Little Dickens: The Daisy Theatre is anything but small

The Daisy Theatre’s Esme Massengill as Esme Scrooge in Little Dickens

The Cultch Historic Theatre is presenting an evening of marionette madness with Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens featuring the cast of The Daisy Theatre.  Starring Daisy Theatre’s past-her-prime diva Esmé Massengill in the Scrooge role, and a cavalcade of Daisy Theatre stars helping bring the Dickens story of A Christmas Carol to life…or to strings.

Toronto-based The Daisy Theatre is a one man, many marionette theatre company brilliantly performed and improvised by Ronnie Burkett.  In the introduction Burkett states that “anything can happen” and over the course of the two hour show, anything does happen.  The story loosely follows A Christmas Carol with a number of detours along the way to fit in some jazzy christmas carol sing-along numbers.  Joining Burkett and the marionettes on stage are some audience helpers;  Ava, William, Christopher and Caroline were ‘recruited’ throughout the performance to help out in various ways and roles.  Helping Burkett from the booth, Crystal helped cue the music and lights, and in a couple of spots prompting what comes next in the play.  Part of the fun of Little Dickens is not knowing what’s going to come out of the marionettes’ mouths and laughing along with Burkett when even he can’t believe that he said that.  Plenty of laugh out loud moments fill the camp over-the-top scenes, accompanied by inside jokes about the theatre scene and Vancouver itself.

The Daisy Theatre Schnitzel as Tiny Tim in Little Dickens

Even though we clearly know that Ronnie Burkett is pulling their strings the marionettes really do come to life and the audience buys into Esme’s character development, taking her from selfish, tacky, vain diva to charitable, tacky, slightly less vain diva.

Being an improvised show, anything really can happen and with the introduction of different audience members no two shows will be the same, so it’s a great treat to see over and over again during the pre-Christmas season.
Ronnie Burkett’s  Little Dickens : The Daisy Theatre runs until December 22, 2018 at The Cultch Historic Theatre.  Find showtimes, information and tickets online at thecultch.com

East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz is a Wicked good time

Dorothy & friends are off to see the Wizard in
East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz
photo: Emily Cooper

Returning to the York Theatre for the sixth year, Theatre Replacement’s East Van Panto : Wizard of Oz, paves the holiday road with laughter.  Until January 6, 2019 follow the yellow brick road to East Van as Dorothy and friends try to make it home to Poco.

Directed by Stephen Drover, the family friendly (not recommended for under 5 years) over-the-top musical combines the talents of playwright Marcus Yousef, choreographer Amanda Testini, and musician Veda Hille, who masterfully creates new lyrics for familiar pop tunes, with hilarious results.

East Van Panto
Christine Quintana stars as Dorothy in East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz
photo: Emily Cooper

Dorothy, skillfully played and beautifully sung, by Christine Quintana, lives in a Poco tiny house with her Aunts when the pipeline bursts and she is swept away to East Van, the progressive,  urban landscape of her dreams.  In order to make her way back to her beloved Aunts she must take that familiar journey to visit the Wizard. Along the way she meets a cavalcade of colourful, and familiar, West Coast characters, including a surprising Wicked Witch of the West, played by Craig Erickson.  Erickson and the supporting cast; Dawn Petten, Raugi Yu,  and Kayvon Khoshkam bounce between characters with gusto. Studio 58 students Angela Chu, Dylan Floyde, and Mallory James fill the chorus roles with the help of a rotation of adorable child actors.

In the long tradition of the British pantomime, the audience interaction adds to the fun and entertainment. The show starts with ‘the rules’,  which after this many seasons the audience has come to know, when to boo, when to cheer, show sympathy, and when to heckle the villain.  The joy of the unrestrained younger audience members’ participation brings an extra smile every year.

Craig Erickson as The Wicked Witch of the West
East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz
photo: Emily Cooper

The writing keeps the show accessible for all ages, everyone will find laughter in the slapstick, jokes or situations.  This year’s show is a bit more political than most, resulting in some very topical humour but also meaning some jokes might not land well depending on your leanings.  The Vancouver insider jokes are often told with an East Van-centric point of view, mocking other neighbourhood stereotypes as well as some Commercial Drive self-deprecating humour.  It’s hard to walk away from East Van Panto without having laughed and smiled for the previous two hours.

