A Christmas Carol at Gateway Theatre

This year, the Gateway Theatre holiday season takes a slightly darker tone as A Christmas Carol finds the Christmas spirit, or in this case four spirits.  It’s hard to tinker with a tale as familiar as Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, but this adaptation by Michael Shamata, directed by Rachel Peake, trims the play into a show that’s manageable for all ages and focuses on the ensemble and core spirit of the work.  All members of the creative team mention how they feel the play’s  message of finding and sharing good with your fellow man is especially needed in these current times.

Scrooge (Russell Roberts) & Marley (Allan Morgan)
Photo: David Cooper

Allan Morgan begins the play as narrator, talking directly to the audience to set the stage for what is to come, and has led to the moment we meet Russell Roberts’ Ebenezer Scrooge and Adam Olgui’s Bob Cratchit at work on Christmas Eve.  While the supporting characters are present, Peake has centred the production on the ghost story, and the message the spirits bring to Scrooge, starting with the eerie ghost of Jacob Marley bringing a warning to Scrooge of continuing his secluded, miserly way of life.  The simple staging by Drew Facey allows the audience to fill in the blanks as the ghosts take Scrooge from his past to present and future.

Ghost of Christmas Past (Josh Chambers) & Scrooge (Russell Roberts)
Photo: David Cooper

The Gateway Theatre holiday show often serves as a mentorship to up and coming actors and stage crew. This production includes five members from the acting program at Langara College’s Studio 58, all playing multiple roles alongside the seasoned, professional players.  At just 110 minutes, including intermission, the production is compact and conveys the spirit of the Holiday favourite in a way that the whole family can enjoy.

A Christmas Carol is onstage at Gateway theatre in Richmond until December 24th.  For Information and Tickets visit gatewaytheatre.com/achristmascarol

Picks of the Week – November 29, 2017

We’re into the one month countdown to Christmas with more festive flair popping into the picks of the week.

Market: The Christmas Market season is in full swing with the Vancouver Christmas Market opening today, running until December 24, at Jack Poole Plaza plus Toque, River District craft fairs as well.

Snow: Until January 6th, help Snow White and the Seven Dwarves evade the Evil Queen in East Van Panto at The Cultch York Theatre

Flamenco Rosario

Dance: The Dance Centre’s Discover Dance Series presents Flamenco Rosario on Thursday November 30th honours the traditions of dance with a lunchtime performance

Twinkle: Light up your nights with the Festival light displays all around Metro Vancouver; Lights of Hope, Canyon Lights, Bright Nights, Heritage Christmas, Glow Christmas, Lights at Lafarge all bring a little Christmas Spirit.

Oratorio: The spirit of the season and the sound of music fills the air as Early Music Vancouver presents Handel’s Messiah, November 30th in White Rock and December 1st & 2nd at Vancouver Playhouse.

Wheel: Take a ride on the Sky Wheel on the Pier at the Annual Shipyards Christmas Market December 2nd in North Vancouver; artisan market, family activities, entertainment, tree lighting and the weekend-only observation wheel sponsored by the Lower Lonsdale BIA.

Rock: American rockers, The National plays a two-night stand at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on December 1st and 2nd.

Sax: December 3rd, Kenny G plays some of his hits and holiday favourites at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Stage: The Arts Club Theatre Company’s dramedy  The Day Before Christmas is onstage at the Goldcorp Stage until the day before Christmas, while fan favourite Onegin remounts the Arts Club, Granville Island Stage, until December 31st.

Scoop: At Firehall Arts Centre, until December 2nd,  Only Drunks And Children Tell The Truth tells the tale of the 60’s Scoop of indigenous children with truth and humour

Drag: The Christmas Queen is back to ruin Christmas for Vancouver Theatresports League and on Saturday nights, anything can, and will happen,  when Vancouver drag diva the Unstoppable Connie Smudge joins the stage,  it’s two queens for the price of one at Christmas Queen Drag Race.

Narnia: Carousel Theatre, invites families to step through the wardrobe as C.S Lewis’  The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe comes to the stage until December 31st.

Pucks: The Toronto Maple Leafs make a rare Western appearance as they visit Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday night.

St Nick: Santa Claus is coming to town as the 14th Annual (and newly renamed) Telus Santa Claus Parade makes it way through downtown Vancouver on Sunday afternoon. 

Sink or Swim with Beverley Elliott at Gateway Theatre

Sink or Swim with Beverley Elliott

Now playing at Gateway Theatre in Richmond, Sink or Swim is Beverley Elliott’s latest autobiographical one-woman show.  Following on last year’s …didn’t see that coming, the singer/actor/writer is back with more stories from her youth.

