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Presented by Tomosuru Players
Directed by Gerald Williams
Where: PAL Studio Theatre, 581 Cardero St., Vancouver, BC, Canada
When: Feb. 7-19, 2017
Description: Spring Awakening depicts a dozen young people making their way through the thrilling, complicated and mysterious time of sexual awakening.


Spring Awakening, the Musical, was critically acclaimed (winning a Tony for Best Musical) and had a lot of hype when it premiered in 2006. This is an intimate, acoustic production of the show with a quadruple threat ensemble of musicians, actors, singers, dancers.

It seemed like a tight-knit cast and there's a lot of young talent here. Many of the cast played instruments and it felt like a true ensemble with how supportive everyone was for each other. The cast take risks and are vulnerable with each other and to us. This along with the intimacy of this production helped make us feel what the characters were feeling whether it was lust, hope, or oppression. The production utilizes no microphones; it adds so much warmth to hear everyone's natural voices.

Spring Awakening, for anyone unfamiliar with the musical or the original 1890's classic play, is about the sexual awakening of youth and the oppression of adults towards them. The musical's script is very faithful to its source material. The 1890's classic is the original teen issues play and its mature content is not for everyone. It contains teen suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, and more. Very few adults in the show are not oppressive or abusive. Tim Howe, playing multiple adult characters, is physically imposing and is particularly striking with his stillness. He and Veronica Bonderud provide some much needed levity in their scenes as head masters (and as a piano teacher).

The script could benefit from more humour and greater development of the issues within the show. Its protagonist is not vulnerable or sympathetic until the end so it can be a challenge to relate and connect to Melchior, as written. Luckily, Wendla and Moritz are more sympathetic from the beginning. A happy ending seems tacked on as it isn't realistic or motivated and feels designed to send the audience home happy (which I'm grateful for).

This was my first time at the PAL Studio Theatre and it's a nice space. I find it curious that many of our newest theatre's such as Studio 1398 and the PAL Theatre are not more conveniently placed on the ground floor with their own entrance though.
There's a lot to like from this unique production of Spring Awakening. I look forward to future productions from Tomosuru, including their production of Cabaret. They are a welcome addition to Vancouver's theatre community. 







  

Potted Potter by Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner


Dates & Venue December 13 – 24, 2016 | Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville St., Vancouver

Director Richard Hurst



Potted Potter originated as a five minute street performance in England in 2005 before expanding into a full show, touring, and performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This Canadian tour features the original creators and performers, Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, who have also created Potted Pirates, Potted Panto, and Potted Sherlock. The performers aim to parody all seven Potter books and have an interactive Quidditch match in 70 minutes (we got 15 bonus minutes the night I went).


The actors are talented, energetic, and very funny. They seem to be having a lot of fun and made each other laugh several times with what seemed liked spontaneous, improvised bits. Both are quick witted and there were many hilarious moments of interaction with several audience members. The performances perhaps could be even stronger if their impressions of each character sounded or looked more like the original but I believe that may be intentional. Their performances, otherwise, are very polished after so many years of touring the show.


I haven't been to the Vogue Theatre in many years but the leg room is tighter than an airplane, making for a very uncomfortable and cramp-inducing experience. I have never seen any venue go to such extremes to sacrifice an audience's comfort to fit more people in. The rows and seat numbers could also use better signage.


The production does not rely on or use big budget effects or have a large cast as one may expect given the venue (and the price). The performers use this as a running joke. The set is also humble and this is also used for comedic fodder.

This would be a great show for Harry Potter fans and those who enjoy light comedy (though the price is a bit high given the production values, size of the cast, and lack of comfort in the theatre).







  

Align Entertainment

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber


Dates and Venue November 4 - 19, 2016 | Michael J. Fox Theatre, 7373 MacPherson Ave., Burnaby

Director Chad Matchette Musical Director Kevin Michael Cripps Choreographer Melissa Turpin


I had heard that Align Entertainment has been producing excellent family-friendly musicals (Shrek, Addams Family, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) for a few years but hadn’t yet been to one of their productions. Align Entertainment’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatis fantastic! The large cast is strong and their voices are incredible! The music is beautiful and Melissa Turpin’s choreography is great!


This is a very professional and polished production. Kevin Michael Cripps has done an amazing job and is, without a doubt, one of Vancouver’s best musical directors. The orchestra and voices are wonderful playing and singing the many diverse genres in the musical. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have crafted many catchy, classic songs and they are impeccably executed in this production. I don’t know how Align Entertainment found so many strong male singers to play the 12 brothers, particularly with other musicals happening around town, but they did it.


There is lots of humour in the show and it is also family friendly. About half of the cast are kids as well. The large cast bring lots of energy and look like they are having a lot of fun. There are too many memorable moments and characters to list them all here.


The plot is a bit thin but the music more than makes up for it, especially in this production. The script could have used some female driven stories as well.


