Say I Do to Mamma Mia at Arts Club

MammaMiaFrom the opening notes of the overture to the final sing-along curtain call, Mamma Mia now play at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, will have you dancing in your seat.

The feel-good jukebox musical inspired by the hit music of Abba is composed by Abba’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and written by Catherine Johnson with this production directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton.  Set Designer David Roberts’ beautiful set transports the audience to the beaches and tavernas on the fictional Greek Island of Kalokairi.

Mamma Mia opens as Sophie Sheridan (Michelle Bardach) prepares for her wedding to fiancé Sky.  Raised by single mother, innkeeper, Donna, Sophie seeks to know who her father is and discovering her mom’s diary she discovers three possible fathers.  Inviting all three, Sam, Bill and Harry, to her wedding unbeknownst to Donna, with none of them, other than Sophie, really sure why they are all on the island, all sorts of miscommunication comedy ensues.  Donna is supported by her two long time girlfriends and former girl-group bandmates, Rosie and Tanya.

Throughout the 2 hour musical the story of love, female empowerment, and friendship is perfectly woven into the familiar Abba songs.  Amongst the solid storytelling, some numbers are just for the sheer fun of it, enter Donna and the Dynamos who’s camp costumes takes the audience back to the heyday of the Swedish quartet.  The Dynamos, Rosie and Tanya, are played with just the right blend of slapstick and camp by Cathy Wilmot and Irene Karas Loeper (respectively), while Stephanie Roth brings a perfect balance of power and emotion to Donna’s vocals.  With Ms Bardach vocally matching Roth’s, the two leading ladies anchor Mamma Mia with the grace and strength.  Among the male leads Michael Torontow as Sam, stands out with a strong voice and leading man charisma.  Local theatre veterans, Warren Kimmel as Aussie Bill and Jay Hindle as Harry, while not carrying as much of a musical load, bring a nice blend of comedy and fatherly friendship to their roles, in spite of Hindle’s distractingly wavering British accent.

While there appeared to be a couple prop and wardrobe slips on opening night, not surprising in such a physically challenging song and dance production, the veteran cast improvised their recovery with seamless ease.  The overall spirit of Mamma Mia and the joyous Abba music is sure to win over even the hardest demeanour with smiles and laughs throughout the show, especially during the rousing encore as the company (and many audience members) reprise Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo.

Mamma Mia plays at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre until August 12th, with special sing-along performances on July 28th. Visit artsclub.com for showtimes and tickets.

The Art Club Ashlie Corcoran announces 2018-19 season

This week, The Arts Club Theatre Company announced the shows coming for the 2018-2019 season.  As we reach the midpoint of the current season, the final season for long-time Artistic Director Bill Millerd’s before he retires, the incoming Artistic Director Ashlie Corcoran is making her mark on the future of the Arts Club.

“For this new season, I seek to build on the legacy of Bill Millerd, continuing his remarkable work through eclectic programming that celebrates local talent, offers opportunities for emerging artists, and strengthens diversity. With these goals in mind, I’ve curated eleven plays by Canadians, eleven by women, seven by BC artists, and four by artists of colour or Indigenous artists.” says Ms Corcoran.  The season also includes remounts of some Arts Club favourites, a number of partnerships with other Canadian theatre companies including the announcement of Hardline Theatre as the 2018-19 resident company.

The full Arts Club Theatre Company 2018-2019 Season includes:

STANLEY INDUSTRIAL ALLIANCE STAGE

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time: by Simon Stephens, adapted from the novel by Mark Haddon
Multiple Olivier and Tony Award winning mystery
September 6–October 7, 2018 

Sweat, by Lynn Nottage
A working-class drama and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner
October 18–November 18, 2018
Canadian premiere; in partnership with Citadel Theatre 

Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton
A remount of last year’s hit presentation of Disney’s beloved fairy-tale musical
December 1, 2018–January 6, 2019 

The Matchmaker, by Thornton Wilder
A classic farce that provided the source material for the musical Hello Dolly!
January 24–February 24, 2019

The Orchard (After Chekhov), by Sarena Parmar
Set in the Okanagan Valley, a Canadian take on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
March 21–April 21, 2019 

Matilda The Musical, book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, from the novel by Roald Dahl
Multiple award-winning hit musical based on the Roald Dahl story
May 16–July 14, 2019
In partnership with Citadel Theatre and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

