Tag Archive: Broadway Across Canada

2012 in Review: Shows I Saw

For the last four years I’ve been keeping track of what I see, and each year the number has been growing. This year I saw a staggering 174 different productions (some of them more than once) spanning the performance art disciplines in 10 cities and five countries. I saw a high school production and a West End Musical. I went to the Vancouver Fringe and the Paris National Opera. I saw magicians, musicals, and modern dance; ballet, busking, and butoh; Shakespeare, site-specific, and SummerWorks.

As with every year there are shows I regret missing, but there are way less this year. There were things I wanted to see in London that I didn’t make it to. I couldn’t see every show at PuSh. I missed Terminus at SummerWorks.But overall, I saw more great theatre this year. Of course, I also walked out of two shows this year (something I rarely do) and wanted to walk out of at least three others that I couldn’t walk out of due to political reasons or logistics.

Here they are, the 174 shows I saw in 2012 in something close to chronological order:

  1. Waiting for Godot (Blackbird Theatre at the Cultch)
  2. Never Swim Alone (TWU)
  3. All The Way Home (Electric Company)
  4. Red (Vancouver Playhouse)
  5. The Idiot (Neworld/UBC at PuSh)
  6. Amarillo (Teatro Linea de Sombra at PuSh)
  7. Glory Days (The Boys Upstairs Equity Co-op)
  8. Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner (Chelfitsch Theater at PuSh)
  9. Gunmetal Blues (Playhouse)
  10. El Pasado un animal grotesco (Grupo Marea at PuSh)
  11. Craigslist Cantata (Arts Club Theatre at PuSh)
  12. Almighty Voice and his Wife (Native Earth Performing Arts/Touchstone Theatre at PuSh)
  13. Calendar Girls (Arts Club)
  14. No. 2 (Silo Theatre at PuSh)
  15. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Pacific Theatre)
  16. Bride on Credit (TWU)
  17. Tempting Providence (Gateway Theatre)
  18. Problem Child & The End of Civilization (Theatre at UBC)
  19. I Love You Because (Intimate Productions)
  20. Intimate Apparel (Arts Club Theatre)
  21. The Silicone Diaries (Nina Arsenault at The Cultch)
  22. Hunchback (Catalyst Theatre at The Vancouver Playhouse)
  23. All Shook Up (Chemainus Theatre Festival & Gateway Co-pro)
  24. Ignorance (Old Trout Puppet WorkShop at The Cultch)
  25. Doubt (Pacific Theatre)
  26. Goodness (Volcano theatre at the Firehall)
  27. King Lear (Honest Fishmongers)
  28. Kismet 1 to 100 (The Chop at Gateway)
  29. A Vessel of Ruins (Taketeru Kudo – Tokyo)
  30. Barber of Seville (Vancouver Opera)
  31. Importance of Being Earnest (Arts Club)
  32. Importance of Being Earnest (Gallery 7)
  33. Flop (Delinquent Theatre)
  34. Snooker (Camillo the Magician)
  35. Fresco (BellaLuna Productions)
  36. The Bombitty of Errors (20-Something)
  37. Scar Tissue (Arts Club)
  38. Henry & Alice: Into the Wild (Arts Club)
  39. EndGame (Main Street Theatre)
  40. A Last Resort (Rough House Productions)
  41. Trial by Jury (VSO & Vancouver Opera Ensemble)
  42. Aida (Vancouver Opera)
  43. The Exquisite Hour (Relephant Theatre)
  44. 100 Saints You Should Know (Pacific Theatre)
  45. Blue Box (Neworld Theatre)
  46. Bliss (Ballet BC)
  47. High Society (Arts Club)
  48. Godspell (Christ Church Cathedral)
  49. Obstructions – Boca Del Lupo
  50. Shelter from the Storm (Touchstone/Firehall)
  51. Fantasticks (Gallery 7)
  52. MacBeth (Bard on the Beach)
  53. Wolf at the Door (Pacific Theatre)
  54. Not Everything You Are (Stones Throw)
  55. Obstructions – Felix Culpa
  56. UnBoxed (Scarlet Satin)
  57. Reasons to be Pretty (Matchbox Theatre)
  58. The Alchemist
  59. Xanadu (Arts Club)
  60. Titanic (TUTS)
  61. The Music Man (TUTS)
  62. King John (Bard on the Beach)
  63. Merry Wives of Windsor (Bard on the Beach)
  64. Alter Boyz (Arts Club)
  65. Armed (Xua Xua)
  66. Mary Poppins (Broadway Across Canada)
  67. Stationary (Delinquent Theatre at Neanderthal)
  68. Coercion (Hardline at Neanderthal)
  69. God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment.at Neanderthal)
  70. The List (Bouchewhacked! at Neanderthal)
  71. Tyumen, Then (Groundwater Productions at Neanderthal)
  72. House of X (Wild Excursions at Neanderthal)
  73. The Taming of the Shrew (Bard on the Beach)
  74. Obstructions – Beautiful Karrats (Radix)
  75. Sunday Service (Neanderthal)
  76. Exhibit A (411 Dramaturgy at Neanderthal)
  77. The Marraige of Figaro (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre)
  78. My Pregnant Brother (Freestanding Productions at SummerWorks)
  79. France or the Niquab (Old Pirate at SummerWorks)
  80. Haunted (The Haunted Group at SummerWorks)
