Disney’s Newsies Seize The Day & Hearts at TUTS 2019

After soaking rain all day, the skies cleared just in time for Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) opening night of Disney’s Newsies, of the 2019 season.

The cast of Disney’s Newsies photo: Lindsay Elliott

The stars, moon and birds came out to help Disney’s Newsies reach for the sky. Starting from their ‘penthouse in the sky’ the production is packed with thrilling dance numbers, soaring tunes and a timeless (and timely) message for the whole family. Based on the 1992 movie musical, Disney’s Newsies is inspired by the real-life New York Newsboys Strike of 1899. In New York City an army of ragged orphans and runaways called ‘newsies’ delivered the ‘papes’ but when newspaper owners raise distribution prices at the newsies’ expense, the newsies unites and rally other child labourers to strike against the unfair and unsafe conditions. Battling the owners and their manipulation of the news, the newsies contend with corruption, prejudices and fake news.

Julia Ullrich as “Katherine Plumber” and Adam Charles as “Jack Kelly.” photo: Lindsay Elliott

The Disney’s Newsies cast is lead by a brilliant Adam Charles, playing Jack Kelly the charismatic leader of the newsies. Cole Smuland plays Crutchie, Jack’s crutch-wielding best friend and fellow newsie. Joined by Daniel Curalli and Jordyn Bennett as Davey and Les Jacobs, sibling newsies also befriended by Jack, with Davey helping unionise their fellow newsies.  Jovanni Sy makes his TUTS debut as publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer and Julia Ullrich returns for her third season as young journalist, Katherine Plumber who reports on the newsies’ strike and strikes Jack’s fancy.

Front Row L-R: Daniel Curalli as “Davey Jacobs,” Adam Charles as “Jack Kelly,” Caitlin McMaster as Ensemble Member, plus the cast of Disney’s Newsies photo: Lindsay Elliott

Anthemic and inspiring songs like; Seize The Day, King of New York, Santa Fe, Carrying the Banner, and The World Will Know, help the newsies win over the audience to their cause. Just as the film was choreographer Kenny Ortega’s directorial debut, award-winning choreographer/dancer Julia Tomaino makes her TUTS directorial debut as well as choreographing the productions stunning dance segments. In addition, Fight Directors Mike Kovac and Ryan Mcneill Bolton, have created intricate dance-like brawls that make you root for the newsies even more. Just as Jack and the other newsies find their confidence, the productions moves from strength to strength leaving the audience ready to get up and seize the day!

Disney’s Newsies plays on alternating nights with Mamma Mia! at Theatre Under The Stars in Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park until August 17th, find showtimes and tickets online at tuts.ca

TUTS 2019 Opens with Mamma Mia!

With rain clouds hanging overhead, guests at Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) had a hard time seeing the stars on opening night of Mamma Mia!. However, a little rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the ABBA-inspired musical, directed by TUTS veteran, Shel Piercy.

Donna & The Dynamos
Front Row L-R: Lori Ashton Zondag as “Tanya,” Caitriona Murphy as “Donna Sheridan,” Sheryl Anne Wheaton as “Rosie.”
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Set on a Greek Isle, at the Summer Nights Taverna at Villa Donna, run by former rock chick, Donna Sheridan (Caitriona Murphy). Mamma Mia! centres on Donna’s daughter Sophie (Keira Jang) wedding to Sky (Joshua Lalisan) and her quest to discover herself by finding her father. Instead, she find a possible three fathers, Harry Bright played by Stefan Winfield , Matt Ramer as Bill Austin, and Peter Monaghan as Sam Carmichael. Along the way, a frazzled, emotional Donna is supported by her besties and former bandmates from “Donna and the Dynamos” Rosie (Sheryl Anne Wheaton) and Tanya (Lori Ashton Zondag).

“Wait 20 years for a dad, then 3 come along at once” Front Row L-R: Stefan Winfield as “Harry Bright,” Peter Monaghan as “Sam Carmichael,” Chris M. Ward as “Pepper,” Matt Ramer as “Bill Austin.” photo: Lindsay Elliott

Always a crowd favourite, the sing-along friendly, fun-filled musical comes with few surprises for most, but those who have only experienced the movie will find a different order and more music packed into the 2.5 hour production. ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Take a Chance on Me,’ ‘Super Trouper,’ ‘SOS’, ‘Waterloo’ and more fan faves keep the audience entranced! The only small question-mark was a decision by the production to have a number of the characters speaking, and singing, in different accents seemed unnecessary and distracting, as some actors appeared to stumble over their drifting accent.

