Vancouver Theatre Guide

Our blog offers articles written by our team of resident bloggers as well as various members of the theatre community. It provides reflections on local productions, as well as thoughts on other events and issues affecting our local theatre scene.

Are you a member with a show you'd like to invite one of our blogger to? Email us at info@gvpta.ca with details of the production, including which date(s) you’d like to offer a blogger two tickets, and we’ll do our best to get someone out to cover your show. Details about our blogging program are on the Resident bloggers page.

Do you have a blog post you’d like to contribute? Send us an email at info@gvpta.ca

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  • Saturday, May 20, 2017 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    Ties of Blood: The Brontes

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Gerald Williams

    I like the Havana theatre. There’s something about a journey through a busy restaurant, then slinking past a tempting bar before arriving at a theatre. Like you have a secret that these casual diners don’t share, you’re going to enter a world they won’t know, your own journey through the back of the cupboard, your own Narnia.

    Ties of Blood: The Brontes is suited to this theatre as much as the moors are suited to Heathcliffe’s ghostly wanderings calling out for Catherine. This intimate 60-seat theatre brings you close to the actors so you catch every word, every sigh of these writers, poets, and, new to me, an alcoholic brother Branwell, (Nicholas Yee).  I first read the well-known Bronte works, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, as homework. I was blessed with a high school English teacher who believed we would never amount to anything in life until we learned how miserable people in the 19th century really were. I was enchanted by the stories of the authors. So, I went to the 1970’s version of Wikipedia, the encyclopedia, and read about how the Bronte sisters were caged animals abandoned by their father and, with no TV, were forced to write stories; as what other opportunities did women have. Wikipedia and this play are clearly more enlightening than encyclopedias of my youth.

    The play reflects on the difficulties within the Bronte household by inciting moments drawn from their great works of fiction. I revisited both the famous novels since first reading them as assignments, and am proud of my limited familiarity. I can’t be certain though if the scenes in the play use actual text from the books or were imagined to fit the story. My companion for the evening was sadly a TV writer, so has never read anything in her life, and admitted that she felt a bit lost. Happily, she has promised to check IMDB to see if there are any movies or TV programs she can access to increase her understanding of great literature.

    The play, like their lives, includes a great deal of death, and the great sorrow that is obliged to come with that. Death in the prime of life was not uncommon in the 19th century. In watching the deaths of the three siblings on stage, all of which occurred in actual fact within eight months, I was pondering how a life is mourned and how a life should be remembered. Does grief take place in one dramatic lunge or does it take up residency and abide with us for life. In the case of the Bronte’s, with their works living on, it is possible we can grieve for too long and miss out on reading their great works of fiction. Go read a book, they’re free at the library!

    Ties of Blood: The Brontes is at the storied Havana Theatre till May 20th

    Cast: Grace Fournier, Amy King, Carly Pokoradi and Nicholas Yee. 
    Director: Nick Heffelfinger

    A Theatre Hera West Production, Ties of Blood: The Brontes presents at the Havana Theatre May 10-20, 2017.

  • Wednesday, May 17, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Gerald Williams

    I’m a fan of Judy Garland. Like every young person since The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939 I was enthralled by this 'aw shucks' girl whose gumption outsmarted that wicked witch. As an early teen and aspiring film buff I discovered her movies with Mickey Rooney, released in the 1940’s, and watched her grow up. All the while I was discovering her, she was in her final years, riding the drugs and booze that eventually ended her life.

    End of the Rainbow takes place in 1969 a few months before her death, and during the five weeks she was in London doing a stint at a nightclub. The play by Peter Quilter opens with Judy’s accompanist (played by Gordon Roberts) playing the piano in the hotel suite which makes up the set. This unobtrusive opening is a beautiful way of bringing the audience into the atmosphere of the time. When Judy and her soon to be final husband, Mickey Deans (Jeffery Hoffman), crash into the scene we are immediately brought to the destructive dynamic of the relationship she has with men and with herself; the need for alcohol and drugs, the heightened sexuality, the use of her celebrity to gain unearned favours. We know the end of the story, but there is enough detail to keep us fully engaged with a good smattering of recognizable tidbits to make us feel the impulse to keep watching this tragedy with music.