  81. Artaud: un Portrait en Decomposition (TheatreRUN at SummerWorks))
  82. Medicine Boy (Native Earth at SummerWorks)
  83. Purge (Brian Lobel at SummerWorks)
  84. One/Un (Orange Noyée at SummerWorks)
  85. The God that Comes (2b Theatre at SummerWorks)
  86. When it Rains (2b Theatre at SummerWorks)
  87. Petrichor (Kitchenband at SummerWorks)
  88. Barrel Crank (Suitcase in Point at SummerWorks)
  89. Extinction Song (Voodoo Theatre at SummerWorks)
  90. Dutchman (lemonTree Creations)
  91. Wondermart (Rotozaza at SummerWorks)
  92. Marine Life (Theatre Crisis and Aluna Theatre at SummerWorks)
  93. Captain Ron’s Ship of Friendship/Atomic Vaudeville Cabaret (Atomic Vaudeville at SummerWorks)
  94. The Frenzy of Queen Maeve  (Live Lobster Theatre at SummerWorks)
  95. Breath in Between (Breath Collective in Association with Crow’s Theatre at SummerWorks)
  96. 40 Days and 40 Nights (Nina Arsenault at Summerworks)
  97. Your Side, My Side and the Truth (Compass and Trying Science Co-Production at SummerWorks)
  98. Peachy Coochy (Summerworks)
  99. We Will WeeTube (An Experiment with Theatre Replacement’s WeeTube at SummerWorks)
  100. Iceland (The Iceland Collective at Summerworks)
  101. Speed the Plow (SoulPepper)
  102. Motor Vehicle Sundown (Andy Field at SummerWorks)
  103. Midsummer Night’s Dream (CanStage)
  104. Mojo (ItsaZoo)
  105. Eurosmash! (Die Rotten Punkte at The Cultch)
  106. My Marvellous Melcher Machine (James Melcher)
  107. Pirates? (Quimera Collective)
  108. Just Bust a Move (Nathaniel Roy)
  109. Home Free (Staircase XI)
  110. Riverview High: The Musical (Entrance Theatre)
  111. In the Time of the Dream Warrior (Golgonooza)
  112. The 1812 Event (Just Push Play)
  113. Romance (Queer Arts Society)
  114. Adult Entertainment (Squidamisu Theatre)
  115. ReLapse (And the Other Leg)
  116. Miss Cosmos (Bright Young Theatre)
  117. Felony (Dreams Beyond 30)
  118. First Day Back (10 Foot Pole)
  119. Alpha (Compassionate Bone)
  120. Three More Sleepless Nights (o.o.o.o.)
  121. Weaksauce (Sam Mullins)
  122. You Are Here (Allentina Francesca)
  123. Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos (411 Dramaturgy)
  124. Tales Told by Idiots (Not The Mermaid)
  125. Lost in Twine (Looking for 143 Productions)
  126. Underbelly (Jayson MacDonald)
  127. Zanna, Don’t (Awkward Stage)
  128. Psychopomp (Psyche Theatre)
  129. Smudge (Two Wrongs That Write)
  130. God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment)
  131. Peter ‘n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies (Peter ‘n’ Chris)
  132. Loon (Wonderheads)
  133. Gadfly (Theatre of the Beat)
  134. Guernica (Hidden Harlequin Theatre)
  135. Fishbowl (Mark Shyzer)
  136. How to Love (Idea Factory Entertainment)
  137. Welcome to my Wake (INC – Ingrid Nilson Collective)
  138. Little Lady (Sandrine Lanford)
  139. The Histories AKA Will Shakespeare’s ImproMusical (GrinkeInk)
  140. Riot (Carson Graham Secondary)
  141. The Missing Piece (Theresa Hamilton)
  142. The Best, Man (Urban Rogues)
  143. Risk Everything (Squidamisu Theatre)
  144. No Tweed to Tight (Ryan Gladstone)
  145. Vincent (Spitfire Productions)
  146. Bookworm (Corin Raymond)
  147. Blind Date (Rebecca Northan at the Cultch)
  148. Post Secret: The Play (TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti & Frank Warren)
  149. The Spitfire Grill (Midnight Theatre Collective at Pacific Theatre)
  150. Capslock: The Musical (Pipedream Productions)
  151. Master Class (Arts Club)
  152. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (Elbow Theatre at The Cultch)
  153. A Beautiful View (Ruby Slippers)
  154. Zombie Syndrome (Virtual Stage)
  155. The Unplugging (Arts Club)
  156. Initiation Trilogy (Electric Company/Boca del Lupo/Writers Fest)
  157. Debts (ItsaZoo)
  158. La Boheme (Vancouver Opera)
  159. Dancing at Lughnassa (Capilano University)
  160. Chelsea Hotel (Firehall)
  161. Cozy Catastrophe (theatre Melee with Rumble and the Cultch)
  162. Gold Mountain (Les Deux Mondes & unity theatre at The Cultch)
  163. Dickens’ Women (Miriam Margoyles at The Cultch)
  164. Go Back for Murder (SAMC Theatre @TWU)
  165. Tomb with a View (Genus/Up in the Air)
  166. Far Side of the Moon (Ex Machina @ SFU)
  167. Matilda the Musical (Royal Shakespeare Company in the Westend)
  168. Twelfth Night (The Globe)
  169. NSFW (Royal Court)
  170. The Effect (National Theatre)
  171. Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Zurich Opera House)
  172. Jultrad-i-tion (Gotenburg Opera)
  173. Don Quixote (Ballet of the National Opera of Paris)
  174. Le Retour (Odeon Theatre of Europe)
  175. La Cenerentola (National Opera of Paris)

