emerson Drive, Hey Ocean!, Dragonette and more.

 

Canada Day Fireworks over Canada Place

Canada Day Fireworks: 10:30pm two barges; Coal Harbour off Canada Place and off shore of Dundarave Beach, West Vancouver
Ticketed viewing available on Canadian Trail at Canada Place, tickets $15 open from 8:30pm
Best free viewing locations; Coal Harbour, Vancouver Convention Centre, Stanley Park (near 9 o’clock gun), Crab Park or Dundarave Beach, West Vancouver.

Canada Day on Granville Island: All-Day Granville Island
Fun and festivities for the whole family fill Granville Island on Canada Day. First Nations performers, Buskers, Parade, Kayak demonstrations, Lobster Man Cook Out, Water Park & Picnic Areas, Kids Market activities, Artisan Markets, and Vancouver International Jazz Festival performances throughout the day.

North Vancouver Canada Day Celebrations: noon – 4pm Waterfront Park, North Vancouver
Artisan Craft Market, Food Trucks, Kids Play Area, and performances including Lions Gate Chorus, Axé Capoeira, Pro Arté, Mazacote, and many more.

North Vancouver Canada 150 Evening: 6:30pm – 10:30pm Waterfront Park, North Vancouver
Canada 150 event sponsored by Rotary Club of Lions Gate featuring a free concert with Dreams; Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band and Arrival; Abba Tribute Band plus Tom Lanvin & the Legendary Powder Blues Band. After, watch the Canada Day Fireworks

Canada Day at Burnaby Village Museum: 11am – 4:30pm Burnaby Village Museum
A historic Canada Day deserves a day with history, experience how things were done in the 1920s with photo stops, RCMP Red Serge, entertainment from Coast Salish Singers and Dancers, Tian-Jin Temple Drummers, Kokomo African Heritage Ensemble, Acadamie Duello, and much more

Canada 150 at Queen’s Park: 11:30am – 3:30pm Queen’s Park, New Westminster
Art, music, demonstrations, displays and activities for the whole family at Queens Park. Plus evening Fireworks at 10pm on the Fraser River between River Market and Inn at the Quay.

Richmond Canada Day in Steveston: 10:00am – 10:30pm Steveston Village, Richmond
Combined with Steveston Salmon Festival, the village is packed with food trucks, entertainment and activities.  The Concert Stage features Wintersleep, Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer, Youngblood, DJ Seko, Watasun and more. Then Fireworks Show along the Steveston Waterfront at 10:15pm

Canada Day Surrey: 10am – 10:30pm Bill Reid Amphitheatre, Surrey.
Amusement Rides, Toddler Town & Kids Zone, Strawberry Tea, Demos, Sports Zone, plus day-long concerts stage featuring Chilliwack, Magic!, Hedley and many more wrapping up the day with Fireworks at 10:30pm

Join Tasting Plates Burnaby Heights – May 17th

Elevate your taste buds with a trip to Burnaby Heights on May 7th with Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Plates.  The Hastings corridor through Burnaby finds a wide variety of flavours and styles of eateries. The neighbourhood chefs are sure to pull out all stops as Tasting Plates tours their spots.

Tasting Plates patrons are invited to check in, collect their Tasting Plates card and map, then venture off, on foot or by wheels to explore Burnaby Heights. Along the way, visit the chefs/owners, fellow foodies, friends and family over flavourful Tasting Plates from the likes of Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionary to The Gray Olive Cafeteria.

More restaurants will be announced closer to the event, but Early Bird tickets are on sale now on Eventbrite.

Early-Bird Tickets: $35 per person before May 7
Advance Tickets $45 per person after May 7
Regular $60 per person after May 14

Disney’s The Little Mermaid at Michael J Fox Theatre

There’s five more chances to see Disney’s The Little Mermaid, presented by Align Entertainment.  The Disney classic comes to life onstage at Burnaby’s Michael J Fox Theatre until February 18th.

