Continuing my exploration Vancouver’s summer theatre scene, last week I watched Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza and TUTS’ Singin’ in the Rain.
Kooza is the 2nd Cirque show I’ve seen, and like Corteo 2 years ago I was very impressed. Kooza is a return to the basics for Cirque, featuring traditional acts like trapeze, contortionists, and tumblers, but with the cirque’s flair for the dramatic. The acts that really stood out for me were the unicyclist, the Wheel of Death, and the clowns. It is amazing what the Cirque performers can do with their bodies, it almost doesn’t seem real. There were several times during the show that I thought the performers were screwing up on purpose to bring back some realism.
It’s been a great summer for Theatre Under the Stars outdoor stage at Malkin Bowl. The weather has been consistently sunny. I think it only rained one night in the past month, and that was Saturday night when we found ourselves watching Singin’ In the Rain (how fitting). I enjoyed Singin’ in the Rain, but it wasn’t nearly as good as Joseph. The songs were memorable and catchy (more so then Joseph) and the dancing was good, but it didn’t draw me in. The humour wasn’t there and there were several slow acting bits that really didn’t translate well from the film to the stage. That said, when we left we were singing several of the tunes as we biked off in the rain.
I had the pleasure of seeing two excellent theatre productions this week – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Lion King. It is almost a shame to be watching theatre when the weather is so nice, but at least one of the shows we saw was outdoors.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is being performed by Theatre Under the Stars at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park – a great venue on a sunny evening. For such a young and local cast of actors, I was really impressed with the talent – the singing, dancing, and acting were top-notch. It was my first time seeing Joseph and I really enjoyed it. I think I had a smile on my face the whole show. It was funny, the songs were varied and catchy (especially the calypso number), and there was an impressive strong-man/circus routine. One cute touch in this performance was they chose a young audience member (a 6-year old boy) to play the 12th brother – he didn’t have any speaking lines, but was on stage for the entire show and was involved in several important scenes. This was my 5th TUTS performance, and I think it was the best one I’ve seen (or at least as good as Annie Get Your Gun two years ago).
Lion King was a visual and musical treat. The costumes and sets were simply stunning. It has been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, so some of the plot I had forgotten. But I still remembered all the songs, and sang along with the little kids in the row in front of us. It is amazing how popular Lion King continues to be with children, considering the movie came out when I was a kid, 16 years ago.
Next week, I’m looking forward to watching Singing in the Rain and Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza.
More Fringe reviews.
Barry Smith’s Baby Book (***)
Barry Smith is funny – so funny he can make a slide show of baby pictures and scanned pages from his baby book amusing. After seeing American Squatter last year (his slide show of pictures from his college years), the format seemed a bit stale though.
Totem Figures (***)
This was my first introduction to TJ Dawe – a local fringe mainstay. His monologue about fictional and real characters that shaped his life (Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, George Carlin, and more) seemed more like a psychology paper then a play. However, it was amusing and at times thought provoking. There was also a lot of interesting insight into the life of a Fringe performer and how gruelling the summer circuit can be.
Mr. Fox (****)
A hilarious play starring Greg Landucci (from last year’s hit DishPig, which I regrettably never saw) and directed by the aforementioned TJ Dawe. The story is about Greg’s job as the mascot for a Vancouver radio station. The show had everything – ridiculous stories, some local humour, and high energy that kept you entertained throughout.
The Spy (****)
The only non-auto-biographical play I’ve seen this year – unless of course Jonno Katz really was an orphan who became a spy with MI6. The show was directed by Mark Chavez from the Pajama Men, and his style was evident. There was a lot physical mimery that allowed a single man without any props tell a complicated story. Katz also interacted a lot with the audience, which is always fun to see. Some of the funniest moments were the unscripted ones where he prompted the audience to help him with pieces of the story.
The Vancouver Fringe Festival has started! I’m really looking forward to seeing some wicked shows this year.
Tonight we saw Putz – a one-man comedy about a neurotic, hapless man who feels awkward around women. It was hilarious. It’s done by Andrew Bailey, a member of Atomic Vaudeville. Atomic Vaudeville put on Legoland – the best Fringe show I have ever seen.
