Circle Game : Reimagining the music of Joni Mitchell at Firehall Arts Centre

The songs of Canadian legend Joni Mitchell come to The Firehall Arts Centre in Circle Game : Reimagining the music of Joni Mitchell.

Circle Game photo: Emily Cooper

In celebration of her recent 75th birthday, the revival of Circle Game pays tribute with a couple dozen tunes rearranged and mixed from Joni Mitchell’s iconic songbook. Co-creators Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman forgo any storyline, presenting the music in a series of vignettes built around each song, some with a bit of drama, others feature Kuman’s choreography, while others are straight ahead performances. Like the collection of songs from a decades long career, Carolyn Rapanos’ set design it a beautifully curated display of musical paraphernalia.

Circle Game photo: Emily Cooper

The six multi-talented performers; Samantha Bourque, Kimmy Choi, David Z. Cohen, Benjamin Millman, Scott Perrie and Adriana Ravali, dance, sing and perform all the instrument throughout the 2 hour show. The show takes some time to find its rhythm, but once I stopped trying to find a storyline, I was able to let go and just enjoy each song individually. Andrew Cohen’s arrangements have moments reminiscent of Godspell showtunes, a garage-band’s all out jam sessions, other times acapella, and then parts that felt like a 70’s variety show, bringing something for everyone to the stage. Circle game changes the tempo and pace on many of the classic Mitchell tunes, but some of her most recognizable classics get respectful treatment in the second act, with beautiful renditions of River, Both Sides Now, and Big Yellow Taxi to close the show and leave the audience with the memories of their memories of Joni Mitchell’s legacy.

Circle Game photo: Emily Cooper

Circle Game : Reimagining the music of Joni Mitchell plays at The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova St, until February 9, 2019. Visit firehallartscentre.ca for information, showtimes and tickets.

The Sun Will Come Out when Annie takes the stage

Cast of Align Entertainment’s Annie
photo: Emily Cooper

The Sun Will Come Out when Align Entertainment presents the positively perky adventures of everyone’s favourite little orphan. Annie takes the stage at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby, February 1–16, 2019.  Following the successful fall production of A Christmas Story: The Musical, Align Entertainment closes the 2018/2019 season with the story of that plucky, optimistic red-haired 11-year-old, Annie.

The Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical is set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, throwing into sharp relief the beauty of the spirited character’s hopefulness in dire times. Featuring a fresh cast of young local talent, the production is a heart-warming antidote to the long grey days of winter.

Annie is a touching and timeless musical with a strong core message that money can’t buy you happiness,” says director and co-producer Chad Matchette. “Oliver Warbucks is the richest man in the country and yet his life is unfulfilled until he meets Annie. This delightful little girl reminds us about the power of love and inspires people to hold onto their dreams against all odds.”

The original Broadway production from 1977 is based on Harold Gray’s widely read comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The 1924 comic was popular for its poignant political commentary, and subsequent adaptations maintained this feature. The story follows the adventures of Annie, who longs to find the parents who left her as a baby on the steps of a New York City orphanage. Tired of matron Miss Hannigan’s cruelty, Annie escapes into the city and befriends the abandoned but loveable mutt Sandy. Upon her return, she is selected to spend Christmas with local billionaire Oliver Warbucks. He is soon won over by her bright outlook and even introduces her to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Along the way, Annie helps inspire the New Deal, learns the truth about her parents, and finds a loving home to call her own.  

Annie played by Camryn Macdonald
photo: Emily Cooper

With a book by Thomas Meehan (The Producers, Hairspray) and lyrics by Charles Strouse (Bye Bye Birdie), Annie earned seven Tony Awards and seven Drama Desk Awards, and brought the world the iconic songs “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life” and others. Align Entertainment’s production brings the musical to life with a live 12-piece orchestra under the direction of Kevin Woo and a talented ensemble of a dozen young actors, who were selected from auditions by more than 100 children. 

Several cast members will be making their Align Entertainment debut, including the bright-eyed Camryn Macdonald (Veruca in Delta Youth Theatre’s Willy Wonka Jr.) in the role of Annie and Arne Larsen (Dom Claude Frollo in Secondary Characters’ The Hunchback of Notre Dame) as Oliver Warbucks. Erin Matchette (Mrs. Schwartz in Align’s A Christmas Story) will play Miss Hannigan, and Laura Cowan (Fairy Godmother in Theatre Under the Stars’ Cinderella) will be Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ assistant who first finds Annie. Next week, Align Entertainment begins the Search for Sandy, auditions for the real dog to fill the role of Sandy the dog. If you think your pooch can fill the role, check out alignentertainment.ca for audition information.

Align Entertainment’s Annie runs February 1 – 16, 2019 at Michael J Fox Theatre, 7373 MacPherson Ave. Burnaby

Stretch Into 2019 with Gateway Theatre’s Yoga Play

Following the Holiday run of It’s A Wonderful Life, Gateway Theatre next presents Yoga Play, a contemporary comedy running February 7 – 16, 2019.