The cast of Mamma Mia! photo: Lindsay Elliott

In typical Vancouverite fashion the rain didn’t seem to bother the audience, TUTS handed out rain-ponchos for those without rain gear. Francesca Albertazzi’s beautiful set really felt like Greek taverna with a sunny piazza had come to life on stage, and made us forget the rain. The weather did appear to cause an adjustment to the stage blocking, with the ensemble trying to stay under the covered area of the stage the set seemed a bit crowded during the large production numbers.

As the saying goes, come rain, come shine, the show must go on, and the company of Mamma Mia! certainly did put on a show to entertain the audience and bring a bit of Mediterranean sun to a dreary Wet Coast evening.

Mamma Mia! plays on alternating nights with Disney’s Newsies at Theatre Under The Stars in Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park until August 17th, find showtimes and tickets online at tuts.ca

TUTS 2019 Season Welcomes Mamma Mia! & Disney’s Newsies

This summer, audiences can escape to the warmth of a Greek island and witness a fight for what’s right on the gritty streets of NYC, as Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS)  presents Mamma Mia! and Disney’s Newsies, from July 5–August 17, 2019, at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.

“Last year, more than 40,000 musical theatre fans came through our gates and we hope to welcome even more in 2019 with two fabulous productions that will leave audiences buoyant with cheer,” says TUTS Board President Naveen Kapahi. “This summer is all about inspiration, with two musicals that will lift hearts in entirely unique ways. Mamma Mia! may very well be the most joyful musical ever created, bringing love and light to everyone who experiences it. Disney’s Newsies is a fiery true tale of conviction, where a scrappy group of underdogs sets spirits aflame by standing up and fighting for what is right.”

TUTS has been entertaining Vancouver audiences since 1940, the 2019 season is no exception as it adds two more musicals to the TUTS legacy.

Set on a Greek island paradise, the record-breaking Broadway and box-office hit Mamma Mia! is filled with laughter, dancing, and ABBA’s hit songs like; ‘Dancing Queen,’ ‘Take a Chance on Me,’ ‘Super Trouper,’ ‘SOS,’ and more. Guiding audiences to the sunny paradise in his return to the director’s chair is TUTS Board Vice President and Production Committee Chair Shel Piercy. 

Based on the 1992 film, Disney’s Newsies is a soaring spectacle of powerful song and high-kicking dance, packed with non-stop action and a timeless message for the whole family. Set at the turn of the 20th century, based on the New York City Newsboys strike of 1899. Filled with inspiring songs such as ‘King of New York,’ ‘Santa Fe,’ and ‘Carrying the Banner,’ this Disney film turned Tony Award-winning Broadway hit inspires everyone to seize the day! Julie Tomaino will make her TUTS directorial debut with this entertaining show.

TUTS two-show subscription packs — allowing audiences to secure their seats to both productions for one great price are on sale until tomorrow May 4. Single show tickets go on sale May 15th. Visit tuts.ca or call 604-631-2877 for subscriptions now.

TUTS takes us to 42nd Street

The 2018 season of Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is now open with 42nd Street alternating nights at Malkin Bowl, in Stanley Park with Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

The company of 42nd Street
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Directed by Robert McQueen, 42nd Street is a show within a show jukebox musical that takes us back to 1930s Broadway.  A familiar selection of standards and showtunes are (very) loosely strung together by a behind-the-scenes story of the production of a Broadway show. The tried and true story of the small town girl looking to break into showbiz, follows fresh off the train Peggy Sawyer (Paige Fraser) making her way into the new Broadway musical, the show within the show, Pretty Lady. Acclaimed director Julian Marsh (Andrew Cownden) needs a hit to recover from his Stock Market Crash losses, star Dorothy Brock (Janet Gigliotti) needs to prove she’s not past her prime, even though she’s still very good at playing the diva in real life.