In Sink or Swim, Ms Elliott takes us back to rural Ontario and her childhood years.  With the help of musical director/pianist Bill Costin, the actress paints the picture of her 5-6 year old world with such vivid detail that  any of us who grew up in small town Canada recovered memories of our early school days too.  Songs and music helps set the mood and provide the transitions between stories, from selling the family farm, to the first day of school, to summer trips to the lake.  All the tales come with equal doses of wit, charm and emotions, as bonds of family and friends shine throughout Sink or Swim.

Beverley Elliott’s multifaceted talent brings so much to the stage.  The writer, creates engaging, fun, but believable stories to tell.  The actress, brilliantly makes herself ageless and any age, whether the spirited, elderly Granny on Once Upon A Time, a teenager in …didn’t see that coming, or the 5 year old Bev in Sink or Swim.  The singer, brings a range of emotions to the songs throughout her shows, from lively, pop tunes to touching ballads or big, Broadway style numbers.

Beverley Elliott’s Sink or Swim runs until November 25, 2017 in Studio B at Gateway Theatre, for tickets and information visit gatewaytheatre.com 

The Ridiculous Darkness descends on Annex Theatre

Until November 19th, the Annex Theatre is home of The Ridiculous Darkness, an ambitious work adapted from an award-winning German radio-play.  A mash up of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocolypse Now and in turn its source material The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  Now set in Afghanistan, the satirical outline takes on modern racial and social stereotypes.

photo: Wendy D Photography

Being a radio script leaves producers Alley Theatre and partners Neworld Theatre open season to create the world in which this off-beat satire exists on paper, the result is Ridiculous by name and ridiculous by nature.  Although the storyline follows the actions of German Military Officer Pellnerin and his boat pilot Stefan Dorsch secret mission to find the rogue Colonel Deutinger in the depths of the Afghan wilderness,  the production often veers off course to tackle local social issues and breaks the 4th wall to introduce other local cultural collaborators.

photo: Wendy D Photography

The production comes off as a random collection of thoughts loosely strung together by the Afghan adventure.  Envisioning it like a old-school radio serial; each episode includes a brief tale of action-adventure, a cultural interlude and a social commentary, helps to makes some sense of the eclectic 2 hours.  And like a radio play, the 6 core actors play all the characters, interchanging parts like a game of musical chairs.

photo: Wendy D Photography

Like its collaboration of thoughts, The Ridiculous Darkness co-producers Alley Theatre and Neworld Theatre and the core 6 players bring together an impressive collaboration of other local arts and cultural groups; Theatre Terrific, Tetsu Taiko, RealWheels Theatre, Richmond Youth Honour Choir, Downtown East Side Street Market Society, Downtown East Side Vendors Collective, Afghan Benevolent Association of BC, and East Van Powwow all contribute to the show at times packing 40+ people onstage.

The Ridiculous Darkness opened to a sold out audience at Annex Theatre on Remembrance Day, and closes on November 19th.  Visit Alley Theatre and Neworld Theatre online for more information and tickets.  Note: November 17th will be ASL interpreted 

King Charles III reigns over The Arts Club

Until November 19th, experience the reign of King Charles III at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

Queen Elizabeth II has passed and King Charles III has ascended to the Throne, but even before the Crown is upon his head, controversy and confrontation with his Parliament erupts.  Asked to sign his assent to a bill limiting freedom of the press, he doesn’t agree with Charles flexes his god-given right as regent to decline ascent which causes a conflict between Crown and State and by extension, the public.   Like a Shakespearean drama, the behind-closed-doors Royal family conversations and audiences with Ministers create for interesting ‘what if’ scenarios that the future king’s reign may hold. This King tries to control his destiny while forces for and against him work their own agendas.

While the play is set in the future, the basis for the storyline is based on the 2011 Levenson Enquiry into the British media’s phone hacking scandal.  In spite of being based on a fairly recent, the speed at which the news cycle changes its focus and the personal growth of some of the Royals, especially Prince Harry, who is portrayed as the flippant playboy of old, make some of the play’s content already feel out of date.  Brexit now rules the headlines, Harry is now a settled, social advocate and government officials trying to limit freedom of the press is now very much a reality, no longer hypotheticals.

Ted Cole’s King Charles brings a regal air to the stage, as he addresses both his court and the public (the audience), and delivers play’s blank verse.  While many of the other characters seem to lose the rhythm of the verse, as well as their accents, throughout the course of the play, the unevenness is also, perhaps, the reason the satirical aspect of the work seems to fall flat.    The Duchess of Cambridge is controversially portrayed by Katherine Gauthier as a power-hungry, not-soon-enough future Queen.   Leader of the Opposition and political fence-sitter Mrs Stevens (Christine Willes) shows us a perfect ‘politician’.  Charlie Gallant as Prince Harry also stands out as the prince tries to shed his old ways and find love.  The side-story of Harry’s love interest, Jess, meant to be a republican well below the class of the Prince, however the character loses its controversy on this side of the Atlantic and could have been dropped from the play without any real loss.

