It’s A Wonderful Life brings music to Gateway Theatre

Gateway Theatre brings the holiday tradition, It’s A Wonderful Life, to the stage, until December 31, 2018.

Based on Frank Capra’s 1946 film, Peter Jorgensen has adapted a new musical production with music from the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s by some of the greatest songwriters of the period, from George and Ira Gershwin to Kurt Weill.  The Gateway Theatre also brings a wonderful 10-piece orchestra, conducted by Angus Kellett, onstage to fill the theatre with the live sounds of the holiday favourites and Broadway classics. 

Jorgensen has created a playlist for It’s A Wonderful Life that is bookended by the familiar Christmas carol “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” and “Auld Lang Syne”, and in between a selection of tunes that will be familiar to some, and brand new to others.  Nico Rhodes’ arrangements and orchestrations are lush and help to create the mood of the scenes, the songs’ lyrics fit with the spirit of the scene but don’t necessarily do much to move the already slow story along.  As with the film, the story is a slow burn, at once nostalgic but also melancholy, until the last scenes reveal with the heartfelt message about family and friends.

The story starts with George Bailey’s (Nick Fontaine) life at a crossroads and recaps what leads him to this point. Fontaine has a commanding stage presence and voice, but rather than making George Bailey his own, it felt like he was trying to emulate the great Jimmy Stewart. While he found a similar voice to Stewart, he didn’t quite nail the emotional range, instead seemed to be perpetually perturbed.  As George’s wife, Mary, Studio 58 student Erin Palm is a stand-out in her Gateway debut, charismatic and possessing a voice beautifully suited for the standards. Just like we could all use an angel on our shoulders, It’s A Wonderful Life was at its best when Clarence, the Angel, played by Greg Armstrong-Morris, was involved.  Armstrong-Morris brought a fun, kind-hearted portrayal of the wingless angel.  Gateway Theatre’s Artistic Director Jovanni Sy does triple-duty as George Bailey’s father, the sheriff of Bedford Falls and the villainous Mr Potter.  The evil Potter allowed Sy to have some fun with the egomaniacal character, he just needed a moustache to twirl.

Fans of It’s A Wonderful Life, the film, will find something new to add to their holiday repertoire with this new musical adaptation.  It’s A Wonderful Life, the musical plays at Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond, until December 31, 2018.

 

Vancouver Christmas Concerts for 2018 Holidays

Christmas and music go hand in hand;  carols, hymns and cantatas, bring spirit to the Season.  Home calendars are filled with school and church concerts.  To help you get in the spirit of song, here’s a list of concerts around Vancouver to make your season bright;

Handel’s Messiah: 
December 7, 2018: Orpheum Theatre with Vancouver Chamber Choir
December 8, 2018: Bell Performing Arts Centre with Vancouver Bach Choir with Surrey City Orchestra

51st Annual Singing Christmas Tree: 
December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 2018 at Broadway Church

Making Spirits Bright with Vancouver Men’s Chorus 
December 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 2018: St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Winter Harp Celtic Ensemble:
December 12-13, 2018 at Blue Shore Financial Performing Arts Centre, Capilano University, North Vancouver
December 15, 2018: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver
December 16-17, 2018: The ACT Arts Centre, Maple Ridge

Maureen Washington with Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir

Good Tidings with Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir:
December 14-15, 2018 at Christ Church Cathedral
December 17, 2018 at St John’s Shaughnessy

Christmas with Chor Leoni:
December 14, 16, 17, 2018 at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver
December 15, 2018 at West Vancouver United Church, West Vancouver

VSO Traditional Christmas Concerts: 
December 13, 2018 at Kay Meek Arts Centre, West Vancouver
December 14, 2018 at Centennial Theatre, North Vancouver
December 15, 2018 at Bell Performing Arts Centre, Surrey
December 16, 2018 at Michael J. Fox Theatre, Burnaby
December 20-22, 2018 at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver

Early Music Vancouver’s Festive Cantatas: A Monteverdi Christmas Vespers:
December 23, 2018 at Chan Centre for Performing Arts at UBC

 

 

Youth Gives A Christmas Story : The Musical, A Leg Up

The youthful cast of Align Entertainment’s A Christmas Story: The Musical.
photo: Robert Sondergaard

Align Entertainment kicks off the Holiday theatre season with A Christmas Story : The Musical.  The joyful musical is based on the film version of Jean Shepard’s semi-autobiographical anecdotal book In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. The 1983 holiday classic comes to life with book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the award-winning songwriting duo behind La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman.

