If you are game for an energizing, awe-inspiring multi-media magical evening, The Illusionists, produced by Broadway Across Canada, and currently playing in downtown Vancouver is a definite must-see.
The evening was an experience that was like no other “magic show” I have ever seen. This fast-paced program was delightful. Surprisingly funny with intelligent humour (especially with colourful improv performer and television personality Adam Trent), dance, mind-boggling illusions, and heart-stopping dare-devil stunts by Jonathan Goodwin this is a show that will literally take your breath away. I loved this production.
With all the makings of a full-on variety show with unexpected and mesmerizing surprise elements, this top-quality production exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. Artfully bringing together multiple genres, the cast included some of the world’s best illusionists, including multi-award-winning slight of hand illusionist An Ha Lim and The Grand Illusionist Darcy Oake. The only thing missing from the ensemble was female representation among the featured artists. Like most traditional magic shows, the enchantment was championed by only men, with the clearly talented women serving in a supportive capacity, providing the sex-appeal that has a history of being associated with such shows.
Because of the extremely dangerous dare-devil acts, you might want to think twice before bringing kids to this show if they already have a propensity for unsafe risk-taking behaviour or anyone with a health condition that would make the anxiety of watching the life-threatening feats unsafe for them to watch. Witnessing the Houdini-inspired straightjacket, the crossbow, and the scorpion in the mouth acts was difficult for even me and my friend to watch. While jaw-dropping, the very real fear that these acts arouse would definitely be too much for some viewers.
While audience participation is often an element in magic shows, the makers of this show engaged the entire audience in creative and fun ways that were as equally mind-blowing as the more conventional on-stage antics. Colin Cloud (aka The Deductionist) literally left everyone present wondering if indeed he was able to read every person’s mind in the massive Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
If wizardry, sensationalism, humour and mystery are your cup of tea, The Illusionists is a theatre experience that you will never forget.
The Illusionists by Broadway Across Canada is playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until 20 January 2019.
~ reviewed by Theresa Nicassio PhD
The year is 1913 and it’s Christmas Eve in an affluent Canadian home. The whole house is stirring and gathering for the big Christmas party. Gifts are being brought, hockey is being played(!), all in preparation for this magical, ecstasy-laden eve at Clara’s house.
As a newcomer to the ballet, wanting to expand my comfort level, I chose this holiday classic because it seemed accessible and I knew some of the music. I expected my attention to wander, not being a connoisseur of the dance form. Instead, I was captivated. Aside from the considerable technical skill to execute the choreography with grace and ease, there was so much character to each dancer. Some of them were so filled with charisma that it seemed sodden in their bones, I couldn't take my eyes off them. It all felt so real, I barely noticed that no-one ever spoke a word. I even welled up with emotion at one point! I loved it so much that I am hooked and will definitely be back for more.
The Nutcracker, produced by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and hosted by Ballet BC, plays at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to shows a day until 9 December 2018.
Tickets at: https://balletbc.com/performance/nutcracker-2018/
~ reviewed by Josh Cronkhite
I can see why Bombay Black directed by Rohit Chokani won Pick of the Fringe last year. Although the setting doesn’t really stray from a home in India, this 2 hour production at the Firehall Arts Centre takes you on a journey through it’s characters, with it's twists and turns. A mother doing her best to make ends meet with the only resource she has, her beautiful dancing daughter, and a visitor.
Not being familiar with playwright Anosh Irani’s original from 2006, I can’t speak to the director’s change of making the visitor to their home blind. However I definitely appreciated the sensory exploration that he took us on. The mother-daughter relationship was also an intriguing one with the struggle between control, dependency and love. What surprised me the most was the amount of humour in the first act and that they even managed to sprinkle some in to the second act for a performance that was overall quite dark. This was mostly in part to Nimet Kanji’s exquisite performance as the mother who had me laughing in moments and whom I abhorred the next.
Perhaps not for younger audiences with content sexual in nature, it is however an entertaining evening out for those looking for some suspense and mystery but with some light laughs to balance it out.