Written by Dipika Guha and directed by Gateway’s own Jovanni Sy, Yoga Play takes a satirical look at some strikingly familiar recent events, and what it takes to find authenticity in a world selling enlightenment.  The play tells of Joan, who has been hired to stabilize Jojomon, a yoga apparel giant, after its CEO is brought down by a fat-shaming scandal. But just as she finds her footing, more trouble surfaces and the sales freefall. Jojomon needs an image makeover—and fast. Risking everything on a wild plan, Joan and her colleagues are willing to try anything to save face.

In celebration of the upcoming production, Gateway Theatre is giving you the opportunity to find your own enlightenment, by opening up the theatre lobby to the community for free yoga classes.  Throughout January, take advantage of this opportunity to practice yoga in an unique setting,  possibly with some of the cast members.  Free Hatha Yoga Classes take place Wednesdays, January 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2019, from 8:45am – 9:45am.  Classes will be led by Perfect Hearts Yoga and are suitable for all levels.  Please pre-register for the class(es) you wish to attend and bring your own mat.

January’s free yoga classes, and Yoga Play, onstage February 7 – 16, 2019, at Gateway Theatre, 6500 Gilbert Road, Richmond, visit gatewaytheatre.com/yoga-play for more information, tickets and to register for classes.

Bombay Black returns to the Vancouver stage

In a change from the festive fair on most stages around town, next week The Firehall Arts Centre presents Bombay Black.  

Running December 5 to December 15, 2018, the play by the award-winning novelist and playwright Anosh Irani was heaped with praise during its 2017 production at Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Bombay Black : Arshdeep Purba
Photo: Raymond Kam

Bombay Black is set in the bitter reality of present-day India. The iron-willed Padma (Jessie Award nominee Nimet Kanji) takes money from men who watch her daughter, Apsara (rising star Arshdeep Purba), perform an exotic dance. When a mysterious blind man named Kamal (Jessie Award nominee Munish Sharma) arrives for an appointment, his secret threatens to change each of their lives forever.

Bombay Black (l-r) Munish Sharma & Arshdeep Purba
Photo: Raymond Kam

Directed by Mumbai-born, multiple award-winning Indo-Canadian producer Rohit Chokhani, Bombay Black features a poetic text, bold theatrical imagery and a gritty twist. In a first, Vancouver Arts stalwart Chokhani has reimagined Irani’s work to present the play from the perspective of a blind man. An earlier version of this production, which was Chokhani’s directorial debut at the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival, enjoyed a sold-out run and received the Pick of the Fringe Award.

Donna Spencer had this to say about the production, “As Artistic Producer of the Firehall, I have always been excited about supporting the work of artists from diverse cultural backgrounds and providing opportunities for emerging directors to have their work seen. Rohit Chokhani’s production of Bombay Black provides just that opportunity to showcase his work as a director and to introduce the creative team and actors in the work to our audiences.”

Anosh Irani’s Bombay Black runs at The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova Street, Wednesday, December 5 to Saturday, December 15th, 2018.

For showtimes and tickets visit firehallartscentre.ca

Albireo, A New Musical, Shines

Like it’s namesake star, Albireo, a new work by Annahis Basmadjian, shines with potential. Albireo was brought to the Red Gate Revue Stage by producers Rushed Productions Ltd with support from UBC Players Club.  Liam Lazenby directs a cast of experienced and new to the scene actors and singers to bring Annahis Basmadjian’s light musical-comedy to life.

Telling the story of two estranged brother’s Charon Chambers (Colton Fyfe) and Wriker Writeov (Jed Weiss), who we learn are half-siren/half-human. Orphaned by their siren mother and deaf-father (therefore could not succumb to the siren song), the brothers fended for themselves using their power for a life of crime.  When Chambers took another young human orphan, Holly, under his wing to settle down and raise her, he left behind his brother and their grifter ways.  When Writeov finds Chambers and Holly about to host a party, some comedic and dramatic events occur that push the brothers to work together to save their family.  Realizing that the bonds of family make their power stronger they are able to fend off a rival.

Being sirens, music is a vital part of Chambers and Writeov’s lives and therefore the play.  Basmadjian has crafted some catchy, pop tunes for Alberio and witty dialogue to go along with them.

The actors’ varying skill levels come into play during the performance, creating a uneven rhythm to the musical as the players move between flat out comedy and dramatic portrayals of their characters.  Seasoned musical-theatre performer Colton Fyfe brings a fully developed character and a more dramatic turn to his Chamber.  Whereas, recent graduate Jed Weiss, in his theatre debut, brings an erratic Jim Carey-style to his comedic portrayal of Writeov.  Having more stage experience performing with his band, his singing and guitar playing skills excel.   Some of the ensemble also stand out, for the wrong reasons, lampooning or murmuring too loudly drawing attention to the background.  On a small space, like the Revue stage, it doesn’t take much to distract and requires creativity from the director, managers and cast to avoid excess noise and balanced performance volumes.

While this Rushed Production Ltd production has ended, if we are lucky enough, we will get to see Alberio again with different companies and stages as the musical continues to develop over the year, it definitely has the DNA for success.