Paige Fraser (Peggy), Blake Sartin (Billy Lawlor)
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Along the way Dorothy is juggling paramours, then breaks her foot, Tenor Billy Lawlor is hoping to date Peggy, who is fired, hired, fired and rehired by Julian during the course of 42nd Street.
While the story is familiar and predictable, the cast is likeable and makes the most of the, schmaltzy, depression-era dialogue. Fraser and Gigliotti each deliver strong vocals and are perfectly paired on their duet About A Quarter To Nine.  Cownden performs with a single-minded toughness like he’s stepped right out of a gangster film,  but manages to make Marsh endearing.

Blake Sartin (Billy Lawlor, left) with the cast of 42nd Street
photo: Lindsay Elliott

The show really comes to life in the brilliantly choreographed, by Shelley Stewart Hunt, production numbers.  With up to 30 cast members onstage lending a Busby Berkley-esque feel to the tap routines, the cacophony of the taps beating a rhythm to the catchy tunes, like We’re In The Money, Lullaby of Broadway, and 42nd Street, really lift the excitement of the show.

The tap dancers onstage won’t be the only ones with their feet in motion, the production will leave you tapping and humming along throughout your journey to 42nd Street at Theatre Under The Stars.
42nd Street runs until August 17, 2018 at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. Find tickets online at tuts.ca.

TUTS opens with a new Cinderella

The 2018 season of Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is now open with Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella alternating nights at Malkin Bowl, in Stanley Park with 42nd Street.

Mallory James as Ella
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella brings the familiar story to the stage, with a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, written for the 2013 Broadway production. Without taking away from the classic, the updated book freshens the story, making Cinderella a more independent young woman, interested in the world and others around her. Marrying a prince for the sake of status has moved further down the list of benefits.  The book and Sarah Rodgers’ direction play up some of the traditional plot points for humour and to make a point about the modernization of the story.

As Ella, Mallory James brings a hopeful innocence and fine singing voice to the character’s dialogue and songs, and thanks to newly introduced character of Jean-Michel, a worldly rabble rouser, set on bringing change to the authoritarian reign of the regent. In another change from the usual story, one of the step-sisters, Gabrielle, is kinder to Ella and secretly in love with Jean-Michel.

Caitlin Clugston (Madame), Mallory James (Ella), Amanda
Lourenco (Charlotte), Vanessa Merenda (Gabrielle)
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Of course, Cinderella wouldn’t be complete without a villain, Caitlin Clugston as Madame, Ella’s stepmother, brilliantly bites into the role with her wicked digs aimed at keeping Ella in her place with a flourish of maniacal laughter thrown in for good measure.  Laura Cowan’s Fairy Godmother balances the wickedness with a sweet performance Disney would have approved.  In contrast to James’ traditional vocals, Cotten has a more contemporary, pop delivery, and while he charms the audience it doesn’t quite feel like he charms Ella, leaving the romance a bit flat.  Amanda Lourenco as the vapid, clumsy stepsister Charlotte, and Caleb Lagayan’s Lord Pinkleton, bring a stand-out note of comedy to their roles.

Tré Cotten(Topher) & Mallory James(Ella)
photo: Lindsay Elliott

Choreographer Nicol Spinola makes excellent use of the TUTS stage to create the grand scale of all the court coming together for The Ball and set designer Brian Ball simple design creates a castle, town, forest, and Ella’s home inside and out, as much onstage as in our imaginations.  Costumes and props make a couple odd choices that seem to stand out, awkwardly.  Asian-style red paper lanterns appear during royal celebrations.  Prince Topher wears a dashiki for formal occasions, and gives a “Black Panther” style salut to the crowd, which feel like they’re jumping on the Marvel film’s bandwagon rather than highlighting the diversity of the players.

Those very minor quibbles do little to take away from the two hours of fun, and enjoyment presented by Theatre Under The Stars.
Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella runs until August 18, 2018 at Malkin Bowl. Find tickets online at tuts.ca

Picks of the Week – September 13, 2017

Already mid-September and our last full week of Summer is ahead so let’s make the most of these picks of the week to see the season off.

Caps:  Our Whitecaps FC play the second of a four match homestand when they host Minnesota United FC tonight at BC Place.