Director and producer Chad Matchette has brought together an incredible team and it’s wonderful to have such high calibre family entertainment in the lower mainland. I look forward to their next show, A Little Mermaid, in February and all of their future productions. Congratulations to everyone involved in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for creating such a polished and entertaining production! See it while you can!







  


The Cultch

The Pianist: A Concert Catastrophe

Dates and Venue October 25 – November 6, 2016, October 26-28 & November 1-5, 7pm, (Matinees October 29-30 & November 6, 2pm) | York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive, Vancouver



The Pianist: A Concert Catastrophe is a wordless physical comedy. Its creator and performer, Thomas Monckton, is wildly inventive and creates many wonderfully creative and hilarious visuals. He is a masterful physical comedian and has the audience captivated from the show’s opening frantic peek backstage to the very end.


The show is great for all ages and languages and is only 55 minutes long. The 7pm start time allows those with kids the opportunity to see a show even on a school night and still leave the theatre before 8pm. There were several kids in the audience the night I attended and they were laughing loudly throughout the performance, particularly at the slapstick. The show would also be perfect for ESL students, international travellers, and anyone really, as there is no language barrier.


The performer and production are fantastically playful, responsive, and interactive. From getting audience members to give him a boost onstage to an ongoing feud with the technicians, Thomas inspires much laughter. 


Thomas utilizes every bit of his sparse set- a covered piano, chandelier, and curtains- to great effect. He’s in each moment making discoveries, generally creating a nice unpredictability. Some moments were repeated to diminished effect but, overall, there’s an amazing amount of creativity and inventiveness.. 


The production uses a great deal of talcum powder. You may wish to get seats further from the stage if you are uncomfortable breathing it in. I was concerned for the performer’s exposure to it every night but was reassured at www.Cancer.org. Apparently store bought talcum powder has been asbestos free since the 1970’s so it isn’t considered a lung cancer risk.


There are not too many shows that all ages and languages can enjoy. This is one of them. If you like to have fun and laugh, come see The Pianist. It is well deserving after selling out at the Edinburgh Fringe.







  


Ben Bilodeau Productions 
Bachelorette by Leslye Headland


Dates and Venue October 11 - 22, 2016, | Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Drive

Bachelorette is a wild, hilarious, and bawdy ride. Taking place the night before Becky’s wedding, her “friends” drink, snort coke, hookup, and trash the bride.


The actors are well cast, have good chemistry, and great comic timing. They worked hard and were focused and energized despite being perhaps disappointed by the size of the house.


While their characters are generally irredeemable, the performers made me feel compassion for their humanity. This production deserves a large audience and successful run. While there wasn’t a huge audience the night I attended, the audience was very responsive and everyone seemed to enjoy the show very much. I definitely did. Perhaps tickets are a little more at $25 than its target audience can afford.


While Bachelorette is primarily a comedy, there are some very dramatic and dark moments. Much like life, not everything is resolved at the end and we are left wondering at what will happen to the relationships and lives of the characters of the play.

Leslye Headland also made this play into the 2012 movie of the same name starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, and Rebel Wilson. Headland wrote a cycle of “Seven Deadly Sins” plays and Bachelorette is one of them.


It’s refreshing to see a play about the lives of people in their twenties and I applaud Ben Bilodeau Productions for giving Vancouver audiences this very funny play. Bilodeau Productions is a welcome and needed addition to Vancouver’s theatre community. I highly recommend Bachelorette for a hilarious and fun night out.





The Cultch in association with The Motherload Collective

Motherload by Emelia Symington Fedy, Jody-Kay Marklew, Juno Rinaldi, Sonja Bennett


Dates & Venue October 4-15, 2016, 8pm (Matinees October 9 & 15, 2pm) | Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables Street

Motherload is a vulnerable, authentic, and intimate production about parenthood as experienced by four mothers in Vancouver. When the show premiered at the Cultch last year, it was an autobiographical account of being a mother by the original creators and performers.


Both productions are strong and I didn’t notice much difference between the two except for two new actors. The play is often very funny and equally poignant.


One of the biggest strengths of Motherload is its authenticity. As this production features two new performers acting the experiences of Sonja and Juno, those roles felt a little less authentic and vulnerable this time around.


I was curious about and would have welcomed hearing about the lives of the new cast members’ experience of being a mother (if they are parents). This would have also provided new content for those that have enjoyed the show before.