Pi Theatre opens the Canadian Premiere of Hir

Pi Theatre’s Hir. l to r: Jordan Fowlie, Andrew Wheeler, Victor Dolhai, Deb Williams. Photo: Emily Cooper

Just as the American Thanksgiving brought families together, laying bare all the dysfunction, family drama, laughter and love that accompanies holiday get togethers, Pi Theatre opens, Hir, a darkly comic exploration of family.  The Canadian premiere of acclaimed American playwright Taylor Mac, Hir runs until December 8, 2018, at Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex. The production explores the dynamics of a suburban family dealing with PTSD, identity crises, and gender politics in a realistically comedic fashion.

“Hir is an outrageously provocative play in the rich tradition of black comedies centered on the dysfunctional American family,” says Pi Theatre Artistic Director Richard Wolfe, who also directs the work. “Mac’s take-no-prisoners satire of family dynamics is very much of our time, interrogating the bumps of transition that we are experiencing as the world turns away from a Western-centric hegemony. Hir examines the conflict between our need for safety and our desire to risk it all to find a better, truer way to live — no matter the collateral damage to those we love. Each of the characters in the play is undergoing profound transformation, just as we are feeling colossal shifts in our cultural and political landscape. Hir puts a deliciously caustic bow on all of it.”

Pi Theatre’s Hir Jordan Fowlie and Victor Dolhai
Photo: Emily Cooper.

Called an “audacious and uproarious black comedy” by The New York Times, the play follows the dishonourably discharged Isaac, returning home from the battlegrounds of Afghanistan to find an equally embattled homefront. His father, Arnold, has suffered a stroke and been rendered incapacitated; his mother, Paige, is finally out from under the thumb of her violently domineering husband; his younger sibling, Max, is a transgender teen out to destabilize the patriarchy. The confluence of Arnold’s disability and Max’s coming out has turned Paige toward a radical feminism that sees her refusing to clean the house in an act of unbridled defiance. She exacts revenge on her husband for years of verbal and physical abuse, humiliating Arnold by force-feeding him estrogen, dressing him as a wild drag clown, and putting him in diapers. While Hir is a manic, absurdist tragicomedy, it is also a wake up call about the need for honest communication. 

Directed by two-time Jessie Award-winning Richard Wolfe, Hir features an extraordinary cast of accomplished performers from across Canada.
Hir is now onstage at
Vancouver Civic Theatre’s Annex, 823 Seymour St, Vancouver. Tickets are on sale at pitheatre.com/hir

Picks of the Week – November 14, 2018

Midway through November, we find the Holiday season picking up pace to bring lots of entertainment and activities to the picks of the week

Ceasefire: Honouring Remembrance Day, The Cultch honours the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice with the continuing Ceasefire Series as the last of three plays exploring the causes, effects, and traumas of war from different lenses wrap up.

Mac: Spend the Evening with Fleetwood Mac as the legendary band visits Rogers Arena tonight, November 14

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

Red Rider: Get in the Spirit of the Season as Align Entertainment brings the holiday classic A Christmas Story: The Musical to the Michael J. Fox Theatre stage in Burnaby, closing November 17, 2018

EnemyThe Enemy at The Firehall Arts Centre is a topical, contemporary interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, running until December 1, 2018

Son: Gateway Theatre remounts, the autobiographical one-man show, Empire of the Son, a son’s tale of an emotionally distant father, closing November 17, 2018

Jazz: Tyrant Studio’s Friday Jazz brings Stephanie Davis with the sounds of Broadway to the Tyrant Studio Lounge upstairs from The Penthouse

Sweat: The Arts Club Theatre Company continues to Sweat at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, until November 18th.

Austen: The Arts Club Holiday Season shows get underway with a festive follow up to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley runs November 15 – December 30.

Sense: Exit 22 Production’s 2018-19 season gets underway at Blueshore Financial Centre for Performing Arts at Capilano U, with an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility the story of sisters Marianne, free-spirited and romantic, and Elinor, sensible and reserved who find themselves thrown into an unkind world when their father dies, running November 15 – 24.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks play host to Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Arena on November 17th

Crawl: From November 15 to 18, 2018 the 22nd Annual Eastside Culture Crawl brings art lovers from all around Metro Vancouver to East Vancouver, for four days of open studio visits.

Supertramp: The famed Roger Hodgson brings his catalogue of classic rock sounds to the River Rock Show Theatre on November 17th and at Hard Rock Casino Vancouver on November 18th,

Laughs: Saturday nights Tyrant Studio’s Comic Strip brings stand-up comedy to the Studio Lounge Stage from Levi McCachen, with Ola Dada and Gavin Clarkson

Couture: The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Guo Pei: Couture Beyond is the first Canadian exhibition devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturière until January 20, 2019

Art: Visit Kimoto Gallery November 2 – 24, for a new series of paintings, Water, by Vancouver artists David Wilson looking at the natural watery surroundings and rain-soaked city streets of his hometown.  

BBall: College Basketball comes to town as the Vancouver Showcase features 4 men’s and 8 women’s U.S. Division I college basketball teams competing on Nov. 18-24 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Pop: Sunday night, Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall returns to town supporting her new album WAX at the Imperial Vancouver on Main Street.