Park:  Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, welcomes Seattle’s Fleet Foxes tonight, then on Friday Bonobo takes the stage and July Talk with The Zolas wrap up the outdoor stage season on Saturday

Folk: English folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls bring their sounds to the stage at the Commodore Ballroom Wednesday night.

Shakespeare:  There’s just a few nights to catch the contemporary work, Shylock at Bard on the Beach before it closes on Friday the 15th while Much Ado About Nothing and The Winter’s Tale, The Merchant of Venice and Two Gentlemen of Verona continue until September 23rd.

Fringe: The Vancouver Fringe Festival  continues to bring cutting edge works to the stages and venues around Granville Island until Sunday, September 17th

Stand-Up: Thursday, Comedian Chris Rock brings his Total Blackout – The Tour 2017 to the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre for the only Canadian stop on the tour.

Art: Vancouver artist David Wilson‘s Instagram inspired exhibition “Interrupting the Interface” runs at Kimoto Gallery until September 30th.

Broadway: The classic Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music comes to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until Sunday.

WhitecapsAlumni: Saturday, before the Whitecaps play Columbus Crew, the 2017 Alumni Match brings an impressive line-up of Legends and Stars to play BC Place supporting BC Children’s Hospital.

 

 

 

The Drowsy Chaperone wakes up Theatre Under The Stars

For its 71st season, Theatre Under The Stars welcomes the Tony Award winning musical The Drowsy Chaperone to the stage.   Alternating with Mary Poppins, the slapstick musical parody is a hilarious good time.

Man In Chair listens to the 1928 musical The Drowsy Chaperone cast.
photo: Tim Matheson

The Drowsy Chaperone is a play- within-a-play format, opening on the single room apartment of a downtrodden musical-theatre lover (Shawn MacDonald, playing a perfectly relatable every-man) who perks himself up by taking to his chair and listening to a recording of his favourite musical, 1928’s The Drowsy Chaperone, sharing his love and insight of the show with the audience. Once the record plays we’re all taken back to the 1928 performance of The Drowsy Chaperone, a rip roaring prohibition-era good time.  If you’re a musical lover you’ll relate to the Man In Chair as he sings and dances along to his favourite bits from the musical, imparting his indepth knowledge about the cast and stars of the Jazz Age.

Shawn Macdonald as Man In Chair
photo: Tim Matheson

The Drowsy Chaperone began life in Toronto in the late 90s as a musical spoof written by Don McKellar, Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison for the stag party of their friends Janet van de Graaf and Bob Martin, both award-winning comedians and writers in their own right.  After the party, Martin joined the trio in fleshing out the musical into what we now know.   The lead character of the show-within-the-show retain the original names, Robert McKellar and Janet van de Graaf, and the show centres around their wedding day…on the way to the alter various musical tropes are used and abused to hilarious effect.  Man in Chair reveals how the plot of the 1928 show becomes more convoluted and funny with the many attempts to fit in every 1920s stereotype possible.

Shannon Hanbury as Janet & Stuart Barkley as Robert
photo: Tim Matheson

The performance I saw started off with some technical difficulties due to a power outage, which saw the cast having to get halfway through the first number without mics before being called off stage to restart the equipment. The restart showed the comedy skills of some of the performers, smartly making light of the replay in ad libbed lyrics.  The cast at TUTS is filled with stand out performers, the always classy-act, Caitriona Murphy plays the title character Drowsy Chaperone, bridesmaid to Janet. Shannon Hanbury plays Janet with maximum glamour and camp while Stuart Barkley’s Robert has the perfect matinee idol looks which combine with a talented song and dance man.  The dancing and comedic timing of the duo of Kai Bradbury and Nicholas Bradbury as the Gangsters stand out as well as they bounce around the B Plot, involving starlet Janet’s Follies produce attempts to hijack the wedding.

It wasn’t until the end of the performance that I realized that I’d been smiling and laughing for the entire 2 hours, and judging by the huge peels of laughter around the audience, The Drowsy Chaperone struck a chord with everyone.

The Drowsy Chaperone is onstage at Theatre Under The Stars, at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, alternating with Mary Poppins until August 19th. Tickets available online at tuts.ca