Disney’s Beauty and the Beast roars into Arts Club

Who doesn’t start humming the tune and lyrics … ‘tale as old as time’ when they think about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast?  The Arts Club Theatre brings the beloved tale back to the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage for the holiday season for the first time since 2008.  Bill Millerd direct his final holiday show in his final year as Artistic Director of The Arts Club. The Beast, Belle, Gaston, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs Potts and all the other characters you love from the animated Disney classic, bring the music and story, based on the French fairy tale, to the stage.

The smaller Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage creates a more intimate show than other productions of Beauty and The Beast, that I’ve seen.  The intimacy brings a new life to the production, making us all feel like we’re a one of the villagers observing this love story about tolerance and acceptance of your own and other’s differences.  The peculiar girl named Belle is brilliantly played by Shannon Chan-Kent, whose voice fills the room with its power and precision.  With a powerful Belle, The Beast has to be even stronger to be both menacing, sensitive and balance her vocals, Jonathan Winsby definitely fits the bill.  It’s easy to see and hear why he’s played The Beast so often in his career, even behind the heavy mask he brings, humour, charm and compassion to the Beast.   The Beast’s castle is also filled with other lively characters, slowing becoming inanimate, lead by Shawn Macdonald’s officious Cogsworth, Peter Jorgensen’s randy Lumiere and Susan Anderson’s motherly Mrs Potts.  In the village, Belle’s father is the local legend Bernard Cuffling but the real stand out in the production is Kamyar Pazandeh who has managed to create an over-the-top Gaston that is the spitting image of the animated version, physically and vocally Kamyer knocks it out of the theatre.

Being nearly a decade since the last production, Alison Green has created a brand new dynamic set that fills the stage and seamlessly moves action and cast from town to woods to castle.  Scott Augustine adapts the original choreography of Valerie Easton, to this new set and staging.  Easton’s late daughter Amy Wallis was the original Belle and this production is dedicated in the memory of Amy.

If this production wasn’t already top notch, watching the number of children mesmerized by seeing their favourite characters come to life, adds even more to the show for us adults.  Go see it with the whole family!

Disney’s Beauty and The Beast is now playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. The show is so popular, The Arts Club has already extended the run, now playing until January 13, 2018.  For information and tickets visit artsclub.com

Mary Poppins flies into Theatre Under The Stars

The 2017 Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) season got under this week with the opening of Mary Poppins.  A summer tradition for over seventy years, TUTS brings another great family favourite musical to Malkin Bowl.

Mary & Bert with Jane & Michael Banks
photo: Tim Matheson

One of the most beloved Disney movies of all time comes to the stage as Mary Poppins the Musical.  Like the original film, Mary Poppins the Musical is loosely based on P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins books. However, this Cameron Mackintosh – Disney theatrical production returns some characters from the original books and drops others from the film.  A combination of songs from the Disney film and new pieces move the story along, in a new order and with new set pieces.

As often with TUTS productions, directed by Theatre Under The Stars veteran Shel Piercy, this version of Mary Poppins the Musical includes a large cast and company.  Lead by Ranae Miller as the magical nanny Mary Poppins, and Victor Hunter as jack-of-all-trades Bert, cast stand outs include the entire Banks family, Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau adds an emotional turn as Mrs Banks, the matriarch looking for her place and position in society and her family. In contrast, Russell Roberts as Mr George Banks adds the burden of being the master and breadwinner for the family.   Lola Marshall as Jane and Nolen Dubuc as Michael, the much in need of a nanny, Banks children are stand outs. Both young players have great tone and blend together perfectly in many of their harmonized songs as well they maintain their accents better than some of the adult actors.  This Mary Poppins story shifts the focus a bit more to the growth and development of the whole Banks family, making all of them more central than in the film.

Mary & Bert on a Jolly Holiday
photo: Tim Matheson

Since Mary Poppins must share the Malkin Bowl stage with The Drowsy Chaperone (on alternate nights) the stage has to be less permanent than in some other stagings. Set designer Brian Ball has created an imaginative set that takes us seamlessly through the songbook; from the Banks family residence; upstairs (Cherry Tree Lane), downstairs (A Spoonful of Sugar) and up to the rooftops (Chim Chim Cher-ee), then to the park (Let’s Go Fly A Kite), and George’s workplace at the bank (Precision and Order) or the steps of St Paul’s (Feed The Birds).  Along the way intricate choreography and prop work make full use of the 30+ cast to create some stunning showstopper numbers that are worth seeing the show for on their own; Jolly Holiday pays special homage to the Disney film’s animation with a pair of penguins joining the dance at Bert’s feet.  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, now taking place at Mrs Corry’s Shop, becomes a technicolour dance extravaganza, and Step In Time is a high-kicking romp across the rooftops of London.

