Arts Club Theatre Company : Once

Gili Roskies & Adrian Glynn McMorran
photo: Emily Cooper

Once is definitely not enough when it comes to seeing Arts Club Theatre Company’s Once, now playing at the Granville Island Stage.  The final show of the season, and for Artist Director Bill Millerd’s 45 season reign as the guiding force of the Art Club, certainly makes a memorable impact.

The heartwarming and heartbreaking story of Guy meets Girl, based on the 2007 film of the same name, takes the audience on a journey filled with music, laughter, melancholy, romance and inspiration.  Known only as Girl (an ‘honest’ Czech aspiring pianist, played by Gili Roskies) and Guy (a struggling Dublin musician, played by Adrian Glynn McMorran), our leads’ meet cute involves busking and a Hoover.  That oddball scenario, foretells the unique show that’s to come.  While Girl struggles with her feelings for Guy and loyalty to her estranged husband, she champions Guy to never give up on his heart and music.  Once would be nothing without that music, written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova (the original film’s leads) the heartfelt songs stand-out like a third lead; moving the story along, connecting the characters and allowing Guy and Girl to sing what they can’t say.

To help bring the duo’s musical aspirations to a fruition, a company of colourful characters gather; both Czechs and the Irish play multiple instruments, dance, and sing often all at the same time.  While all the company are solid; stand outs include Chris Cochrane as Billy the music shop owner and admirer of Girl, who plays well off of the always solid Caitriona Murphy.  There are a couple moments when the Irish accents sound a bit like their protecting their Lucky Charms, but it’s not enough to distract from the feeling that the audience is a Dublin pub with the company.  Set designer Ted Roberts makes the most of the small Granville Island stage to recreate the feeling of an Irish Pub, which is open to the audience for on stage drinks and a kitchen party style opening jam session that leads into the show.  From this lively opening to the emotional Academy Award winning song “Falling Slowly”, Once moves us and makes us cheer for Guy and Girls’ relationship and leaves us fulfilled but wanting to know the rest of their stories.

See it once or often but definitely see it before it’s gone.  Once is playing at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until July 29, 2018.

More Mochrie in May at Vancouver TheatreSports

Vancouver TheatreSports alumnus and star of Whose Line Is It Anyway, Colin Mochrie, has added another show to his upcoming run of performances with VTSL.  Join Colin for four shows benefiting the Colin Mochrie Scholarship Fund at VTSL’s theatre school, The Improv Comedy Institute. Since 2014, the scholarship provides assistance to those wishing to study improv but are unable to do so because of financial barriers.

The Colin Mochrie line-up of shows is;

COLIN UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL – Thursday, May 24 | 7:30pm | The Improv Centre

The first performance takes place at VTSL’s home theatre on Granville Island – The Improv Centre. This is your chance to see Colin up close and catch every expressive comedic nuance in an intimate space. This very special evening includes two improv sets starring Colin, along with members of the VTSL ensemble, followed by a Q&A session where audience members ask the questions. There are also a very limited number of tickets (only 40) for an exclusive, post-performance reception where guests will personally meet, and socialize with Colin at The Improv Centre’s Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge. That evening the Bar will be introducing ‘The Colin’ – a cocktail specially designed in Colin’s honour based on his favourite alcoholic beverage – red wine.

 

THE COLIN MOCHRIE EXPERIENCE – Friday, May 25 | 7:30pm & 9:45pm (added show) | The Vogue Theatre

Friday night sees Colin take the stage at The Vogue Theatre, located in the heart of Vancouver’s Entertainment District. This performance once again features the improv master with some of your favourite VTSL players in a free-wheeling improv laugh-fest.

 

COLIN AND FRIENDS – Saturday, May 26 | 7:30pm & 9:30pm (added show) | The Improv Centre

On Saturday, Colin returns to The Improv Centre, VTSL’s home on Granville Island. Seating only 186 people in a mixture of cabaret and theatre seats, The Improv Centre is a very welcoming experience where every seat is a great seat. Colin will be joined on stage by improvisers from the Vancouver TheatreSports™ ensemble for an evening that is sure to tickle your funny bone. The Improv Centre is fully-licensed and guests are welcome to take their beverages with them into the theatre to enjoy during the show.