East Van Panto : Wizard of Oz plays at The Cultch York Theatre, 639 Commercial Driver until January 6, 2019. Showtimes, information and tickets available online at thecultch.com

Go On A Blind Date at The Arts Club BMO Stage

Just like a true blind date, with Blind Date at The Arts Club Theatre Company BMO Stage what’s about to unfold is a mystery.

The premise of the mainly improvised Blind Date is a blind date between a couple, who don’t know each other.  In this case, they really do not know each other, the male partner is selected from the audience to go on the date with Mimi (played in this performance by Tess Degenstein).   During a pre-show mingle the cast; Degenstein, Lili Beaudoin, Ali Froggatt (who all play Mimi on different nights) and Jeff Gladstone, get to know the audience.  People putting themselves (or being pushed) forward to participate in Blind Date.  Starting out a small cafe the date progresses through the course of the evening.

On this night, recently-married Ben, a 30something construction manager, has been selected, after prodding from wife Megan. The uncomfortable awkwardness that Ben feels makes for some nervous laughter and outright hilarity.  While Mimi asks him about himself, Ben loosens up and shares more about his life, which allows a seasoned improvisor like Tess Degenstein to grab tidbits to keep the play humourously moving along on its loose outline.

As skilled as she is, her scene partner is the key to the success of the show, I’m sure in the 700+ performances the troupe has completed there have been more than a few ‘dates’ that have gone awry.  Anything can happen in improv and in this performance, the quantity of beer that Ben consumed, smartly used to avoid answering or to allow himself time to think of an answer, became part of the show.  Late in the play Ben was forced to make a trip to the washroom, a first amongst Blind Date performances according to Degenstein.

The skill of the cast to improvise and roll with the punches ensures that each night is a fresh and unique performance. Check out Blind Date more than once to find out how different guest performers and different Mimis influence the outcome of your blind date experience.

Blind Date plays until December 30, 2018 at Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre, 162 East 1st Avenue. Showtimes and Tickets available online at artsclub.com

 

Picks of the Week – November 28, 2018

The last week of November and the first weekend of December brings us a plethora of festival fun to entertain the whole family.

Pride: Catch the follow up to Pride & Prejudice with Miss Bennet : Christmas at Pemberley at The Arts Club Granville Stage until December 30

Date: Until December 30, spend your date night watching Blind Date at The Arts Club Goldcorp Stage, each night is a unique show as a new audience member is the date in each show.

James & Jamesy – O Christmas Tree

Whimsy: The award winning duo, James & Jamesy’s O Christmas Tree brings their physical comedy to Massey Theatre on December 1st, with a Christmas cuppa brimming with holiday cheer, and much more.

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

Jazz: Tyrant Studio’s Friday Jazz enjoy the New Orleans style sounds of Marc Lindy and Guests at the Tyrant Studio Lounge upstairs from The Penthouse

Merry Kiss-mas
VTSL

Improv: Vancouver Theatresports presents Merry Kiss-mas – an improvised holiday comedy, parodying all the inane clichés and funny, awkward moments you’d expect to see in a holiday TV special or film at Improv Centre until Christmas Eve

Lights: Friday night, catch the 12th annual light-up of the 76ft tall Vancouver Christmas Tree at Robson Square, and Saturday the annual Festival of Lights at Van Dusen Gardens opens, plus enjoy many other Festival light displays around the city

Gold: The Vancouver Canucks play host to Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday at Rogers Arena

Pi Theatre’s Hir Jordan Fowlie and Victor Dolhai
Photo: Emily Cooper.

Gender: Pi Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of American playwright Taylor Mac’s Hir, exploring the dynamics of a family dealing with PTSD, gender politics & more, from November 22–December 8, 2018, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex.

Drama: Seven Tyrants Theatre presents John Patrick Stanley’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama Doubt : A Parable from November 23 – December 14

Swing: Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox brings a vintage touch to modern pop songs at The Vogue Theatre on Saturday night

Laughs: Saturday nights Tyrant Studio’s Comic Strip brings stand-up comedy to the Studio Lounge Stage with Byron Bertram, plus James Hammond and Alex Sparling

Dance:  From Montreal Frédérick Gravel’s This Duet That We’ve Already Done (so many times) continues at The Cultch Historic Theatre until Saturday

Vancouver Christmas Market
Photo: Lindsay Elliott

Market:  The Vancouver Christmas Market celebrates its 9th year as it returns to Jack Poole Plaza, until December 24, 2018

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

Shopping: From the West End, to Dunbar, and Delta, Visit one of the many Christmas Craft Markets happening around Metro Vancouver this weekend