    Included in the play are a number of songs and pieces of songs to whet the appetite of any Garland fan, or poke the curiosity of those who aren’t as familiar with her music or the music of that era. I found myself humming A Foggy Day in London Town on the way out of the theatre. I also wondered how long will Judy Garland keep her place in the public imagination. Will she have the life span of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe? Will she ever become a poster as popular as Albert Einstein. During the play, references are made to those in Garland’s celebrity sphere; Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Deanna Durbin. I bet most people under 70 years of age have no idea who Deanna Durbin is. I expect Dean Martin and Sammy Davis have little life for anyone under 50. Fame, or celebrity, is fleeting, yet, thanks largely to the Munchkins, Glinda, those ruby slippers, and stories like End of the Rainbow, Judy Garland will always be relevant to audiences. If you know who got the heart, who got the courage and who got the brains, you’ll enjoy this play. I did. 

    Cast: Janet Gigliotti, Jeffery Hoffman, Gordon Roberts and Matthew Simmons

    ACE Productions presents the English Canadian premiere or End of the Rainbow, April 26 - May 20, 2017 at the Jericho Arts Centre.

  • Tuesday, May 09, 2017 12:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    On a First Name Basis by Norm Foster

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Trilby Jeeves

    Take an upper echelon, self-absorbed (until today) writer, and his clever, underappreciated housekeeper and throw in some expensive bottles of booze. The result? A wonky waltz of intellectual and emotional discovery.

    When writer, David, insists on them using first names and crossing boundaries, the awkward fun begins. Especially as he didn't even know her first name. After twenty-eight years of service. 

    First Impressions Theatre has once again produced a fun, thoughtful, and emotional (dammit, you made me cry!) piece of theatre, written by the clever Norm Foster. Directed by Claude A. Giroux, and starring Louise Porter as Lucy Hopperstaad, and Ryan Crocker as David Kilbride, they tackle this wordy script with affection and playfulness. I love watching two of my friends banter with twinkles in their eyes. I always say: "If you're having fun on stage, then we are having fun in the audience." Oh, and that yummy set. My favourite colours.

    The script is smart and has us thinking about the English language and our life. Expressions are explored. "Died prematurely" turns into a discussion about "dying right on schedule". "Saw it with my own eyes"... well, what other eyes would you have? There are philosophical questions that also arise. "Who will be by your side when you die?" "It's all about life's little vignettes."

    I would give more examples but it would spoil your journey when you go to see the compelling duo manage their differences and discover their secrets. After the show, at the pub, you might find yourself sharing your secret playlist on your device with your friends.

    Do we really know each other?

    Treat yourself to a Deep Cove outing where the view is still beautiful at this time of day, have a bite to eat, and pull up a seat for some live theatre.

    Vive le Théâtre!  

    On a First Name Basis is produced by First Impressions Theatre, and runs Wednesday through Saturdays at 8pm at the Deep Cove Shaw Theatre from May 4th to May 20th, 2017.

    Information and tickets: www.firstimpressionstheatre.com

  • Friday, March 17, 2017 11:00 AM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Almost a Stepmom by Keara Barnes

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Heather Evens

    Keara Barnes planned a six-month trip to Ireland. She ended up staying 2+ years, and almost became a stepmom. What happened to her during those 2+ years is the basis of her solo show, aptly named, Almost a Stepmom.

    Throughout the story, we meet the key players in Keara’s life in Dublin, and we learn what made her stay (spoiler alert: her heart), and ultimately, what made her leave (also spoiler: her gut).  We learn that her journey to almost stepmom-dom and back took Keara through the full gamut of emotions and experiences, and we get to re-live those with her through this show. My friend said that at one point in the show, she had to consciously regulate her breathing because she was getting caught up in Keara’s struggles. That’s a testament to the kind of ride we were taken on during this production – Keara puts her heart and soul into the story and into the performance.

    Almost a Stepmom started out as a 30-minute show that had a successful run at two different Fringe Festivals. Keara was then encourage by her friends to tell more of the story, which led her to this expanded version currently running as part of Vancouver’s Celtic Fest.

    We’ve all done crazy things in the name of love, and Keara’s show is an entertaining retelling of one of hers. I don’t know I’d have the courage to open myself up like that and tell such a personal life story in front of an audience. Kudos, Keara, for bringing your story to life and sharing it with us! If the audience’s reaction opening night was any indication, you’ve got a hit on your hands!

    Almost a Stepmom is being produced by Standing Room Only Theatre, as part of Celtic Fest. It’s running until March 18. Info and tickets are through standingroomonlytheatre.org. Good news – If you miss the show this week, it'll be back in town during the Vancouver Fringe Festival in September.