GRANVILLE ISLAND STAGE

Mustard, by Kat Sandler
An unconventional comedy about growing up
September 20–October 20, 2018
In partnership with Belfry Theatre

Miss Bennet: Christmas At Pemberley, by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon
The festive season Pride and Prejudice follow-up
November 15–December 30, 2018 

The Shoplifters, by Morris Panych
A hilariously biting story about society’s haves and have-nots
February 7–March 9, 2019 

Bed and Breakfast, by Mark Crawford
A charming comedy about the ‘inns’ and being out in a small town
April 4–May 4, 2019

Mom’s The Word: Nest ½ Empty, by the Mom’s the Word Collective
What happens when the kids fly the coop?
June 6–July 20, 2019
Third show in the Mom’s the Word series; remount of 2017 Arts Club premiere

GOLDCORP STAGE AT THE BMO THEATRE CENTRE

Blind Date, a spontaneous theatre creation by Rebecca Northan
One actor + One audience member = A Blind Date Like No Other
November 22–December 30, 2018 

True Crime, by Torquil Campbell (of the band, Stars) and Chris Abraham
A genre-mixing examination of a conman
January 31–February 24, 2019 

Redpatch, by Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver
A historical drama about a young Métis soldier & his company
March 7–31, 2019
In partnership with Citadel Theatre and Hardline Productions, our 2018–2019 Resident Company 

The Great Leap, by Lauren Yee
American basketball historically goes to China
April 25–May 19, 2019
A Canadian premiere

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast roars into Arts Club

Who doesn’t start humming the tune and lyrics … ‘tale as old as time’ when they think about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast?  The Arts Club Theatre brings the beloved tale back to the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage for the holiday season for the first time since 2008.  Bill Millerd direct his final holiday show in his final year as Artistic Director of The Arts Club. The Beast, Belle, Gaston, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs Potts and all the other characters you love from the animated Disney classic, bring the music and story, based on the French fairy tale, to the stage.

The smaller Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage creates a more intimate show than other productions of Beauty and The Beast, that I’ve seen.  The intimacy brings a new life to the production, making us all feel like we’re a one of the villagers observing this love story about tolerance and acceptance of your own and other’s differences.  The peculiar girl named Belle is brilliantly played by Shannon Chan-Kent, whose voice fills the room with its power and precision.  With a powerful Belle, The Beast has to be even stronger to be both menacing, sensitive and balance her vocals, Jonathan Winsby definitely fits the bill.  It’s easy to see and hear why he’s played The Beast so often in his career, even behind the heavy mask he brings, humour, charm and compassion to the Beast.   The Beast’s castle is also filled with other lively characters, slowing becoming inanimate, lead by Shawn Macdonald’s officious Cogsworth, Peter Jorgensen’s randy Lumiere and Susan Anderson’s motherly Mrs Potts.  In the village, Belle’s father is the local legend Bernard Cuffling but the real stand out in the production is Kamyar Pazandeh who has managed to create an over-the-top Gaston that is the spitting image of the animated version, physically and vocally Kamyer knocks it out of the theatre.

Being nearly a decade since the last production, Alison Green has created a brand new dynamic set that fills the stage and seamlessly moves action and cast from town to woods to castle.  Scott Augustine adapts the original choreography of Valerie Easton, to this new set and staging.  Easton’s late daughter Amy Wallis was the original Belle and this production is dedicated in the memory of Amy.

If this production wasn’t already top notch, watching the number of children mesmerized by seeing their favourite characters come to life, adds even more to the show for us adults.  Go see it with the whole family!

Disney’s Beauty and The Beast is now playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage. The show is so popular, The Arts Club has already extended the run, now playing until January 13, 2018.  For information and tickets visit artsclub.com

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

The Audience at The Arts Club Theatre

The Arts Club Theatre Company’s The Audience is a regal night out as Queen Elizabeth and her Prime Ministers take the audience on a trip through time.  Perfectly poised to capitalize on the recent royal interest brought on by The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS, The Audience tells us what goes on behind the closed doors of The Queen’s weekly meeting with her Prime Minister.

