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

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

TUTS – West Side Story

WestSideStory_39A5947d_resized

Theatre Under The Stars has returned to Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park for its 76th season, with West Side Story and Beauty And The Beast alternating nights until August 20th.

 

Tony & Maria
Tony & Maria

West Side Story, is filled with so many iconic songs by Leonard Berstein (score) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), that the story, based on Romeo and Juliet, can seem incidental.  Jets Song, Maria, Tonight, America, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere, Gee Officer Krumpke all elicit great cheer and humming along.  Director Sarah Rodgers weaves the story, songs and dance successfully to create this TUTS production.

Anita & Maria
Anita & Maria

Even if some of the book tends to be a bit dated, the story of racial tensions and public and police prejudices resonates with today’s headlines.   Riff played by Daniel James White leads The Jets against Alen Dominquez as Bernardo and The Sharks, both believably angry in their loathing of the other.  With White easily carrying the weight of the chip on his shoulder for the first act.

Matt Montgomery’s Tony, trying to get out of the gang life, has an engaging stage presence and nice vocals (although not pitch-perfect throughout), that shows he’s one to watch in future.  The same can be said for the wide-eyed innocence and powerful vocals of Jennifer Gillis as Maria.  With a range like Kristin Chenoweth, there are moments of perfect harmony and chemistry between the star-crossed lovers.   As Anita, the quality and experience of Alexandra Lainfiesta shines especially in her showpiece America and her emotional torment later in the second act.
With up to 35 cast members onstage and the conductor pit encroaching into the middle, there are times that the choreography feels crowded but the cast recreate Jerome Robbins’ stylistic original choreography, successfully mirrored by choreographer Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg.  Brian Ball’s simple but creative industrial set design multitasks as the various locations while allowing the actors to take centerstage.

Theatre Under The Star’s West Side Story, provides an emotional but uplifting evening of song and dance.  West Side Story plays alternate odd evenings at 8pm at Theatre Under The Stars in Malkin Bowl.