2011 in Review: Theatrical Excellence

I’m not a critic or reviewer.  That has never been my goal in writing this blog. If you’re looking for some of the critics 2011 lists, I’ve found the one for The Georgia Straight, The Globe and Mail, Gay Vancouver and The Vancouver Courier.

Each year I wonder how to recognize the truly excellent work I see each year. I’ve tried a top ten list (2009). I’ve tried a top six list (2010). Neither felt quite right for what I wanted to say. So now I try again. Another year. Another format. Let’s see if I can’t take some inspiration for the annual “Best of Vancouver” and make my own “Best of Vancouver Theatre” list.

The cast of Ride the Cyclone. Photo from the official Ride the Cyclone blog

Best Show that Everyone Agrees is the BestRide the Cyclone (Atomic Vaudeville)
I am a stingy standing ovation giver, but this show had me on my feet before the curtain call lights even came up. Why is this little show from Victoria topping critics list across the country? Biting humor. Vivid characters. Song and dance numbers so varied in tone/style/content that you never know where you’ll be next. The best “turn your cell phones off” speech ever. EVER. A cast that takes the quirky and makes it both heart-breaking and hilarious, all the while singing and dancing. The show uses low-tech/budget tricks to great result and the indie feel is definitely part of its charm. I went into this show having been told that it was fantastic, but I remember saying to myself, “Okay.  Now you know it might not be everything you’ve been told it is.  Let go of your expectations.”  And the best part was that it exceeded every one of those expectations.

The Best “Theatrical Experience” - La Marea (Boca del Lupo with Mariano Pensotti for the PuSh Festival)
Walking into the zero-block of water street for that week in January was like nothing else I have experienced in going to the theatre. Both ends of the busy street closed down. People everywhere. Giant flood lights light the street and then like the flip of a breaker the flood lights go out and music begins, theatre lights pop on to unexpected places, and projected surtitles appear. Each of the nine scenes were only 10 minutes long, but you had to walk the whole block to see them, and depending which end of the street you started at you had a different experience.  I’m sure it was a logistical challenge (kudos to the stage management/production management team for pulling it off!) but the effect was so stunning I went back down to the block two more nights just to watch people interact with the piece. My favourite thing was seeing people who had no idea that their favourite restaurant’s patio was now playing home to a play and that by eating there they had inadvertently become extras. Or people who just happened to be out walking in the Gastown neighbourhood asking a volunteer what exactly was going on and deciding to stay and see what all the fuss was. Most of the nights the block was wall-to-wall people and when it threatened to rain they were ready – volunteers were standing by handing out branded umbrellas. Free. Outdoors. Huge. La Marea redefined the possibilities for me.

Honorable Mention – Party This Weekend (The House Party Collective) – Was it a show or a house party? It was really a bit of both. With four intertwining story lines, a house and its yard for the set, and lots of audience interaction it was a fantastic experience!

Circa. Image provided.