Tickets are on sale now and available online at www.vtsl.com.

Once On This Island The Musical on Granville Island

“The Godsquad” L-R: Yoo Ra Kang, Ricardo Pequenino, Alexandra Quispe, Sari Rosofsky
Photo: Tina Clelland

From Broadway to Granville Island, Once On This Island is now playing at Red Gate Review Stage.  The award winning musical, currently in a revival on Broadway, is making its Vancouver debut with Fabulist Theatre.

With book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and, music by Stephen Flaherty, Once On This Island is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love: or, The Peasant Girl.  Based in the French Antilles, the story is a tropical take on The Little Mermaid with a touch of Romeo and Juliet added to the tale.

Once On This Island: Michael Gnansounou and Brianna Clark
Photo: Tina Clellan

Once On This Island tells the story orphan peasant girl Ti Mourne, one of the villagers who worship the island’s four gods; earth, water, love & death. The gods are looked upon for guidance while they control life, love and death.  On the other side of the island the wealthy French grands hommes look down upon the peasants but Ti Mourne finds love and plans to unite the island with her love of Daniel Beauxhomme, the son of a grands homme who crashes his car near Ti Mourne’s village during a rainstorm.

A lively score and a mix of energetic and soulful island ballads fill the musical with a tropical feeling.  In this ambitious Fabulist Theatre production, directed by Damon Bradley Jang, has cast Brianna Clark as Ti Mourne.  The high school student is a standout amongst the large cast, possessing a charismatic, lovely voice and lights up the stage with her smile. In his stage debut, Michael Gnansounou makes a charming leading man as Daniel Beauxhomme.

The limitations of the smaller review stage created congestion onstage with the sets and large cast taking up precious space, resulting in ensemble members bumping into each other during the dance numbers and some rather clumsy looking scenery changes.  The size of the theatre also plays a hand in some of the other technical issues, the band sounds amazing but overwhelms the vocals a number of times, making the story hard to follow.  A few actors’ microphones slipped out of place as well making them only audible for those nearby.  In spite of those technical difficulties, which will surely be worked out over the run of the show, Fabulist Theatre presents an uplifting, sunny look at culture clashes, diversity, love and death.

Fabulist Theatre’s Once On This Island plays at the Red Gate Review Stage April 12, 13 & 14, 2018.  Tickets are available on brownpapertickets.com.

Fun Home grows up on The Arts Club stage

The 2015 Tony Award winning Best Musical, Fun Home makes its Canadian debut on The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island stage. Based on the graphic autobiography by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, and directed by Lois Anderson, Fun Home features the adult Alison (Sara-Jeanne Hosie) trying to overcome a bout of writer’s block.  While looking back into the moments of her life she unlocks dormant memories and feelings of childhood, growing up and coming out and most importantly her relationship with her father.

The 10 year old, tomboy, Small Alison, played in a powerhouse performance by Jaime MacLean, imagines life to be like a Partridge Family episode but her obsessive compulsive father, Bruce (Eric Craig) has other ideas.  The historic home restorer, English teacher, FUNeral HOME director runs a tight ship at home and work while fighting his own personal battles. In hindsight, adult Alison can see the cracks in her fathers veneer, living in a small town during the era of the ‘love that dare not speak its name’, he occassionally gives in to his gay urges, at times dangerously steps into predatory territory.

When she heads to college,  the Medium Alison (played by Kelli Ogmundson)  comes out to herself and her family as a lesbian.  As her father grows more manic, her mother, Helen, played by Janet Gigliotti, reveals that she isn’t the perfect sitcom mom that Alison envisioned, instead she did her best to tolerate her husband’s affairs with men and the humiliation of him being caught with underage boys.  Believing her coming out was a trigger for her father’s mental state she finally unlocks her memories and puts the puzzle pieces of his life, together with her own and overcomes her writer’s block as their stories have poured out of her pencil onto the pages.