  • Friday, February 24, 2017 1:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    The Graduate – adapted for the stage by Terry Johnson

    Reflections by guest blogger Cazzy  Lewchuck

    Based on the beloved classic film, The Graduate is now playing at the White Rock Players Club. Adding a touch of aplomb, theatrical farce and extended scenes to the original storyline, the play is sure to touch many emotions inside us all. As someone who is 21, young, and a tad bit nihilistic, I could sympathize greatly with Benjamin, as I'm sure many young people could. With a set design, costume attire, and atmosphere throwing back to 1967, the tale of the Braddock and Robinson families may provide nostalgia and recognition amongst older patrons, or for the younger such as myself, a view into the culture of the era. The tensions and drama that heighten from Mrs. Robinson's seduction of Benjamin to his angst-ridden attempts to see her daughter Elaine in the aftermath are portrayed through an extremely talented cast of BC locals. It made me laugh, it made me sad, and I found myself exiting not sure just who was the villain or hero in the story. The Graduate is a tragic tale of hilarity brought to life in the theatre through larger-than-life characters. It's a story most of us know, but the cast bring their own flare and tension to the classic storyline. Seeing a play is a completely different experience than seeing a movie, and this is a prime example. Thomas Gage and Lori Watt are not Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, nor are they meant to be. They are, however, transformed into a unique and believable take on the characters throughout the two hours, drifting my imagination away.  

    Featuring a blend of contemporary 60s pop, including of course the iconic Simon and Garfunkel tunes, The Graduate transported to a timeless and iconic story in which no one is truly right or wrong, simply emotionally and sexually frustrated human beings attempting to find meaning amongst many cocktails and betrayals. Whether one identifies Benjamin, Mrs. Robinson, or Elaine, you're sure to find something to reflect on and maybe even surprise yourself in the entertainment. I know I did: I've seen The Graduate in movie format and seeing it on the stage was a whole new perspective. 

     

    The Graduate is being produced by the White Rock Players Club, and runs until Saturday, February 25. 

    Tickets and information: whiterockplayers.ca


  • Saturday, February 18, 2017 4:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Disney’s The Little Mermaid

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Mary Littlejohn

    Nostalgia has always been a big factor in drawing crowds to the theatre. Align Entertainment infuses a childhood favourite with new spins (and roller shoes!) to create colourful, vibrant retelling of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. There was so much joy and enthusiasm both onstage and in the audience, my inner eight-year-old could barely contain herself. 

    All the familiar songs are there - “Under The Sea”, “Part Of Your World”, “Kiss The Girl” - along with some new ditties to enhance the romance (“Her Voice”, “One Step Closer”) and give us some backstory (“Daddy’s Little Angel”). Some modifications to the film’s original plot were necessary; after all, some things just wouldn’t work on stage, no matter how big your budget. The final sea battle packs a different kind of punch this time around, with a more modern and ultimately stronger message for the young kids watching, even if it is a bit anti-climactic. (I have to congratulate whoever was responsible for those giant tentacles! Very effective and totally unexpected!). 

    For all the clever marine-life design (those jellyfish!) and superb dancing (tapping seagulls!), the heart of the show rested with its two leads, Elyse Maloway and Colton Fyfe. As soon as they shared the stage, the show transcended spectacle and became a real story about two teenagers unsure of their place in the world and finding each other. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I found their chemistry very touching. 

    There are different kinds of theatre magic. Align has quite a few. One is the ability to pull us so completely into a world so unlike our own, full of bigger-than-life characters - headstrong fish-out-of-water Ariel, silly Scuttle, evil Ursula, long-suffering Sebastian. The “actual” magic, done with lights, props, costumes and wires. Most important, though, is the magic of bringing people together; sharing the experience of live theatre with hundreds of families. I saw kids dressed as princesses, kids dancing in their seats, and parents re-living the childhood wonder that Disney does so well. I’d bet that this was the first musical some of these kids ever saw, and hopefully it will spark a love of the genre that will last them their whole life long. That’s the best kind of magic.

    The Little Mermaid’s run is Feb 3-18, 2017. Its last show is tonight, February 18.


  • Tuesday, January 31, 2017 9:30 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    The City and The City – adapted from the novel by China Miéville

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Keara Barnes

    Never have I been more impressed with the intricacies of a pre-show process. Assigned seats, headsets, projections and more. The show certainly sets a high level of organized anticipation, even tension as the mood becomes ominous, almost isolating in semi-darkness, as audience members excitedly and perhaps anxiously await the beginning of the show.

