Kinky Boots on Tour

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.

J Harrison Ghee as Lola | photo: Matthew Murphy

 

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.

As I Lay Dying – The Arts Club Theatre

William Faulkner’s Southern Gothic opus As I Lay Dying is now playing at The Arts Club Theatre’s Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre until February 12, 2017.  The uniquely creative production is staged by Toronto’s Theatre Smith-Gilmour and presented in partnership with PuSh Festival.  The touring show brings the novel to life with incredible simplicity, the only props on stage for the 2+ hour play are a board, a bucket, some bananas and a small wooden chair.  The 7 players bring 19 characters to life and paints their rural existence through simple sound effects, creative dance and drama and relies on the audiences imagination to fill in the blanks.

The play traces the poor Bundren family’s journey to take their late mother’s body from their rural farm to her final resting place in Jefferson, MS.  Along their 40 mile wagon trek the family encounters perilous trials and tribulations that test the bonds and bounds of what the family can endure.  Narrated by many of the characters, the story’s vignettes touche on a cross-section of social topics, that would surely have been controversial when the source novel was published in 1930. Poverty, pride, prejudice, infidelity, social status, motherhood, sibling rivalry, abortion, mental health, and many more subjects are touched up.

As I Lay Dying, is a perfect PuSh Festival co-production as it brings the unique creativity that we expect from PuSh to Arts Club’s wide audience catch it until February 12 at Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre.

And Bella Sang With Us, onstage at Firehall Arts Centre

Photo: Emily Cooper

A bit of Vancouver history comes to life as “And Bella Sang With Us” by Sally Stubbs, takes the stage at the Firehall Arts Centre until January 14th

And Bella Sang With Us” imagines what life was like for Vancouver’s first female police constables.  In 1912, L.D. Harris and Minnie Miller made Vancouver the first city in Canada with female police officers and only the third in the world.  Little is know about the real-life policewomen, other than they served as jailhouse matrons, and regularly patrolled the young city’s pool halls, cabarets and dance halls.  Now, just steps from their patrol beat, the Firehall Arts Centre fills in the blanks of their trials and tribulations serving on the Vancouver Police Department.

The slice of life play, portrays Harris (Leanna Brodie) and Miller (Sarah Louise Turner) a bit like a 19th Century Cagney and Lacey.  Harris is a tough, no-nonsense women who pulled herself up from a tough upbringing and determined to be the equal of her male counterparts, whereas her partner Miller was a well-connected, christian, trained nurse looking to make a difference for the women and children being taken advantage of by those who’d seek to profit from the sins of men.  These disadvantaged women and girls are touched upon, as is the frustrations that the constables faced trying to be taken seriously in a male profession. More about the history and mysteries of downtown Vancouver would have been welcomed, to give more depth to the officer’s lives.

Brian Ball’s simple staging adapts to take us from the VPD jail cells and offices, to The Hive Cabaret, to the alleys and streets of Chinatown. To keep the play fresh night after night, sound improvisation is used for most props, the objects or actions are mimed by the actors, with the sounds of these props portrayed by the other players offstage.  The challenge of matching the sounds to the actions kept the players on their toes but caused for a distraction as the improv sound effects activities were visible on the side of the stage.  Overall, the 90 minute play is quite fast-paced as the action swiftly moves around the city and tensions mount for the officers.

And Bella Sang With Us” plays at the Firehall Arts Centre until January 14, 2017. Tickets are on sale now.

5 Plays for the 2016 Holiday Season

Tis the season, the season for family friendly and fun theatre experiences that everyone will enjoy, here’s 5 Plays for this Holiday season.

Christmas Queen 3 – The Bachelorette Edition – November 23 – December 23, 2016 – Improv Centre, 1502 Duranleau Street
Granville Island, Vancouver
Face reality (tv) when the Christmas Queen returns to Vancouver Theatresports League for more improvised mistletoe mayhemchristmasqueen3

A Charlie Brown Christmas  – November 26 – December 31, 2016 – Waterfront Theatre, 1412 Cartwright Street, Granville Island, Vancouver
Carousel Theatre for Young People brings the beloved Holiday story to the stage

Holy Mo! A Christmas Show – December 2 – 31, 2016 – Pacific Theatre, 1440 12th Avenue, Vancouver
A silly, wacky retelling of the nativity by the Pacific Theatres favourite fools.