In a time when the LGBT community has made great gains in visibility, Fun Home reminds us that not long ago things were very different for the generations before us.  While Fun Home takes the audience on an emotional journey, Lisa Kron’s book and lyrics, with music by Jeanine Tesori, are able to bring in lighthearted moments to balance.
All the performers, the youth and adult actors and musicians, in this production of Fun Home shine.  Amir Ofek’s set makes us feel at home inside the historic Bechdel home, complimented by Amy McDougall’s costumes that those of us who grew up in a similar era will remember (somewhat) fondly.

Fun Home plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage until March 10th. Visit artsclub.com for tickets and times.

The Art Club Ashlie Corcoran announces 2018-19 season

This week, The Arts Club Theatre Company announced the shows coming for the 2018-2019 season.  As we reach the midpoint of the current season, the final season for long-time Artistic Director Bill Millerd’s before he retires, the incoming Artistic Director Ashlie Corcoran is making her mark on the future of the Arts Club.

“For this new season, I seek to build on the legacy of Bill Millerd, continuing his remarkable work through eclectic programming that celebrates local talent, offers opportunities for emerging artists, and strengthens diversity. With these goals in mind, I’ve curated eleven plays by Canadians, eleven by women, seven by BC artists, and four by artists of colour or Indigenous artists.” says Ms Corcoran.  The season also includes remounts of some Arts Club favourites, a number of partnerships with other Canadian theatre companies including the announcement of Hardline Theatre as the 2018-19 resident company.

The full Arts Club Theatre Company 2018-2019 Season includes:

STANLEY INDUSTRIAL ALLIANCE STAGE

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time: by Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon
Multiple Olivier and Tony Award winning mystery
September 6–October 7, 2018 

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage
A working-class drama and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner
October 18–November 18, 2018
Canadian premiere; in partnership with Citadel Theatre 

Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton
A remount of last year’s hit presentation of Disney’s beloved fairy-tale musical
December 1, 2018–January 6, 2019 

The Matchmaker, by Thornton Wilder
A classic farce that provided the source material for the musical Hello Dolly!
January 24–February 24, 2019

The Orchard (After Chekhov), by Sarena Parmar
Set in the Okanagan Valley, a Canadian take on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
March 21–April 21, 2019 

Matilda The Musical, book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, from the novel by Roald Dahl
Multiple award-winning hit musical based on the Roald Dahl story
May 16–July 14, 2019
In partnership with Citadel Theatre and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

GRANVILLE ISLAND STAGE

Mustard, by Kat Sandler
An unconventional comedy about growing up
September 20–October 20, 2018
In partnership with Belfry Theatre

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
The festive season Pride and Prejudice follow-up
November 15–December 30, 2018 

The Shoplifters, by Morris Panych
A hilariously biting story about society’s haves and have-nots
February 7–March 9, 2019 

Bed and Breakfast, by Mark Crawford
A charming comedy about the ‘inns’ and being out in a small town
April 4–May 4, 2019

Mom’s The Word: Nest ½ Empty, by the Mom’s the Word Collective
What happens when the kids fly the coop?
June 6–July 20, 2019
Third show in the Mom’s the Word series; remount of 2017 Arts Club premiere

GOLDCORP STAGE AT THE BMO THEATRE CENTRE

Blind Date, a spontaneous theatre creation by Rebecca Northan
One actor + One audience member = A Blind Date Like No Other
November 22–December 30, 2018 

True Crime, by Torquil Campbell (of the band, Stars) and Chris Abraham
A genre-mixing examination of a conman
January 31–February 24, 2019 

Redpatch, by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver
A historical drama about a young Métis soldier & his company
March 7–31, 2019
In partnership with Citadel Theatre and Hardline Productions, our 2018–2019 Resident Company 

The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee
American basketball historically goes to China
April 25–May 19, 2019
A Canadian premiere

Midtwenties Theatre Society goes Above The Hospital

photo: Chris Cho

Midtwenties Theatre Society and Red Gates Art Society present the new play Above The Hospital, until January 21st at Red Gates Review Stage on Granville Island.  The new production is the first written by director Beau Han Bridge, founder of Midtwenties Theatre Society.

As with Midtwenties Theatre Society’s debut, This Is Our Youth, Beau Han Bridge continues with millennial themes in Above The Hospital.  This time a young couple are forced to take a hard look at their lives and choices that come from choosing to live in expensive Vancouver.  As much about aspirations as broken dreams, Above The Hospital demonstrates how the frustration of living on a thread of a budget can bubble over into anger and anxiety.