    The City & The City is based on a book by British author China Miéville and takes place in, you guessed it, two cities. The catch? These cities essentially occupy the same space, but are forbidden to acknowledge one another. Special police forces, called The Breach, are created to prevent citizens ‘breaching’ from one city to the other. Special areas called cross hatches link the cities, where police are on full alert at all times.

    A murder has been committed. Breach has occurred. Police officers from opposing cities must work together to solve the crime. The controversial question is: did the crime really occur? Does breach really exist? The plot, show vocabulary, and backstory are integral to the understanding of the show, and even then close attention is demanded in order to fully comprehend the complex plot. It is a fast paced, exciting and elaborate story line that dabbles in such genres as murder mystery, fantasy and fiction.

    The primary motif of the play is the concept of “seeing and unseeing.” This is a particularly relevant subject in Vancouver due to our extensive homelessness problem; a sight many of us “see” daily and just as quickly “unsee’” as we go about our daily lives. The theme is pervasive in so many ways; with the ever constant stream of news dictating stories of struggle, adversity, and corruption around the world, how often do we as citizens or even nations see and unsee? How do we choose to listen and act? Do we unquestionably accept what we are told, or do we make a stand?

    This concept is implemented even within the interactive structure of the production; audience members are directed to follow instructions relayed through a headset, participating themselves in the unfolding of events. Aren’t we as a collective simply obeying without question? Blindly trusting a directorial voice? Perhaps. But I’m glad I did.

     

    The City and The City is presented by Upintheair Theatre and The Only Animal, and is running as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, until February 5, 2017. Information and tickets are through pushfestival.ca

    Photo credit: Matt Reznek

  • Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:30 AM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Keara Barnes 

    Making a list of every brilliant thing in the world might just make Jonny’s mother happy enough that she won’t attempt suicide. Again. After all, who could possibly want to die after thinking about ice cream or the smell of old books?

     

    Jonny Donahoe stars in this one man show, though much of the time, it feels like an ensemble piece. Situated in a theatre in the round setting, Jonny routinely draws in audience members to portray various characters in the play. It is an affecting and engaging method that helps bring his tale to life, allowing us to partake in his story and immerse ourselves in his journey.

     

    From an anxiety-ridden childhood that revolved around his mother’s emotional highs and lows, to adulthood and marriage, divorce and depression, Jonny’s list of every brilliant thing remains the one constant in his life. Ever present and constantly evolving, it reaffirms hope in life and belief in happiness. Slowly, the list morphs into a representation of Jonny’s own mindset. It stalls. It becomes unaffecting, frustrating even, a painful reminder that so much of life is out of one’s control, that ultimately life will get you down, so why bother fighting?

     

    The play brings the question of happiness to the forefront: is happiness a state of mind you can actively work towards? In a time where mental illness is at the centre of the human collective, a time where it is encouraged to be discussed, accepted, and helped, the play accomplishes a sense of relevance, tragedy, and, ultimately hope. After all, as Donahue says himself, all humans need hope. Perhaps we should all make our own list.

     

     

    Every Brilliant Thing is running as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, until January 29, 2017. Information and tickets are through pushfestival.ca

    Photo: Phoebe Cheong


  • Saturday, December 03, 2016 1:15 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)
    Creeps by David E. Freeman

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Heather Evens

    When Creeps was first staged in 1971, it was considered groundbreaking in that it provided an honest and unique Canadian glimpse into the lived experience of people with disabilities. This 2016 production staged by Realwheels is also groundbreaking – it’s a shining example of the work being done towards diversity in theatre and inclusivity in our community.

    As you’re surely aware, there’s currently a spotlight on the need for ‘diversity’ in theatre – specifically, that theatre needs to better reflect the diversity of our communities. I would argue that often people think of diversity as primarily meaning racial or cultural diversity. But the concept of diversity has itself become more diverse over the past years – it includes pretty much any demographic category (i.e., race, ethnicity, culture, language, gender, sexuality, ability, intelligence, physicality, age, etc.). The hope is that one day theatre will ‘do diversity’ so well that the concept won’t even need to be mentioned anymore. With that as a goal, there’s a lot of awesome work being done within our local theatres to give voices to historically under-represented communities.