Bombay Black is playing at the Firehall Arts Centre until 15 December 2018. Tickets at: http://firehallartscentre.ca/onstage/bombay-black/
~ reviewed by Karen Roller
For those looking for something different from the traditional Christmas shows, Theatrewire's presentation of God is a Scottish Drag Queen: A Christmas Special at Studio 1398 is a fun untraditional outing. Mike Delamont returns to Vancouver for 'God' to tell us their version of the origins of Christmas, or perhaps the birth day of Jesus and some of the traditions that follow suit.
Although not the outlandish drag that I am used to, the humour was well balanced with just a bit of coarse language and a little bit of audience heckling, but all in good fun, with a few visual aids via powerpoint. Like with most comedic presentations that I enjoy it was about laughing at ourselves and the silly things we do or embrace. Which for what can sometimes be a trying time, like Christmas, is much appreciated and often needed. I felt it was well spent money for about 75-80 minutes of entertainment and look forward to Delamont's return, hopefully it won't be another 4 years.
God is a Scottish Drag Queen: A Christmas Special is playing at Studio 1398 until 7 December 2018. Tickets at: https://tickets.theatrewire.com/shows/god%20is%20a%20scottish%20drag%20queen-%20a%20christmas%20special/events
~ reviewed by Karen Roller
I wonder if my 34 year old self found this production even more magical than my 4 year old self would have. Disney's Beauty and the Beast by the Arts Club is an extremely impressive show.
The entire ensemble is strong, especially in the multiple group dance/ fight scenes, but I do need to single out some particularly good performances. It's a long list: Susan Anderson as Mrs Potts who was somehow even MORE endearing than the animated teapot of my childhood had been and brought a tear to my eye and an earworm to my brain with her signature song, Michelle Bardach as Belle, who brought a spunk and independence to the character, Graham Coffeng as Lumiere and Shawn Macdonald as Cogsworth who had an adorable, ribbing rapport, with Shannon Hanbury's Babette completing the rambunctious trio, Kamyar Pazandeh as Gaston who in this production somehow managed to be my most favourite character, his performance stood out significantly even amongst such a talented bunch, and Jonathan Winsby whose haunting voice and interesting physical choices as The Beast went a long way to filling out one of the more blandly written characters in this story.
Lighting, live orchestrated music, set, props, costumes and background each contributed to the magic. With the exception of the town backdrop which I felt lacked the care and artistry of the other painted backgrounds. That was the only time I felt that I might be watching a show created for kids, all other production values made this charming piece magical to even my nostalgic but jaded eye. It is NOT scary, so appropriate for all ages. And for those of you who, like me, grew up with the animated movie version, you might appreciate some of the subtle changes in character choice and storytelling style that this version brings to life.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until 6 January.
Tickets at: https://artsclub.com/shows/2018-2019/beauty-and-the-beast
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
We all need to laugh at life and ourselves once in a while and Theatre Replacement’s East Van Panto at the York Theatre gives us that opportunity every year which is why it’s always my most anticipated performance. Some may say I’m biased but there’s a reason for it. Usually my theatre taste runs towards thought provoking and challenging pieces which musicals often aren’t, however the East Van Panto is always witty – in both it’s reworked recognizable pop tunes as well as it’s dialogue and jokes which incorporate current events, politics and local culture.
This year’s Wizard of Oz, directed by Stephen Drover is no different, although with a new playwright at the helm, local award winning Marcus Youssef. The production starts off a little heavy on the politics but then finds it’s playful groove providing laughs for adults and children alike. Christine Quintana is perfection as Dorothy with both her energy and voice. I also enjoyed Raugi Yu as the lovable Stone Crow and Angela Chu in the Chorus, as well as the guest appearance by ‘Chocolate’ Chip Wilson (Kayvon Khoshkam) although all performers were enjoyable including the children, which are incorporated well.
Other highlights include the chickens (performance, choreography and costumes), Laura Zerebeski’s beautiful depictions of Vancouver as the set back drops and singing in a variety of languages. Even if you don’t get all of the jokes, or agree with them, the Panto is 2 hours of good fun. Treat yourself this Christmas, you deserve it! You can even get some Xmas shopping done as Panto merch and Laura’s artwork are available for sale. Check the Cultch website for details and times for accessible shows (ASL, Vocal Eye, relaxed performances) as well as talk backs. And since it’s kid centric note evening shows start early at 7pm!