Part history lesson, part fable The Audience shows us glimpses of the important historic events during Queen Elizabeth’s reign while trying to give us a fly-on-the-wall take on her relationships with 8 of her 13 PMs.  While knowing a bit about the Monarchy and British Government helps to flesh out the backstory, the dialogue between Her Majesty and the first ministers would be enjoyable without it. The Audience is not told chronologically, instead Toby the Equerry, played by BC theatre great Bernard Cuffling, narrates the story and weaves together the audiences with similar themes, showing how some events have a way of repeating themselves.

Anna Galvin makes the hard work of bringing Queen Elizabeth II  to life seem second nature, changing and aging on stage in many cases. Impressively she moderates The Queen’s accent, which has evolved over the years, sometimes within the same speech and while changing costume.  The Queen as we know her now is probably the least visually captivating, due to her presence of mind, and also perhaps of a questionable white wig.  The young Bianca Sanchez Galvin as the young Princess Elizabeth flits in and out of the stage as The Queen conscience, allowing the adult to offer some sage advice to her younger self.

Some of the PMs were truly ‘characters’ and the actors portraying them do a capable job of finding their stand out traits that make them familiar without becoming caricatures.  While some we only briefly meet, others show up more often, an apparent testament to The Queen’s fondness for her Prime Minister.  Ted Cole’s John Major starts us off in his typical hangdog manor.  Harold Wilson, as played by David Marr is shown to be a favourite and gets a deserving amount of The Audience.   Wilson’s everyman persona earns a great deal of  applause as do some 4 legged favourites of The Queen who make a visit during the second act, nearly stealing the show.  Overall, The Audience nicely balances what could be a dry history lesson, with a great deal of heart and humour.

The Audience is playing at The Arts Club Theatre Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 26, 2017.

 

Eric McCormack – 2 Nights Only Concert

Next weekend, Eric McCormack brings two nights of music and storytelling to the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, in support of Prostate Cancer Canada.  “The Concert I Never Gave… (except for, like 2000 times in my bedroom)” is the Emmy-winning star of “Will & Grace” and “Perception”, charity tribute to the memory of his parents, who both died of cancer.  Already a sell-out concert in Los Angeles and Toronto, McCormack brings the show home to Vancouver August 5th and 6th.

Featuring familiar music from 70’s and 80’s icons like Elton John, The Who, Billy Joel, Burton Cummings and Queen. Throughout the two-hour performance, Eric weaves tales of growing up in the suburbs, along with insider anecdotes about Will & Grace, becoming friends with Elton John, meeting Pete Townsend and more.  It’s like a autobiographical “This is your Life” episode filled with great stories plus in a concert featuring McCormack and his “uber” house band including musical director Loren Gold, keyboardist for The Who, Tyler Stewart, drummer for the Barenaked Ladies and Murray Foster, bass player for Great Big Sea in the intimate Stanley Theatre Stage.

Losing his parents to cancer makes the choice of charity very important to Eric,  all proceeds will be donated to Prostate Cancer Canada.
“The Concert I Never Gave… (except for, like 2000 times in my bedroom)” takes place two nights only, August 5 & 6, 2016 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville Street.
Tickets are $95 or $115 and on sale online now from vancouvertix.com 

The Arts Club shows Pride and Prejudice

Until February 28th, the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice comes to life, onstage at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

The 200 year old story of manners is turned into a comedy of errors under direction of Sarah Rodgers.
The simple set decoration and costumes portray the British Regency occupied by Elizabeth Bennet, amiably played by Naomi Wright, her family, friends and acquaintances.
Eric Craig’s Mr Darcy does well to fill the shoes of one of the most loved leading men in literature. In an homage to Colin Firth’s legendary wet shirt scene in the BBC miniseries, Craig’s onstage shirtless moment is gravely understated, missing the chance to highlight Darcy becoming an object of affection.
While the majority of the cast were comfortable in the costume drama a few members of the cast didn’t appear confident in their British accent resulting in some wooden performances.  Some parts, like Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, were played like a straight drama while other characters, fell far to the farcical side creating many laughs. For those of us on the sides of the theatre, the vocals all but disappeared if the player turned the opposite direction, which contributed to making the play feel uneven, hopefully it was just an opening night technical issue.

While I found it uneven, from the laughs and comments of many in the audience, Pride and Prejudice was an enjoyable evening for many.

Pride and Prejudice runs until February 28th at The Arts Club Theatre Company Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.