Cameron & Lauren
Photo: Chris Cho

While those of us not of this generation may not relate to everything the young characters are going through, we’ve all harboured youthful hopes and dreams.  The cast of Above The Hospital seemingly represent all the stages of youth; Cameron is dreaming of being a recording star, girlfriend Lauren is the practical one, friend Abbey is a slightly flighty earth mother,  artist Bo is the success story, and young Michael is the ‘baby’ of the group.

The bones of Beau Han Bridge’s story show the potential in the young playwright’s ability, telling ‘millennial’ stories without being prejudged by or alienating other demographics is a delicate balance.

The 75 minute first act starts slowly but builds and reaches a dramatic climax but the 20 minute second act, acting as an epilogue to the main act, feels a bit rushed and leaves just as much unanswered as answered.
In the production we watched, most of the performances were strong especially from Mira Maschmeyer (Lauren) who carries a lot of dialogue, delivered with clarity and emotion and Zack Currie (Bo) who again demonstrates the strength he showed as a lead in This Is Our Youth.  Aaron Paul Stewart brings a surprising amount of character to role of Michael in spite of few lines.  Tristan Smith’s Cameron gives a taste of actor’s singing abilities but his delivery of his ample dialogue pales when opposite Maschmeyer’s Lauren.  Oftentimes, Smith cannot be heard clearly or at all, as he spends much of the show facing the back of the stage, and the rest of the time is smoking. On opening night, Smith appeared to forget his lines, Mira and he cover this flub well enough to make us wonder if it scripted or not, showing how comfortable they are becoming in the characters.  The rest of the cast appeared equally comfortable with their characters, however, with such rapid-fire dialogue the actor’s enunciation plays a vital role in their role. Nadya Debogorski’s Abbey suffered from such fast-paced speech that she seemed to speak over herself.  Being so hard to understand, the character fell to the wayside especially being paired with the charismatic Zack Currie’s Bo as her boyfriend.  Overall, Above The Hospital, is a slice of life in Vancouver that’s sure to resonate with many locals who will enjoy the inside jokes and digs at the city’s pros and cons.

Above The Hospital plays nightly at 7pm at Red Gates Revue Stage on Granville Island until January 21, 2018.  Purchase tickets $20 online at mtstheatre.com. 
Note: The show contains graphic language, simulated sexual content, some violence, drinking and drug use with non-toxic smoke throughout.

Arts Club remounts hit play Onegin for 2017.

Last season, The Arts Club Theatre Company debuted Onegin, an ambitious new work based on the verse Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin and the opera by Tchaikovsky.   This season, the cast remains the same but the home of Onegin changes to Granville Island for a run until December 31st.

Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille have written the book, music, and lyrics that covers all the emotions in the two hour show; light-hearted comedy, romance, drama, tragedy.  The musical is mostly sung-through with very little dialogue and most of that dialogue is directed at the audience, when the players break the fourth wall. The pop-rock infused songs are strong enough to stand alone, and with the band (Jennifer Moersch, Barry Mirochnick & Marguerite Witvoet) onstage throughout, suggest the whole show could be performed in concert without set or costumes and still be brilliant.  However, Drew Facey’s set filled with chandeliers, books and candles and Jacqueline Firkins’ Imperial Russian costumes do great work to place Onegin in 19th century St. Petersburg, Russia.

The whole theatre is the stage as players regularly step into the aisles to interact and bring the audience even closer to the production.  Sharing laughter, drinks, chit chat and passing notes, the casual atmosphere is like a visit with friends that you don’t want to end, the two hour show passes all too quickly.  In their second season in these roles the actors and characters mesh as one, allowing them to deliver the adlibs and scripted lines with equal comfort.  The cast is filled with veterans of Vancouver stage and screen and no one performer stands out because they are all equally brilliant in delivering one of the best new shows that has crossed our stages in recent years.

Onegin plays at The Arts Club Theatre’s Granville Island Stage until December 31, 2017.  Visit artsclub.com for tickets and more information.