The beloved story as interpreted by Doug Wright, and the classic soundtrack from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, along with new lyrics from Glenn Slater,  keeps the pace lively and the suitable for the whole family.  The Little Mermaid isn’t just for kids, while the young ones will certainly find much to love with their favourite underwater Princess, the young at heart will as well.  The evening audience welcomed a few little princesses but the matinee was apparently filled with excited dressed up young ladies.

Elyse Maloway brings a wide-eyed excitement to Ariel, ably filling the vocal and acting duties.  Prince Eric, played by Colton Fyfe, has the classic Disney Prince good looks and carries the vocals fairly well. The cast fill the undersea and human world nicely but the real stand out in the cast is Julio Fuentes as Sebastian the Crab.  As Sebastian, Fuentes brings the comedy and heart to the ensemble, leading two of the key songs and production numbers in each act; Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl.  As the antagonist Ursula, Erin Matchette, has fun with the role but lacks some of the malevolence in her vocals we’d expect from the Sea Witch.

Visually the set and costumes allow the audience to create the worlds beneath and above the waves. The creative use of heal wheels allow the merfolk and other sea creatures to swim smoothly through the water.  Ms Maloway is thankfully not burdened with the usual unnaturally red wig that distracts from many live action versions of Ariel.  The live orchestra led by Brent Hughes fills the auditorium with rich sound that stays in your head as you The Little Mermaid happily humming the tunes.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid, presented by Align Entertainment plays at Burnaby’s Michael J Fox Theatre until February 18th.

O Canada! Where to Celebrate Canada Day

CanadaDay_IMG_4615

This Friday, don your red & white and get ready to celebrate Canada Day.  Whether you’re planning small family festivities or taking part in one of Canada’s largest celebration, Metro Vancouver has plenty of options to celebration Canada Day.

Here’s a few of the events happening around Metro Vancouver this Canada Day.

Canada Day at Canada Place: 10am – 6pm Canada Place, Jack Poole Plaza and Canada Place Way.
Western Canada’s largest celebrations feature the Canada Day parade, Citizenship Ceremony, Canadian Forces Displays, Expo 86 memorabilia, plus the Canada Day Concert with Aaron Pritchett, Sheena Easton, Barney Bentall, Bear Mountain, and more.

Canada Day Fireworks: 10:30pm two barges; Coal Harbour off Canada Place and off shore of Dundarave Beach, West Vancouver
Ticketed viewing available on Canadian Trail at Canada Place, tickets $15 open from 8:30pm
Best free viewing locations; Coal Harbour, Vancouver Convention Centre, Stanley Park (north east), Crab Park or Dundarave Beach, West Vancouver.

Canada Day on Granville Island: 10am – 6pm Granville Island
Fun and festivities for the whole family fill Granville Island on Friday.  First Nations performers, Buskers, Parade, Kayak demonstrations, Water Park & Picnic Areas, Kids Market activities, Artisan Markets, and Vancouver International Jazz Festival performances throughout the day.

North Vancouver Canada Day Celebrations: noon – 4pm Waterfront Park, North Vancouver
Artisan Craft Market, Food Trucks, Kids Play Area, and performances including Lions Gate Chorus, Axé Capoeira, Pro Arté, Mazacote, and many more. 

Canada Day at Burnaby Village Museum: 11am – 4:30pm Burnaby Village Museum
Spend Canada Day with history, experience how things were done in the 1920s with photo stops, RCMP Red Serge, entertainment from Japanese Taiko Drummers, Metro Vancouver Firefighters Band, Acadamie Duello, Parade and Cupcakes.

Canada Day at Queen’s Park: 11:30am – 3:30pm Queen’s Park, New Westminster
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage with performances, demonstrations, displays and activities for the whole family plus “pick a box” silent auction.

Canada Day Surrey: 10am – 10:30pm Bill Reid Amphitheatre, Surrey.
Amusement Rides, Toddler Town & Kids Zone, Stawberry Tea, Science World Demos, Sports Zone, plus day-long concerts stage headlined by Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, wrapping up the day with Fireworks at approximately 10:15pm