For those who haven’t seen the original production (or its remount at the Evergreen Cultural Centre), I highly recommend that you see Motherload, particularly if you are a parent. Emilia Symington Fedy (The Chop Theatre) is one of my favourite local creators and performers and also has a wonderful and honest blog about life at www.TryingToBeGood.com





Til Death: The Six Wives of Henry VIII


Performance Dates 8,9,12,14,15 & 17 September, 2016 at the Rio Theatre

Playwright Ryan Gladstone

Performer Tara Travis


Tara Travis is one of the strongest actors in the Fringe Festival and has been performing at the fest for years. Her previous shows include Lavinia, Houdini’s Last Escape, The Unfortunate Ruth, and Best Picture (also currently playing). Tara and Monster Theatre generally have some of the best and funniest plays in the Fringe Festival. Til Death has Tara playing every wife and role and she does a masterful job. Her characterizations are specific and her physicality and vocalizations are excellent. Ryan Gladstone has written a hilarious script. This was one of my favourite shows in the 2012 Festival and it definitely deserves this remount. See it. 





The Jupiter Rebellion: A Zach Zultana Adventure


Performance Dates 9,10,11,12,15 & 17 September, 2016 at Studio 1398

Performer Jeff Leard


Jeff Leard is a fantastic actor and writer and his previous shows, Sperm Wars (aka Gonads and Gametes) and The Show Must Go On were hilarious and two of my favourite plays at the Festival when they premiered. The Jupiter Rebellion has Jeff playing multiple roles and himself when describing what camera shots he’d use if this were a big budget movie. The story is entertaining and Jeff does an excellent job of creating the world of the play. I’d be curious to see the show without the described camera shots as I believe it would make the pace even stronger and keep us in the world of the story. I highly recommend seeing anything Jeff Leard creates.





James Jordan: Vaudevillian


Performance Dates 9,11,13,16,17 & 18 September, 2016 at False Creek Gym

Playwright/Performer James Jordan


James Jordan: Vaudevillian is a very funny show for all ages. James Jordan is an affable performer and the show is full of magic, mentalism (mind reading), music, comedy, and audience interaction. Last year I felt this show was one of the festival’s hidden gems. It has toured the country and is very polished. If you have kids, this is a great Fringe Fest show to take them to. I only hope that Jordan isn’t actually hurting himself when mouse traps snap on his hands and face for the audience’s (particularly the kids) amusement. Highly recommended.





Awkward Stage Productions Presents: The Fakespeare Festival


TITUS: The Light and Delightful Musical Comedy of Titus Andronicus 

by Andrew Wade and Jenny Andersen


Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald


Dates & Venue August 3 – 28, 2016, 8pm (Sunday Matinees at 2pm) | York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive



Buy tickets now. Awkward Stage Productions has a history of sold out performances and for good reason. They do fantastically entertaining, hilarious, fully realized productions with incredibly talented performers and creators. They are one of Vancouver’s very best theatre companies. I’ve seen enough international and national productions to also state, without exaggeration, that they are also one of the world’s best producers of theatre. They’ve topped themselves by also committing to the creation and development of new musicals from local playwrights and composers. Their productions will appeal to everyone, even those that never attend theatre.


Titus is one of the best and most hilarious productions that I’ve ever seen (of thousands of productions from all over the world). There are only two performances left (Aug. 24 and 27 at 8pm). I hope that representatives of Bard on the Beach and the Stratford Festival have seen this show and include it in future seasons. This musical will no doubt end up on Broadway and has a bright, bright future ahead of it as do its performers and creators. Andrew Wade is a wonderfully witty writer and is a revelation. Jenny Anderson’s music is beautiful, varied, and catchy. I’m hoping that there will be a cast recording and DVD released as this is an extraordinary show and troupe.


Titus features amazing performances and an incredibly strong ensemble. Everyone plays their roles to perfection and it’s breathtaking to witness this much talent on one stage. The relationships, repartee, and characterizations were inspired and hysterical. Every character was memorable. There were too many wonderful moments to list. This is why I see theatre. The writing and performances were so strong that it seemed like the entire cast of fifteen had leading roles. The only adjustment that I would be interested to see is for Aaron / Harrison to be without the phone and not have to pretend not to know his lines or how to act at all early on as it takes away from the wonderful pace. I found it confusing the first time I saw the production and assumed that he was a last minute replacement. There is much humour derived from Shakespeare not being confident in Harrison’s acting ability and I believe that this and Harrison’s character’s journey would be even stronger with the alteration.


Titus won Pick of the Fringe last year and is destined for many more awards for its writer, composer, director, performers, and producer. This production is an incredible achievement. See it while you can.


Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) is also a strong production with many wonderfully uproarious performances, particularly the bawdy and lusty Juliet, Romeo, and Tybalt in Act II. It’s hilarious to see the interaction and juxtaposition between them and Constance, an uptight academic. I would have loved for the script to spend more time in Verona with these characters. The script could use some editing in Act I as it takes some time for the comedy to take off. Those that are patient are well rewarded. Goodnight Desdemona has only three performances left.


It’s another testament to the strength of the company to see some of those that played secondary and ensemble roles in Titus, play leads in Goodnight Desdemona. I only wish the script were more balanced and gave everyone in the company more opportunities to shine as many wonderful performers don’t have a lot to do.


I highly recommend both shows in the Fakespeare Festival along with all future productions from Awkward Stage.