Against the simple set designed by Kevin McAllister,  Christopher David Gauthier’s detailed and elegant costumes help elevate the Royals and level the commoners.   Gauthier’s spot-on recreation of the style icons we know Diana, Kate and Camilla help the actresses become the women.  The costumes help us spot who’s who even when not speaking, as the play opens with the whole Royal cast lining up on stage at the funeral and ends at the Coronation.

King Charles III runs until November 19th at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.  Tickets are on sale online at artsclub.com

A Little Night Music lights the Gateway Theatre season

Cast Photo: Emily Cooper

Gateway Theatre’s 2017 / 2018 season got underway this week with a lavish performance of Stephen Sondheim’s classic A Little Night Music.

A co-presentation with Patrick Street Productions, and directed by Peter Jorgensen, the Tony award winning musical is set in Sweden at the turn of the last century.  A tale of romance and class structure,  as characters deal with forbidden lust, infidelity, long-lost loves,  jealousy and reminisce about past liaisons. Through the characters’ trials and tribulations of love Jorgensen lets the comedy of the situations shine through.  The director took inspiration from Ingmar Bergman, the director of the source film of the musical, Smiles of  Summer Night, finding comedy in tragedy.  Patrick Street Productions and Jogensen have added their modern touch to the show with hints of sexual fluidity in the maid Petra’s character.

Kimmel & Wright
photo: Emily Cooper

Led by the always dependable Warren Kimmel as Fredrick Egerman, and Katey Wright as Desiree Armfeldt, who both have the acting and musical talents to all eyes on them when they’re onstage.  The cast also included stand-out turns from Arinea Hermans and Caleb Di Pomponio as Fredrick’s virgin (2nd) bride and his angst-ridden son, Henrick. Nick Fontaine’s Count Carl-Magnus and Lindsay Warnock as his put-upon wife, Countess Charlotte provide scenery chewing comedy performances. Young Elizabeth Irving displays talent beyond her years as Desiree’s daughter, Fredricka.  The capable ensemble rounds out the cast, making the performance light and breezy, in spite of its 2.5 hour run time.  Coming towards the end of the show, the musical gets late energy boost from the famed Send In The Clowns.  Throughout the show, Sondheim’s music, and Hugh Wheeler’s book, share the storytelling duties effortlessly.  Alan Brodie’s simple set and lighting design help to highlight Jessica Bayntun’s lush, period costumes.

Set & Lighting Design by Alan Brodie, photo by Emily Cooper.jpg

Find your own reasons to love and laugh as A Little Night Music continues at Gateway Theatre until October 21st.

Shylock joins Bard on the Beach 2018

As the 2017 Bard on the Beach continues bringing Shakespeare to Vanier Park, a provocative, contemporary work, Shylock, joins the repertoire.   Written by BC writer Mark Leiren-Young, Shylock plays on the Howard Family Stage until September 15th. The play premiered at Bard on the Beach in 1996 and has since been performed around the world to popular and critical acclaim.

 Echoing current affairs, Sherry J. Yoon directs this explosive one-man monologue about censorship, racism and the role of theatre as a reflection of our own present-day attitudes and thoughts. Star Warren Kimmel, who is also playing Shylock in The Merchant of Venice on the Howard Family Stage. Within the play, Kimmel plays the character of Jon Davies, an actor and a Jew, condemned by his own community for his portrayal of the Jewish moneylender in a traditional production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Davies uses his final post-show talkback to raise challenging questions about censorship in general and the political correctness of Merchant itself.

 Shylock was one of the first original works we presented at Bard, under the direction of John Juliani”, notes Christopher Gaze, Bard Artistic Director. “With our current staging of The Merchant of Venice, it’s the perfect time to bring Shylock back as a companion piece.”

Adds director Sherry J. Yoon, “Though Mark’s play was written over 20 years ago, Shylock seems more relevant today than ever. From the historical references in literature, to extremist views that have simultaneously polarized and united us, the irreverent humour in this work will resonate.” Leiren-Young, as is his practice whenever the piece is produced, has provided contemporary updates to help link the story directly to today’s political and social climate.

Shylock plays in repertory on the Howard Family Stage with The Merchant of Venice and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, from today until September 15th. Visit bardonthebeach.org for tickets and information