The East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz is playing at the York theatre until 6 January 2019.
Tickets at: https://thecultch.com/events/east-van-panto-wizard-of-oz/
~ reviewed by Karen Roller
A Christmas Carol as you've never seen it before, performed by the colourful cast of The Daisy Theatre, a travelling marionette improvised cabaret show...
Disclaimer: I am a big Ronnie Burkett fan, so I am biased. But please don't be put off by the puppets. This is NOT a kid's show. Think more x-rated pantomime than children's theatre. Ronnie Burkett's energy and cheeky charm infuses the characters all of his painstakingly created marionettes. With their help, and some participation of the audience, he reminds us of the spirit of the holiday season with a very loose interpretation of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol.
Despite having a cold, Burkett jumps between character voices with lightning speed and with impressive vocal range. He has a beautiful singing voice as well as a knack for comedic character voices. It's all a little meta, and the layers of reality often overlap, with characters getting distracted by events in-world, or engaging in hilarious arguments with their puppeteer.
Raunchy and irreverent, this piece is surprisingly inclusive in it's humour. The content is perhaps not for the prude or extremely pious (or for the puppet-phobic), but the distance created by the layers of reality allows us to laugh at and with these characters in a way that never feels anything less than gentle and welcoming.
~ reviewed by Danielle Benzon
Hannah Moscovitch’s East of Berlin at Havana Theatre brings audiences an emotionally charged but entertaining history lesson of Hitler’s reign of terror and how the ghosts of that time don’t just linger but continue to be real struggles for not just survivors but families from both sides. Fear, hate, shame, self loathing are only a few of the remnants that remain.
Although sometimes challenged by the content and complex structure of the play, these actors do a fine job of portraying the story so you can understand and feel the conflict within the main character and his fiancé. It’s not without some hiccups but it’s easily a worthwhile 90 minutes of entertainment, insight and history that everyone can benefit from.
If you missed this one be sure to watch out for the next Dalliance Theatre Collective presentation as this isn’t the first and unlikely the last time they dig in deep to bring significant stories to the Vancouver theatre scene.
East of Berlin by Dalliance Theatre is playing at Havana Theatre until 30 November.
~ reviewed by Karen Roller
Blind Date by Rebecca Northan is a funny, light-hearted show that will surely get you to laugh. There is a simple story arc to the show that keeps it moving. It also kept the energy up since when the show stayed at a scene for too long it started dragging a bit.
There were some awkward moments and conversations, since you are watching two people get to know each other for the first time. It should be noted, however, that each show will be different as there's a new Audience Member chosen each time so the energy and conversations will vary. That's the joy of improv.
Tess Degenstein the performer, brings an engaging, humorous stage presence to this improv production. One of her strengths is reading the audience and playing off them which is key to such a show. Ben, the blind date on my night, also deserves acknowledgment for being a courageous good sport going along with Mimi’s - Degenstein's character – little antics.
Either way the show has a strong performer and a good story premise which makes for an enjoyable outing.
Content Warnings: Mature content
Blind Date runs till Dec. 30th at the Goldcorp Stage, BMO Theatre Centre. Tickets at: https://secure.artsclub.com/events/detail/blind-date
reviewed by ~ Jenna Masuhara
It’s that time of year again, time to put on the same old community Christmas pageant! But wait, who invited the Herdmans?! The most despicable, lying, cheating, stealing kids in the whole world! They know nothing about the sanctity of this much loved event, nor anything about the story of Christmas. They are steadfast on making this pageant their own, and, quite possibly, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever!
This heartfelt holiday comedy play within a play is full of everything you would want from an all-ages Christmas show, complete with a compassionate change of heart and everything magically coming together at the last minute. The number of young performers in the cast were particularly impressive in their level of skill, one young lady positively burning with exuberant energy.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is produced by Naked Goddess Productions and is playing at the Havana Theatre until 16 December 2018.
Tickets at: http://nakedgoddessproductions.com/products/vancouver/bestpageant.php
~ reviewed by Josh Cronkhite
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Founded by Danielle Benzon, a self-professed theatre addict.