Aurora Winter Festival

Festival: Aurora Winter Festival, Canada’s Largest Winter Festival, brings a a skating rink, a tube park, light displays, Christmas Market, amusement rides, food gardens, and many more activities to Concord Pacific Place November 23 – December 30

Pi Theatre opens the Canadian Premiere of Hir

Pi Theatre’s Hir. l to r: Jordan Fowlie, Andrew Wheeler, Victor Dolhai, Deb Williams. Photo: Emily Cooper

Just as the American Thanksgiving brought families together, laying bare all the dysfunction, family drama, laughter and love that accompanies holiday get togethers, Pi Theatre opens, Hir, a darkly comic exploration of family.  The Canadian premiere of acclaimed American playwright Taylor Mac, Hir runs until December 8, 2018, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex. The production explores the dynamics of a suburban family dealing with PTSD, identity crises, and gender politics in a realistically comedic fashion.

“Hir is an outrageously provocative play in the rich tradition of black comedies centered on the dysfunctional American family,” says Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe, who also directs the work. “Mac’s take-no-prisoners satire of family dynamics is very much of our time, interrogating the bumps of transition that we are experiencing as the world turns away from a Western-centric hegemony. Hir examines the conflict between our need for safety and our desire to risk it all to find a better, truer way to live — no matter the collateral damage to those we love. Each of the characters in the play is undergoing profound transformation, just as we are feeling colossal shifts in our cultural and political landscape. Hir puts a deliciously caustic bow on all of it.”

Pi Theatre’s Hir Jordan Fowlie and Victor Dolhai
Photo: Emily Cooper.

Called an “audacious and uproarious black comedy” by The New York Times, the play follows the dishonourably discharged Isaac, returning home from the battlegrounds of Afghanistan to find an equally embattled homefront. His father, Arnold, has suffered a stroke and been rendered incapacitated; his mother, Paige, is finally out from under the thumb of her violently domineering husband; his younger sibling, Max, is a transgender teen out to destabilize the patriarchy. The confluence of Arnold’s disability and Max’s coming out has turned Paige toward a radical feminism that sees her refusing to clean the house in an act of unbridled defiance. She exacts revenge on her husband for years of verbal and physical abuse, humiliating Arnold by force-feeding him estrogen, dressing him as a wild drag clown, and putting him in diapers. While Hir is a manic, absurdist tragicomedy, it is also a wake up call about the need for honest communication. 

Directed by two-time Jessie Award-winning Richard Wolfe, Hir features an extraordinary cast of accomplished performers from across Canada.
Hir is now onstage at
Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex, 823 Seymour St, Vancouver. Tickets are on sale at pitheatre.com/hir

Picks of the Week – November 21, 2018

The Holiday Season is in full swing, as we are just a couple weeks away from Hanukkah and a month away from Christmas, there’s plenty of festive fun in this week’s picks.

Ariel: Children’s Theatre of Richmond Association presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr a children’s production of Disney’s musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, November 24-25 at Massey Theatre

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

Late-night: Vancouver Art Gallery’s late-night art party returns with FUSE: Object Lessons on Friday, November 23, 8pm – midnight.

Dancers: Dancers of Damelahamid an Indigenous dance company from the Northwest Coast of BC, with a rich history of masked dance performs Thursday at Noon, part of the Discover Dance! series at Scotiabank Dance Centre

Dancer Dennis Alamanos in Chotto Desh.
Photo: Richard Haughton

Dance:  DanceHouse, with SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs and Théâtre la Seizième, are co-presenting the Vancouver premiere of Akram Khan Company’s award-winning solo, Chotto Desh at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts until November 24th

Jazz: Tyrant Studio’s Friday Jazz finds Jimi James Trip making their way to the Tyrant Studio Lounge upstairs from The Penthouse

Merry Kiss-mas
VTSL

Improv: Vancouver Theatresports presents Merry Kiss-mas – an improvised holiday comedy, parodying all the inane clichés and funny, awkward moments you’d expect to see in a holiday TV special or film at Improv Centre until Christmas Eve

Ice: Join Moana, Belle, Elsa and other Disney favourites as Disney On Ice takes to the Pacific Coliseum until November 25

ASL: Red Gate Revue stage welcomes a world premiere of Albireo: A New Musical, a unique new production by Annahis Basmadjian, featuring ASL (American Sign Language), the story of brothers Wriker and Chambers, half human, half siren, their mythological hypnotic powers only activate when singing together in harmony.