Best Show I Still Can’t Categorize - Circa (Circa at PuSh Festival)
This wasn’t my first time seeing Circa perform as a part of the PuSh festival, but as always they defy being easily labelled.  The Australian company defines themselves as “circus that moves the heart and soul” but their performance lends itself to comparisons to both theatre and dance.  No matter what you call it though,  it elicited an audible response from myself and from others in the audience as the performers flung themselves through the air at each other or moved a single muscle so specifically that it could be noticed from the back of the theatre. It was an absolutely stunning night.

Honorable Mention – Dress Me Up In Your Love – Theatre Replacement – Part story-telling, part fashion show, part music, I found this show at times hilarious, at times moving and I never need to see Andrew McNee in a tight dress again.

The Best Piece of Dance for Sitting on the Edge of Your Seat - Emergence (Crystal Pite for the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour)
My dance knowledge is really very limited, but I take whatever opportunity I can to attend dance. Crystal Pite’s Emergence, the final of four pieces on the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour had me on the edge of my seat the moment it started. Intricate. Precise. Stunning. It was one of those pieces where I didn’t want to blink because I was afraid that I would miss something amazing.

Honorable Mention – Moth (Donald Sales for Ballet BC‘s 25th Anniversary) – A bare bulb dangling on stage. Sign Language and Silent Screams. This ballet exploration of grief was breath-taking.

Ingrid Hansen acting with Celery. Photo by Al Smith.

Best of the Fringe Fest - Little Orange Man (Snafu Dance Theatre)
The Fringe is a funny festival in the sense that it really is a free for all.  Anyone can do a show. You can end up seeing ANYTHING on stage. But when Ingrid walked on stage and began using a piece of bread to tell us a story, I wasn’t prepared for how touching this show would be.  Yes, it had celery sticks as characters and involved Ingrid climbing out of a giant suitcase.  It had some of the funnest low-tech magic that I’ve seen on stage in a while, and its not every day that you watch an audience hold tiny shoes in the air and conjure up small children.  The show left me feeling wistful for childhood and delighted to see what Ingrid will think up next.

Honorable Mention – Peter ‘n’ Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Hotel (Peter ‘n’ Chris) – C’mon….they have flashy jackets, can do a slow motion car crash, and are funny.  What more do you need from your Fringe experience?

Best Show for An Audience of 15 or Less - Tape (Alley Theatre)
Crammed into a small room at the Waldorf Hotel with 11 other audience members plus this cast of three, being in the room as they fought was an exhilarating experience.  It’s what site-specific theatre does when at it’s best – puts you right there with the characters, knowing that there is no other place in which this story would have as much impact.

Honorable Mention – Whale – Kyle Jespersen – In the intimate Anderson Street Space, writer and performer Kyle Jespersen took us door-to-door selling Bibles and waiting for a sign.  I believe it was a show in progress and the note I wrote to myself that night after the show was “I can’t wait to see what this turns into.”

Rumble Productions' Community Dinner. Photo provided.

Best ReInvention of Genre - Community Dinner (Rumble Productions with Boca del LupoElectric Company TheatreNeworld Theatre & MOSAIC)
This was not like any “dinner theatre” you have ever been to before, I would guarantee it. The four companies who share the Progress Lab space teamed up with MOSAIC – an organization that seeks to empower recent immigrants – and for three months prior to the show teams comprised of professional actors and newcomers to Canada met up, learned how to prepare various ethnic recipes, and created a short piece of theatre connected to the recipe.  Each of the four pieces was as diverse as the companies they came from, and at the end of the night the cast and audience sat down to a meal of the food that had been prepared in front of them.

Honorable Mention – Visions of Vancouver – Pi Theatre - Performed for a live audience these radio plays were also recorded for FREE release as podcasts. With a simple staging and at times with script in hand, these four actors performed in a way that worked live and that works in an audio-only medium.

Best Show to Make Me Want New Toys - Wicked (Broadway Across Canada)
I don’t know how, as a person who cares about the technical side of theatre at all, it is possible to see a show like Wicked and NOT want to play with all their toys. The choreography of the set pieces alone was stunning and the costumes were so intricate. The sheer calibre and artistry of all involved made it such a visual feast to go along with such a well loved musical. The whole experience was so lovely.  I enjoy seeing the big broadway shows when they come to town, but this one topped many of them for being so on the ball technically.

Honorable Mention – Penny Plain – Ronnie Burkett at the Cultch – With 24 custom made marionnettes, I don’t think you can see one of Ronnie’s shows and not want to play with them, or at the very least examine the intricate strings that allow the performer to make even a pinky finger move.

Best Show to Give Multiple Standing Ovations – Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Glass City Theatre)
As someone who rarely gives a standing ovation, it is even more rare for me to do so more than once for the same production.  Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train got two or three from me during its three week run. It was a heart-breaking ride that moved me over and over again as I saw it and that continues to challenge my opinions.

 

Other Year In Review Posts:
Hard Work
What I Saw