Set in the 1940s, A Christmas Story: The Musical opens on Jean Shepard’s Manhattan radio show, and takes us back to his youth and recollections of Ralphie Parker’s burning desire to find a ‘Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Model BB Gun with a compass in the stock and a thing that tells time’ under the Christmas tree. Along the way we meet the the Parker family; younger brother Randy, Mother and “the Old Man”, and Ralphie’s school friends and foes.

From left: Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy), Stef Stanley (Mother), Owen Scott (Ralphie), and Brennan Cuff (The Old Man).
photo: Robert Sondergaard

The musical brings all the familiar scenes from the film version to life; snowsuits,  Scut Farkus the school bully, Flick sticking his tongue to flag pole, The Old Man’s ‘major award’ – the famed leg lamp, Ralphie’s pink bunny suit, a tastefully updated Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant and of course, the visit to Santa to ask for the Red Ryder BB Gun.

While Trent Glukler as Jean Shepard, Brennan Cuff as The Old Man, Stefanie Stanley as Mother and Amanda Russell as teacher, Mrs Shields anchor the show with their solid vocals and characterizations of the ‘grown ups’, it’s the younger actors who steal A Christmas Story.  Lead by a charming Owen Scott as Ralphie, Georgiy Rhatushnyak as Randy, the company is filled with many more young actors, allowing co-producer/director Chad Matchette to create a tight, energetic, fun show.

Owen Scott (Ralphie) on table left and Georgiy Rhatushnyak (Randy) on table right.
photo: Robert Sondergaard

In this production, the ability to have up to 30 actors on the Michael J Fox stage, allows choreographer Melissa Turpin to create some fun Busby Berkeley-esque song and dance numbers.  Unfortunately, I feel that some of the fantasy pieces could be reduced or cut altogether, to trim the 2.5 hour run time.  While long, the youth save the day, their energy and joy at being part of A Christmas Story, invigorate the audience.  You can’t help but smile at the wide-eyed innocence portrayed by Owen in his lines and lyrics, bringing to mind the iconic film portrayal by Peter Billingsley, but making the role his own.

The detailed set by Conor Moore and great period costumes, by Maureen Robertson complete the picture and take us back to the 1940s. Having a live orchestra, under director James Bryson, ads extra depth to the performances and fills the theatre with the catchy tunes of Pasek & Paul like; It All Comes Down To Christmas, Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun, Ralphie To The Rescue, and wrapping it all up with A Christmas Story, to send the audience home with a song in their heart and Christmas on the mind.

Align Entertainment’s A Christmas Story : The Musical plays at Michael J Fox Theatre until November 17, 2018. Find tickets and showtimes at alignentertainent.ca 

Lumiere Vancouver brings light to the nights

Just as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end, Lumiere Vancouver returns for a 5th year to light up long Vancouver nights.  This weekend the beloved winter festival brings three nights of interactive art installations land activities to three iconic Vancouver sites: English Bay, Jim Deva Plaza,
šx????n?q Xwtl’e7én? Square, formerly known as the North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

Lumiere – Luna

This year, the festival, with the support of its partners, will feature 17 public artworks created by local and international artists. Like a beacon on the bay, the now iconic Luna the illuminated Orca, returns to Morton Park, at Davie & Denman Streets, lighting the shores of English Bay. Look for Luna to be joined by Stanley, an illuminated 13 foot heron honouring Stanley Park’s Great Blue Heron colony. Both brilliant beasts are created by MK Illumination Canada

New this year, Lumiere expands to the šx????n?q Xwtl’e7én? Square (Art Gallery north), with seven interactive installations to help celebrate the return of Standard Time and the earlier nightfall. The plaza welcomes the public to be inspired, intrigued and interact with the music and light art works.

Public Disco shakes up Davie Village on Saturday November 3 for a night of music and dancing. Featuring a lineup of local DJ’s, hundreds of disco balls and a variety of immersive art works, it will be a night to remember.

Lumiere will kick off tonight, Friday November 2, 2018 and runs until Sunday November 4, 2018 in all three locations. Events take place 5:30 – 10pm nightly. For more information on the featured artists and the full schedule, visit lumiereyvr.com

Backbone Makes You Sit Up & Take Notice

Backbone, now playing at the Vancouver Playhouse, is edge of your seat entertainment!