Even if you’ve seen the film or another live musical production, this Theatre Under The Stars production of Mary Poppins the Musical is a Practically Perfect, (to borrow from Mary’s intro song), evening at the theatre.

Theatre Under The Stars presents Mary Poppins The Musical on alternating evenings at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park until August 18, 2017. Tickets available online at tuts.ca

A showstopper Jolly Holiday
photo: Tim Matheson

TUTS 2017 season brings laughter to Malkin Bowl

Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) returns July 7th for another summer of entertaining Vancouverites with world-class theatre at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. This season, Mary Poppins & The Drowsy Chaperone, join the ranks of performances performed at the iconic outdoor bandshell since the 1940s.  Surrounded by nature the tranquil setting will be contrast by the stage’s alternating productions; one, an iconic family musical starring an ever so enchanting nanny; the other, a riotous Broadway sensation and tribute to the Roaring Twenties. 

“Last year was our most successful summer on record – more than 45,000 guests passed through our gates!” says Naveen Kapahi, TUTS Board President. “In 2017, we will build on this momentum by putting our patrons in the talented hands of two of the Lower Mainland’s most celebrated directors. Shel Piercy will follow-up last summer’s epic Beauty and the Beast with Mary Poppins; and we are thrilled to welcome Capilano University’s theatre luminary Gillian Barber as director of The Drowsy Chaperone.”

Mary Poppins photo: Tim Matheson

Mary Poppins, one of the most popular Disney movies of all time, filled with it’s family-friendly story and memorable songs finds the practically perfect nanny open up her carpet bag of tricks as she teach the Banks family a lesson or two about love & imagination.  Favourites like ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’, and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ are brought to life with with brand-new dance numbers and staging.

Making her TUTS debut as Mary Poppins is Ranae Miller who is joined by Victor Hunter (Bert), returning following his hilarious portrayal as Lumière in 2016’s Beauty and the Beast. Mr. & Mrs. Banks are played by Russell Roberts and Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau. Nine-year-old TUTS newcomer Nolen Dubuc performs as Michael Banks alongside 11-year-old Lola Marshall (Jane Banks) taking part in her third TUTS production.

If director Shel Piercy, along with choreographer Nicol Spinola, and musical director Wendy Bross Stuart, can replicate the spectacle of last summer’s Beauty and the Beast, TUTS may have another record-breaking season.

The Drowsy Chaperone photo: Tim Matheson

On alternating nights, The Drowsy Chaperone, bursts forth with show-stopping song and dance and the energy of its Roaring Twenties setting. The Canadian musical parody & five-time Tony Award-winner takes audiences away on a Jazz Age journey of love, laughter, and libation.

Alone in his modest, one-bedroom apartment, a musical theatre fan puts on his treasured cast recording. As the record spins, the colourful & chaotic characters of a fictitious 1928 musical spring to life – filling his living room with all manner of movie stars, gangsters, divas, and more.

Starring as Man in Chair is five-time Jessie Award-winner Shawn Macdonald who takes the stage with TUTS newcomer and lauded actor Caitriona Murphy (The Drowsy Chaperone) as well as Shannon Hanbury, who makes her ninth TUTS appearance as Janet van de Graaff.  Joining them are Stuart Barkley (Robert Martin), Blake Sartin (George), and Dimitrios Stephanoy as the Latin lothario Aldolpho.

Directed by Gillian Barber, The Drowsy Chaperone features choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt, with musical direction by Kevin Michael Cripps.

Theatre Under The Stars: Mary Poppins & The Drowsy Chaperone take the stage at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, 610 Pipeline Road, on alternating evenings starting July 7 running to August 19, 2017
Showtime at 8pm, except on Fireworks Nights, July 29, August 2, August 5, when shows begin at 7pm

Tickets are available online at tuts.ca from $30 – $49

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.

TUTS – Beauty And The Beast

Photo credit: Tim Matheson
Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Theatre Under The Stars has returned for an amazing 76th season at Malkin Bowl with Disney’s Beauty And The Beast opening first, then alternating nights with West Side Story.

The verdant surroundings of Stanley Park wraps Malkin Bowl with lush walls to block out the city and bring the audience into the performance.  The show begins with the prologue of how The Beast (Peter Monaghan) came to be, then moves to the ‘provincial French town’ that the beauty, Belle (Jaime Piercy), longs to escape.  Here we meet her eccentric father and local lothario Gaston, played like a cartoon come to life by Dane Szohner.  Gaston’s acrobatic sidekick, Lefou, (Nicholas Bradbury) is another standout amongst the villagers.