Mary Poppins – December 3, 2016  – January 1, 2017 – Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville Street, Vancouver
Chim Chim Cheree! The Arts Club Theatre Company brings the Disney classic to the stage

Music Man – December 8 – 31, 2016 – Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond
You certainly won’t find Ya Got Trouble when the Tony Award winning Music Man comes to Gateway Theatre in Richmond

Get out and enjoy some live theatre with people of all ages.

 

The Elephant Wrestler at The Cultch

The Cultch and Diwali Fest have partnered to present the Canadian premiere of the award-winning The Elephant Wrestler for a short run, only until Saturday, November 5 at The Historic Theatre.

New Zealand’s Indian Ink Theatre Company takes the audience on a the-elephant-wrestler_image3_creditrobertcattotrip to the mayhem, and magic of India. Inspired by a traditional Indian fairy tale, The Elephant Wrestler follows a poor ‘chai-wallah’ (chai tea-seller) as he attempts to solve the interwoven mysteries of true love, tragedy, and joy.

The audience sits in rapt attention as Kutisar, (played by Jacob Rajan) our suspect spiritual guide – a buck-toothed chameleon, channeling seventeen characters and leaping to multiple locations, weaves a thrilling tale of romance and intrigue. Incorporating a unique brand of wisdom Kutisar is charming, downtrodden, and inspirational all at the same time.

the-elephant-wrestler_image2_photocredit-john-mcdermottThe Elephant Wrestler adds in a bit of slight-of-hand, audience interaction and a live soundtrack provided by the unspeaking but talented vocalist and musician, Dave.  While Dave is onstage throughout, Jacob Rajan’s charismatic performance draws the attention so it feels more like a one-man show. 

Already an international success, The Elephant Wrestler has earned rave reviews in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, the U.S. and surely will here on its Canadian debut.
Playing at The Cultch Historic Theatre only until November 5th, tickets are limited but some are still available from thecultch.com

Watch “The Flick” at The Arts Club

The Flick ACTCIt’s not often you can combine a night of live theatre with watching the cinema, that’s exactly what you get with The Flick on stage now at The Arts Club Theatre Granville Island Stage.  Be a fly on the wall and see what happens when the viewers leave and the staff take over to clear out and clean up the cinema.

The simple but creative staging of The Flick takes us into a old-school movie theatre and watch three of it’s staff members; Rose (Shannon Chan-Kent), Avery (Jesse Reid) and Sam (Haig Sutherland). The play’s action is mostly the staff go about their rather mundane tasks of cleaning and sweeping the auditorium after the movie is over.  While the action may be similar to a Seinfeld episode, a ‘comedy about nothing’, The Flick packs a lot of insightful topics into the mundane actions.  Friendship, jealousy, socio-economic status, race, sexuality, family dynamics, mental health and much more are packed into the trio’s conversations.  Along the way, there’s plenty of drama and laughter during the 180 minutes.

The Flick runs at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until October 29, 2016.

“The Mountaintop” comes to Arts Club

the-mountaintopNow playing at The Arts Club Theatre – Granville Island Stage “The Mountaintop” imagines the story of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s last night on earth.  April 3rd, 1968, exhausted from delivering his iconic “I have Been to the Mountaintop” speech, Dr King returned to his hotel room at the Lorraine Hotel, the next day King was assassinated.  “The Mountaintop” imagines what happened during that fateful night as the Reverend prepared for his next days sermons, not knowing what god had in store for him…or did he know?

Taking place completely within the faithfully recreated Lorraine Hotel room, Dion Johnstone portrays Dr King with the same charisma as the original preacher and Crystal Balint plays Camae, the sassy, southern hotel maid who takes King’s mind off the day’s ordeals while reminding him of both his humanity and martyrdom.
The audience feels like a fly on the wall in the room as the intimate relationship develops between the two characters.

Playwright Katori Hall found a good balance of humour and fantasy to counter the political overtones and knowledge of what lies ahead for King. Janet Wright’s direction maintains the intimacy of the room and the relationship of the two characters while showing the global reach of King’s message and the politics of the late 1960’s. The play wraps with a rousing sermon that “passes the baton” of the movement through the generations and from actor to audience.  As fiction mixes with reality the spectator is drawn into the performance, firmly entrenching “The Mountaintop” in the psyche of the viewer.

The Mountaintop plays at The Arts Club Granville Island Stage until March 14th. The performance runs 90 minutes with no intermission.