Art: It’s your last chance to visit Kimoto Gallery to view Water, by Vancouver artists David Wilson a series of paintings looking at the natural watery surroundings and rain-soaked city streets of his hometown, closing November 24.

Pi Theatre’s Hir
Photo: Emily Cooper

Gender: Pi Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of American playwright Taylor Mac’s Hir, exploring the dynamics of a family dealing with PTSD, gender politics & more, from November 22–December 8, 2018, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex.

Drama: Seven Tyrants Theatre presents John Patrick Stanley’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama Doubt : A Parable from November 23 – December 14

Laughs: Saturday nights Tyrant Studio’s Comic Strip brings stand-up comedy to the Studio Lounge Stage with Simon King, Darcy Boon Collins, Ari Matti, and Colin Sharp

Vancouver Christmas Market
Photo: Lindsay Elliott

Market:  The Vancouver Christmas Market celebrates its 9th year as it returns to Jack Poole Plaza, until December 24, 2018

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

Shopping: From the West End, to Dunbar, and Delta, Visit one of the many Christmas Craft Markets happening around Metro Vancouver this weekend

BBall: The Vancouver Showcase featuring 4 men’s and 8 women’s U.S. Division I college basketball teams compete until Nov. 24 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Festival: Aurora Winter Festival, Canada’s Largest Winter Festival, brings a a skating rink, a tube park, light displays, Christmas Market, amusement rides, food gardens, and many more activities to Concord Pacific Place November 23 – December 30

Candy: Saturday, Yaletown transforms to Candytown, Vancouver’s free Christmas festival filling Hamilton, Mainland and Davie Streets with Holiday fun.

 

10 Plays For The Whole Family This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to gather the family together and enjoy the fun of live theatre.

Align Entertainment started the season off with their, just ended run of, A Christmas Story : The Musical. This holiday season finds theatre offering something for everyone in the family, from romance, to drama, comedy to fantasy.

Check out the list of 10 plays to find something that’s sure to please you and your family or friends this season.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley – November 15 – December 30, 2018 Arts Club Theatre Company Granville Island Stage, 1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver
In this modern follow up to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, take another trip to Pemberley as romance and comedy mix with Christmas festivities.

Merry Kiss-mas

Merry Kiss-Mas – November 21 – December 24, 2018 – Improv Centre, Granville Island, 1502 Duranleau Street, Vancouver
‘VTS Channel’ presents Merry Kiss-mas – an improvised holiday comedy parodying all the inane clichés and funny, awkward moments you’d expect to see in a holiday TV special or film.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr – November 24 – 25, 2018 – Massey Theatre, 735 8th Ave, New Westminster
Children’s Theatre of Richmond Association presents this children’s production of Disney’s musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale.

East Van Panto – Wizard of Oz

East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz – November 28, 2018 – January 6, 2019 – The Cultch York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
East Van Panto returns for its sixth year, finding Dorothy and Toto flung to the Land of Oz in the depths of East Van

Disney’s Beauty And The Beast – December 1, 2018 – January 6, 2019 – Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville Street, Vancouver
Disney’s tale as old as time comes to life, with a song as old as rhyme, lavish costumes, lush sets and great casting in this remount.

James & Jamesy – O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tea – Various Locations including; December 1, 2018 -Massey Theatre, 735 8th Ave, New Westminster // December 10 – 11, 2018 – Kay Meek Arts Centre, 1700 Mathers Avenue, West Vancouver
The award winning duo, James & Jamesy bring their physical comedy to the regioni with a Christmas cuppa brimming with holiday cheer, and much more.

Little Dickens – December 4 – 22, 2018 – The Cultch Historic Theatre – 1895 Venables, Vancouver
Ronnie Burkett’s Little Dickens, finds the cast of The Daisy Theatre take on the beloved holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, in the merriest marionette mash-up ever.

It’s a Wonderful Life – December 6 – 31, 2018 Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond
Take a trip to Bedford Falls and watch George Bailey come back from despair to realize that it is a wonderful life.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – December 6 – 16, 2018 – Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
In this lively Christmas classic, the six Herdman kids, “the worst kids in the history of the world”, take over the annual Christmas pageant, much mayhem and fun follows in this hilarious and heartwarming story.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr – December 7 – 8, 2018 – Massey Theatre, 735 8th Ave, New Westminster
Children’s Theatre of Richmond Association presents this children’s version of Disney’s beloved musical