The production really comes to life, ironically, in the cursed castle there the inhabitants are slowly becoming inanimate objects. Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts as played by Victor Hunter, Steven Greenfield and Sheryl Ann Wheaton are brilliant recreations of Disney’s animated characters.  I was worried how the grand Busby Berkeley-esque set pieces could be staged on the smaller Malkin Bowl stage but director Shel Piercy and choreographer Shelly Stewart Hunt managed to make everything and everyone fit onstage.

Photo credit: Tim Matheson
Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Watching the audience during the 2 hour production showed the awe and wonder across the faces young and old as the fairy tale comes to life in front of them.

Disney’s Beauty And The Beast at Theatre Under The Stars runs even night, alternating with West Side Story at Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park.  Buy tickets online or in person at the Malkin Bowl box office.

 

Theatre Under The Stars 2016 Season

Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) invites audiences to and enchanted summer as they fall in love with the timeless classics Disney’s Beauty and the Beast & West Side Story, running July 6 – August 20, 2016 at StanleyPark’s Malkin Bowl.

On alternating evenings, audiences will be swept away by these tales as old as time – the beloved fairytale brimming with magic and mystery, and the Romeo & Juliet inspired story of forbidden love in the unforgiving streets of 1950’s New York.  Since 1940, TUTS has been bringing together the best of musical theatre with one of the most spectacular settings in Vancouver. Even after three quarters of a century, TUTS is still as popular as ever.

“The summer of 2015 was our most successful on record: We welcomed more audiences out to the Malkin Bowl than at any point in our long history,” says Naveen Kapahi, TUTS Board President. “We are therefore thrilled to announce the return of both of last season’s much celebrated directors! Shel Piercy will follow-up his beloved Oliver! with the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast; and Sarah Rodgers, who created 2015’s infectiously fun Hairspray, will direct West Side Story.”

TUTS’ 2016 season features two of Broadway’s most universally acclaimed, smash-hit musicals:

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the first Disney film ever to make the leap to stage. Directed by Shel Piercy and choreographed by Shelley Stewart Hunt, with musical direction by Wendy Bross Stuart. This production features lavish sets, sumptuous costumes, and spectacular musical numbers, including all of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s songs from the Academy Award-winning film, as well as new songs, written for the stage, by Menken and Tim Rice.

West Side Story is a dynamic reimagining of Romeo and Juliet in the turbulent streets of 1950’s New York.  Directed by Sarah Rodgers, West Side Story features choreography by TUTS newcomer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg (2015 recipient of the Chrystal Dance Prize) with musical direction by Chris D. King.
The production carries on the timeless work created by the dream team of Leonard 
Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim, with Jerome Robbins’ famed choreography style and iconic Broadway songbook.

Theatre Under The Stars at Malkin Bowl presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast & West Side Story
Running alternate nights, July 6 to August 20, 2016. All shows at 8pm, except on Fireworks Nights, when shows begin at 7pm

Buy tickets online at tuts.ca or by phone 1-877-840-0457

Broadway Across Canada – Mary Poppins

20120717-233908.jpgChim Chim Cheree! Everyone’s favourite nanny stops by Vancouver this week, no not Supernanny but Mary Poppins. Broadway Across Canada‘s touring production of Disney’s Mary Poppins opened tonight and plays until Sunday July 22nd at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Adapted from the family favourite 1964 Disney movie, Mary Poppins features the same familiar score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, including “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Step In Time” plus new numbers, written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, specifically for the stage musical.
The movie and musical are based on the like-titled series of children’s books by P.L. Travers which tell the story of the Banks family who needs a new nanny for their children, Jane and Michael. When a mysterious young woman named Mary Poppins appears at their doorstep, the family finds that she’s the answer to their problems, but in ways they’ve never imagined.
The touring show stars Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins, Case Dillard as Bert, played on opening night by understudy Con O’Shea-Creal, Michael Dean Morgan as Mr. Banks and Elizabeth Broadhurst as Mrs. Banks. The real star of the show is the set, it was an amazingly creative way to show the whole Banks house, from basement to rooftops, opening up like a storybook to reveal the interior. The nearby park was a magical place that allowed the cast and audience to be swept away in the classic songs and story. For some numbers the large company filled the stage creating a much grander scale than the Queen E stage would appear to allow.
The entire company was very good vocally and the sound was well done, no opening night glitches except for some missed light cues. The addition of the new songs and changes to the story, kept the musical running smooth and flowing while simplifying some of the heavy special effect numbers from the movie. The changes also make the story new and keep it fresh for everyone, overall it’s a fun, nostalgic trip to Victorian London and our childhood memories of the original Super-calafragalisticexpialadoshus Nanny.
Mary Poppins runs until July 22nd at Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, visit Broadway Across Canada for tickets.