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

  • 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


  • Saturday, November 26, 2016 10:00 AM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Mary Littlejohn

    Despite the fact that this 18th-century tale is now set in the 1920’s, and that all the Londoners have Canadian accents, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more authentic experience of The Threepenny Opera.

    It’s not just a show. It’s a manifesto. It’s gritty. It’s dark. It’s very silly at times, but overall it’s a biting social commentary. It’s rough around the edges, but Theatre In The Raw consistently draws some of Vancouver’s most sublime performers, both professional and non. They give the material its needed gravitas without taking themselves seriously, providing us with a bevy of enduring characters, from the cutthroat Macheath and his ridiculous gang of misfits to the delightfully dysfunctional Peachums. We can still laugh as the world goes to Hell.

    Theatre In The Raw is an experience. I keep using the word “experience” because that’s what it is. It’s not just something you watch. You feel personally involved. The actors are speaking to you; what’s more, even though you are a spectator, you feel as though you are engaged in a dialogue. It’s a bit of a lopsided forum, granted, but TITR is clearly inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s “Epic Theatre” production style. Both use the theatre as a platform to showcase political ideals, to force audiences to look past the floodlights and recognize the social inequality that is going on outside. This production is at the Russian Hall in the heart of Strathcona, just a stone’s throw from the Downtown Eastside. You can feel it seeping in, like “a body oozing life” in the famous song. Even the audience members here are not your typical theatre-going crowd. They seem more alert and engaged. A line like “the powerful of the earth can create poverty but they can’t bear to look at it” gets spontaneous applause, because it hits you to your core. It was great to see a packed house on a Wednesday evening (though the 2-for-1 deal might have had something to do with it). 

    I can understand why this show has remained so popular and has been re-vamped and re-invented countless times since 1728 when John Gay cobbled together The Beggar’s Opera. Have things changed so little? The poor are still poor, the rich are still rich, criminals walk free and wronged women receive no retribution. Until these are things of the past, The Threepenny Opera will remain regrettably relevant.

    The Threepenny Opera is presented by Theatre In the Raw, and is playing until November 27, 2016.

    Information and tickets are through theatreintheraw.ca


  • Wednesday, October 26, 2016 9:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    Frankenstein, 1945 by Mily Mumford

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Kaylin Metchie

    It’s alive!!

    This theatre noir piece immediately plunges the audience into a post-war, monster mystery feeling. The flickering lights that surround the cast bios outside foretell a play that is full of shadows, 1940s suits and dresses, and pops of seductive red. Frankenstein, 1945 is visually stunning. A set composed of slate blinds and hanging lightbulbs immediately made me think of a black and white detective mystery, which Frankenstein, 1945 pretty much is. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, or more accurately, an 1800s horror novel wrapped in real historical tragedies, inside a film noir.

    Mily Mumford, writer and director, creates a production that draws you in while at the same time making you feel mildly uncomfortable. And one that I am happy to say is closer to the original novel than the 1930s horror movies that bare the same name. Dr Frankenstein (played by Gregory Radzimowski), is a socially awkward yet brilliant scientist, whose moral code is not easily defined.

    This is one part of the play that really spoke to me. Having read the book by Mary Shelley, you see that Dr Frankenstein starts off his quest to find a cure for death with a good heart, but gets swept up along the way in his own single-minded goal. In Frankenstein, 1945, he happens to be a scientist during Nazi Germany, a time where, under the guise of scientific advancement, innocent people were used like lab rats. Frankenstein does leave the tutorage of the cold-hearted Nazi doctor Herta Oberhauser (played by Jessica Quartel), but not before picking up some ideals and skills.

    Mumford is also able to modernize the Frankenstein story, which may sound weird from a play that is so stylishly placed in the 1940s. Elizabeth (played by Madelyn Osborne), Frankenstein’s love interest, isn’t simply a woman waiting around inside a man’s story; she’s an engineer that lends an active hand in the creation of the Creature.

    Creating a highly stylized production is not an easy feat. It requires that all elements, even the seemingly mundane elements like the audience waiting area, work in concert with each other – each aspect building upon the others to culminate into a piece of art that speaks in one cohesive language.

    This is what Frankenstein, 1945 did.

    This is a perfect play for this spooky season, one that is worth braving the rain and wind to go see.

    Frankenstein, 1945 is part of Theatre Wire’s season, and runs until October 30 at Studio 1398 (1398 Cartwright St., Granville Island).