Some of the Fringe shows we’re looking to see in the next two weeks:
– Barry Smith’s Baby Book
– Mr. Fox
– The Sputniks
– The Spy
– Totem Figures
Vancouver might be a recreational mecca (and I sure take advantage), but there are some decent opportunities to be artsy and get cultured too.
A few weeks ago, Emily and I went too See Cirque Du Soleil’s Corteo show with Dylan and Anna. It was amazing. I was really blown away by the performance. Often there was so much going on I didn’t know where to watch. Most of the show was what you would expect from Cirque – world class gymnasts doing crazy stunts, amazing live music, and funny theatrics. What I didn’t expect was the floating midget attached to huge helium balloons. It was bizarre. The audience was encouraged to push her around like a beach ball tossed into the audience. I was torn between thinking: “this is the coolest thing ever” and “wow, that’s so wrong”.
Another show touring through Vancouver is Spamalot – the Monty Python musical. Emily and I went to see it last night. It was good, but not as funny as I had expected. I found some of the original bits were hilarious, but the scenes taken from the movies fell flat.
Some other shows we’re considering seeing this summer are:
– Annie Get Your Gun – at The Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park. They’re also showing Jesus Christ Superstar.
– King Lear at Bard on the Beach. We saw Timon of Athens last year and I was really impressed.
There’s also lots of music festivals going on right now. I had no desire to brave the crowds at the Pemberton Festival, but last weekend we did spend one day at the Vancouver Folk Festival. It was a great day. The weather was perfect – mostly sunny with some cloudy breaks, the music was good (even though I didn’t really know any of the bands going in), and we had a great time hanging out with Laura. The highlights were:
– Martin Sexton on the main stage. A new discovery for me, he blew me away with his singing and ability to imitate instruments. It was just him and a guitar on stage, but at one point he did saxophone solo.
– Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet entertaining the crowd with sweet vocals and a harmony of banjo, fiddle, and cello. She sang some songs in Mandarin- unfortunately I didn’t see a single Chinese person in attendance.
– Delhi 2 Dublin getting everyone up on their feet and dancing to a crazy fusion of Indian and Celtic music. I was really happy to be in a crowd hippy-dancing along with everyone else. It was super fun.
– Jason Collett‘s mellow music and stories between songs. The best part of live performances is hearing the musicians tell stories about the song’s origins. My favourite was his story about a high school dance where an ember from a joint caused his polyester vest to burst into flames.
– the random folk music, especially in the workshops where multiple artists share a stage and either take turns performing or jam together. The Women’s Voices Rising and North Country Blues workshops were both great.
I saw my first opera last night, La Boheme, and I didn’t fall asleep. I stayed awake for the whole thing and even kind of enjoyed it.
I was surprised by how similar it was to a modern musical. Really the only differences were the singing in Italian, the live orchestra, and lack of cheesy dance numbers. Otherwise it was a modern musical. And yet as much as I love musicals, I wasn’t that impressed with the opera. Why? I had to madly read surtitles, so I couldn’t follow what the performers were doing on stage; I didn’t appreciate the the operatic signing; and there were no cheesy dance numbers – I love the cheesy dance numbers. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I spoke Italian.
It’s been a fun week.
I saw an amazing Frankenstein play with Emily. It was probably the best play I’ve seen in a few years, and it didn’t hurt that it was a musical. The costumes were out of this world, the whole cast had amazing voices, and many of the songs were hilarious.
Dan organized a big ski trip to Big White. 30 people, mostly from work went. It was a great trip. There wasn’t any fresh powder, so the runs were a bit hard when you fell, but other then that it was great. We went with a tour company, Destination Snow, so the bus ride there, our accommodation, and lift tickets were all taken care of.
I’ve been following the U.S. Presidential Primaries, and rooting for Barack Obama. The man is just inspiring. I remember seeing the speech he gave when he entered the race last year, and almost crying I was so moved. I really hope he wins.
I lost a few grand as the stock market tumbled.
I had more dental surgery this morning – gum grafting this time. Yeah fun. I’m a bit swollen, but I haven’t had need for any pain killers yet.