    Realwheels is one of the many, many companies involved in this work. Although they don’t use the word ‘diversity’ in describing it, their mission is to produce performances “that deepen audiences’ understanding of the disability experience.” That is, they work to give a voice to the historically under-represented disability community. They aim to “tell stories in which disability itself is not the focus of conflict, but rather forms the landscape upon which universal issues are debated onstage.” Creeps by Canadian David E. Freeman is exactly that type of story – it’s about a group of coworkers with disabilities who talk candidly amongst themselves about how their society views and treats them. The play takes place in a grungy workplace bathroom, which is, sadly, the only place these guys feel like they can be themselves. It’s essentially a mirror held up to Canadian attitudes towards and experience of the disability community, circa 1971. And as most mirrors are, it’s brutally honest and humbling. Even for a country such as ours that has always been (arguably) socially progressive. It makes us question how far we’ve come since then and how far we’ve still got to go towards inclusivity and equality.

    In addition to the unique perspective of this story, what makes this Vancouver production even more impactful is that for the first time in the play’s 45-year history, it’s being performed by an integrated cast: of the seven professional actors, three are actors who live with disability. In my humble opinion, this is the epitome of theatre succeeding at ‘doing diversity’ – the production is powerfully reflective of our diverse community, and it sets an even playing field for actors of differing dis/abilities. There’s no token actor with a disability; there are just incredible actors in this incredible Canadian play, some of whom live with disability. It doesn’t get more Canadian than this.


    Photo credit: Tim Matheson

    Well done, Realwheels. And congratulations to the entire cast and crew! I hope your run is successful and the production gets held over!


    Creeps is playing at The Historic Theatre at The Cultch until December 10, 2016.

    You’ll get information and tickets through realwheels.ca or thecultch.com

    ADDED VALUE:

    • 2-for-1 SPECIAL TICKET PRICE for International Day of Persons with Disability on Saturday, December 3 at 8pm (plus post-show reception)
    • ASL and Audio Description on Sunday, December 4 at 2pm
    • Post-show talk-backs on December 4 & 6
     
  • Monday, November 28, 2016 9:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schulz

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Heather Evens 

    Name a character from The Peanuts comic strip, and the odds are good that he or she was on the stage Sunday afternoon during the opening performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas at The Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island. Charlie Brown and Snoopy? Of course. Lucy, Sally, Linus, Patty, Violet, Pig-Pen, Schroeder? Yup!  Even Shermy, as well as Frieda with her ‘naturally curly hair’! The whole gang (well, okay, actors portraying the gang) was there to bring to life the story of how Charlie Brown finally found the true meaning of Christmas.  

    There was nostalgia galore in the theatre when we saw the gang skating on the frozen pond at the top of the show, and when Charlie Brown and Linus contemplated Christmas trees, and when Snoopy decorated his doghouse in lights. The show was true to the cartoon special, and for someone like me, who’s watched the cartoon every year since the age of about six, seeing these characters in real life was a treat. And I’m not the only who thought so  as far as I could see, every adult in the theatre had a smile on their face for pretty much the entire show. 

    But here’s the thing: this production was put on for children! Well, families anyways. Carousel Theatre for Young People created this production for kids ages three and up – ‘family-friendly’ shows are their specialty. But to be honest, I don’t know who enjoyed it more – the kids or the adults.

    The seven-year-old who accompanied me to this show had never seen a Peanuts cartoon before, and when told it was a story about Charlie Brown, responded, “Is that the one with the dog?” She’s also very new to live theatre in general, so I figured she was a good litmus test for whether this show would truly appeal to kids. I snuck more than a few glances at her during the show, and sure enough, she was paying full attention to the action on stage the entire 60 minutes. And, she happily joined in with the Christmas carol sing-along at the end of the show. Litmus test = positive for kid-friendliness.

    Seeing a child enjoying a theatrical production warms my heart. It’s positive childhood experiences like this that stick with us for life, and it’s shows like this one that can hook kids on the arts in general and theatre specifically, molding them into adult theatre-lovers. Again, for me, warm heart.

    The company of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Photo by Tim Matheson

    There are a few theatre companies around town that specialize in productions like this – “theatre for young audiences” or TYA, as it’s called. If you’ve ever wondered if your kids will like theatre, I recommend checking out one of the TYA shows playing throughout the year. And, if you grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas like I did, I’d suggest you try to get your hands on some tickets to this production by Carousel Theatre if there are any left. You won’t regret it. And frankly, between you and me, you don’t even really need to bring a kid!  

    A Charlie Brown Christmas plays at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island through December 31, 2016. It’s recommended for ages 3+, and there are a handful of special all-ages shows. Information and (hopefully still) tickets for sale at carouseltheatre.ca


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