The Cultch – Backbone
Photo: Carnival Cinema

Presented by The Cultch, Australian circus troupe Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) will literally throw your perceptions of circus out the window.  Like other contemporary circus/physical theatre troupes, GOM tests the boundaries of the human body.  Backbone strips down any flashy sets and theatrics, to put the 10 acrobats and their mesmerizing abilities front and centre.  The company themselves also strip down to start the performance, swapping and changing clothing as they warm up with some tumbling and leaping. The show feels as though organically flows from beginning to end. Although it appears improvisational the movement is like a finely choreographed dance as the acrobats move from skill to skill.  The warm up leads to balance tricks, many in motion as they walk across the stage while stand (up to four performers) tall on others’ heads or shoulders. An extended set of swinging, and tossing of performers high across the stage keeps the audience’s’ eyes busy following all the action.  Backbone is full of brilliant action, I was afraid to miss a single twist, toss or tumble.

The Cultch – Backbone
pic: Darcy Grant

The company fills the Playhouse Theatre with so much energy and fun, the gap between performer and audience shrinks as everyone shifts to the edges of their seats.  The 10 members and 2 musicians, are on stage throughout the 80 minute show, tagging each other in and out of tricks to quickly change, or take a breathe.  The trust and connectivity demonstrated by the company creates sexy, but not sexual, intimacy as the ten performers become one creative movement.  In spite of the rough and raw sets and costumes of Backbone, the fluidity of their skills form a beautiful work.

Backbone will enchant everyone in the family, get your tickets soon.

Gravity and Other Myths’ Backbone, presented by The Cultch, is playing until November  4, 2018 at The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, 600 Hamilton St.
for Showtimes and Tickets visit thecultch.com

Luke Bryan asks What Makes You Country

What Makes You Country Tour – BC Place Stadium – October 13, 2018

This weekend, Luke Bryan‘s What Makes You Country Tour made a stop at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.  The country superstar packed the tour with 4 other support acts, making it like a six hour country festival.  The dinner hour audience was warmed up by Carly Pearce, then Jon Pardi took the stage. In between sets, DJ Rock kept audiences energized and dancing.

Sam Hunt

Once Sam Hunt took the stage, the audience was filling the seats and the energy was filling BC Place to the roof.  The Georgia-born singer-songwriter was welcomed to the stage with a roar, in all-black outfit and ballcap, his swagger gave a hip-hop/pop vibe. Hunt led a singalong as he played his hits “Downtown’s Dead”, “Take Your Time”, “Body Like A Backroad”, “House Party”, and a mid-set Honky Tonk tribute to those country star he grew up listening to; Brooks & Dunn, The Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks.  His easy country/rock style has crossover appeal and he worked the audience to make sure everyone was on the Sam Hunt bandwagon.

Luke Bryan

The stadium was packed and roaring as headliner Luke Bryan took the stage with “Country Girl (Shake is for me)” which definitely prompted a lot of Vancouver girls, and guys, to shake it for him.  The affable platinum-selling country superstar worked the whole stage reaching as many of the audience he could.  While it was noticeable that something was troubling Luke, and he mentioned suffering from local allergies, his vocals didn’t seem troubled at all. His charm and energy shone throughout the set, high-energy tracks balanced with sweet acoustic ballads. After a rousing cover of Alabama’s “Mountain Music”, Bryan slowed it down with the audience favourite “Drink A Beer”. “Play It Again” and appropriate for Vancouver “Rain Is A Good Thing” closed out the main set.

Audience Fave: Drink A Beer

Even for those of us who didn’t attend the whole 6 hours of performances,  Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan alone definitely left the audience satisfied.  The What Make You Country Tour has just two more dates, wrapping up nearly a year’s worth of shows, in Rochester and Detroit.

 

Music on Main brings Modulus Festival 2018

Music on Main invites you to immerse yourself in the 2018 Modulus Festival from November 2 – 6, 2018.

Acclaimed music and sounds will fill The Roundhouse, The Post at 750 and CBC Studio 700 over the five day festival. A collaborative festival, Modulus brings together other Arts organizations from near and far to mount the series of great events. DOXA, Coastal Jazz, Western Front Music, Standing Wave, NOW Society, Driftwood Percussion, Montreal’s Suoni Per Il Popolo, France’s Ensemble Variances and Britain’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival all contribute to Modulus.

Evening and afternoon performances bring concerts, talks, films and even a kitchen party to the stages.  Covering jazz, percussion, classical,  chamber music and more, featured events include a night of music and video with acclaimed pianist Eve Egoyan including Nicole Lizée’s “glitch” inspired piece David Lynch Etudes, a world premiere by Nicole Lizée performed by flutist Claire Marchand and harpist Albertina Chan, composer and vocalist Laura Bowler.

Modulus Festival begins Friday, November 2 at 8pm running to Tuesday, November 6, 2018 at The Roundhouse, The Post at 750 and CBC Studio 700. Events are free and/or ticketed, visit musiconmain.ca for more details and to purchase tickets.