    Tickets and information are through theatrewire.com


  • Saturday, October 08, 2016 4:00 PM | GVPTA (Administrator)
    The Concierge of Vancouver by Shaul Ezer

    Reflections by guest blogger Mary Littlejohn

     

    It’s about time someone wrote a play about this.

    I saw a preview performance of The Concierge of Vancouver this week. The performers were passionate and energetic. It’s a special treat to see a show this topical and relevant to our city, starring actors who live and work in Vancouver. Addressing the issue of investment properties (in particular the mostly-empty luxury condominiums in Coal Harbour), playwright Shaul Ezer has disguised a revolutionary manifesto as a farcical, light-hearted comedy. I laughed, but I’m still fired up.

    The play is satisfying for those of us who feel hopeless and helpless in these uncertain times. It’s wish-fulfillment, providing a fantasy that doesn’t exactly offer a realistic solution, but wouldn’t it be nice if it were actually happening? (I don’t want to give too much away, though it does become somewhat obvious if you’re paying attention in the first half).

    I found myself walking through Coal Harbour not long after seeing the show, staring up in wonder at all these empty luxury condominiums, with breathtaking views that are going unseen. What is the solution? It’s a difficult question, and no once can seem to agree on an answer. Maybe that’s because many don’t see a problem at all, and why should they? What they are doing makes sense, fiscally. But if they are not living here, merely using their “homes” as an investment, how can they see the effect this trend is having on our city? On the morale of the folks who have lived here all their lives, now being priced out, pushed into the ever-expanding suburbs, where the prices are rising, too?

    The Concierge of Vancouver wants to incite and inspire. You can see it in the performances, in the determination of the actors and hear it in the playwright’s words. The show is scrappy but polished, like its hero, Al. Kudos to Matchmaker Productions for encouraging dialogue about these issues - literally, in fact, with their upcoming talkbacks. The show is sponsored by, among others, real estate agents. I’d like to hear their thoughts on the show and the issues it addresses.

    It’s hard not to feel impotent about these matters (as an average Vancouverite who will probably be renting for the rest of her life) and what it means for my retirement and for my child’s future.  But results depend on who shows up to take part in the discussion. Art can produce change, but not if it exists within a vacuum.


    The Concierge of Vancouver is presented by Matchmaker Productions and is on stage at Studio 1398 until October 16. Tickets and information through matchmakerproductions.com


  • Sunday, September 11, 2016 11:00 AM | GVPTA (Administrator)

    aux.la.more by Kara Nolte

    Reflections by GVPTA blogger Kaylin Metchie


    A typical Vancouver Fringe setting: a multipurpose room retro-fitted with black curtains on the windows to block out light, a handful of occupied folding chairs arranged in rows, and an air of expectation of what’s to come. I had no idea what to expect from aux.la.more, preferring these days to go into a theatrical experience blind and without influence.

    aux.la.more is like a first date. Strange and beautiful, welcoming and yet odd all at the same time. It begins with Kara Nolte facing away from the audience, bathed in a low blue light and swaying to music only heard by Kara herself. Like the beginning of a first date, where you present just a dash of who you are, still unsure of the person sitting across from you. When Kara finally does turn to the audience, she tells us that her mission for this piece is to turn the solo into a duet, to get someone from the audience up out of their seats to dance with her. The piece moves towards an unknown, “Will someone in the audience join her on stage or will she be left up there all alone?” Much like the unknown of a first date, neither party knowing whether by the end of those drinks they will be parting their separate ways or joining each other in a duet of life.

    As the performance progresses, Kara opens herself to the audience, allowing us a glimpse, albeit brief, into who this twinkling voiced dancer is. Like how her love of karaoke, especially Sunday night karaoke at a specific Main and Hastings dive bar, allows her to continue to connect with a destructive moment in her life that she has moved away from.

    Kara’s sojourns of exposition gave this contemporary dance piece roots in the real world. At times, contemporary theatre or art can get trapped in a cycle self-aggrandizing, moving so far away from the tangible world that it pushes the audience away as second class. aux.la.more feels real, feels grounded.

    This is the epitome of what the Fringe should be: non-mainstream artists sharing their passions and talents with a captivated audience. It makes you feel safe and still question the surrounding world.

    Kara as a performer is incredibly engaging. The piece is deceptively simple, a solo dancer on an empty stage. But writhing just beneath, a story about connecting to those around us.

    aux.la.more runs during the Vancouver Fringe Festival, and plays for two more shows at False Creek Gym September 11 (4:30pm) and 13 (9:30pm).

     

    Tickets and information at tickets.vancouverfringe.com


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