Sunday, January 2, 2011

Theatre year-end 2010

Our favourite theatre of 2010 is featured in WE's new issue.

Simply the best: Alex McMorran and Cathy Wilmot  in Fighting Chance Productions’ Sweeney Todd
Simply the best: Alex McMorran and Cathy Wilmot in Fighting Chance Productions’ Sweeney Todd
Credit: Supplied

Bringing the curtain down on another year

BEST SHOW (Large Venue)

Even the most zealous anti-Olympic protestor would be hard-pressed to minimize the arts bonanza of the Cultural Olympiad. Sure, there were questions about whether too much was spent on international touring companies that could have gone to Canadian artists, but any program that brings Robert Lepage’s Ex Machina company to town is a winner. Blue Dragon, the sequel to Lepage’s The Dragon’s Trilogy, finds its central figure living in modern-day China and dealing with his Canadian past. A multimedia feast of dance, music, film, and Lepage’s signature puzzle-like sets, Blue Dragon gave Vancouverites a chance to see a true national hero who has dominated the international theatre world for a quarter century — as opposed to briefly worshipping a 17-year-old who skied a fraction of a second faster than another 17-year-old. —Steven Schelling


Founding member of Electric Company Theatre, winner of the prestigious Siminovitch Prize, and director of this year’s experimental film-meets-theatre extravaganza Tear the Curtain!, Kim Collier is a rare talent. Inventive, surprising, and even-handed, her work is often breathtaking, sometimes cerebral, and never, ever boring. —SS

BEST ACTOR (Large Venue)

Before the curtain went up on Arts Club’s Glengarry Glen Ross, a loosely assembled scrum of media took bets on the fortunes of its star, Eric McCormack. Would an actor known to millions as nebbish, nice-guy gay Will, from the long-running U.S. sitcom Will & Grace, be able to pull off the part of ruthless real-estate huckster Ricky Roma? Within moments, McCormack had sold his sinister performance not just to the cheap seats, but to those on the aisles who’d stopped scribbling on their notepads. It’s one thing to capture an audience in the palm of your hand, quite another to shatter a roomful of preconceived notions. —SS

BEST SHOW (Small Venue)

For two weeks in October, the Jericho Arts Centre became a seedy Victorian-era London alleyway — the setting for the blood bath that is Stephen Sondheim’s macabre masterpiece, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This vibrant revival of the musical about a vengeful barber murdering his clients and turning them into meat pies with his landlady/co-conspirator came courtesy of the brilliant, mostly 20-somethings behind Fighting Chance Productions. The remarkably assured take on this rich, technically complex material (it’s Sondheim, remember?) proved you don’t need huge budgets and big names to craft quality live entertainment. With the right ingredients, producing the perfect piece of theatre can be as easy as, well, pie. —Andrea Warner


Would Sweeney Todd’s audiences ever guess that its director, Ryan Mooney, is still in college? Probably not. Since Fighting Chance Productions’ debut in 2007, Mooney, the company’s founder and artistic director, has proved himself to be a young man with a singular vision. With Sweeney Todd, Mooney hinted at the kind of director he’s growing into: resourceful, innovative, and clever. Commanding a sprawling cast in a small space is no easy feat, but Mooney’s execution made perfect use of the physical contrast, illustrating the all-consuming tension and frenzy of the source material’s tale of revenge and madness. —AW

BEST ACTOR (Small Venue)

As Sweeney Todd, Alex McMorran was glowering, darkly funny, and mad in every sense of the word. A man unhinged by grief and a thirst for revenge, McMorran made Todd’s extraordinary bloodlust utterly believable. While plotting to extract his pound (or more) of flesh from those who’ve cost him his daughter and his wife, McMorran nailed every emotional high and low, subversively toeing the line between empathetic victim and ruthless hypocrite. Additionally, his chemistry with Cathy Wilmot as Mrs. Lovett proved delightfully unsettling and surprisingly sexy. —AW

BEST ACTRESS (Small Venue)

While Sweeney Todd’s Mrs. Lovett is a role many salivate over, her solos have been known to cause more than a few actresses sleepless nights. Doubtless Cathy Wilmot slept soundly, because her voice ran headlong through Sondheim’s trademark counterpoint and syncopation without a hint of strain, all the while infusing every line and lyric with subtext. Her Mrs. Lovett is a manipulative liar, sure, but she’s also incredibly lonely and blinded by her romantic obsession with a psychopath. Wilmot got at the murky heart of Mrs. Lovett’s darkest motivations without sacrificing the wonderful gallows humour that permeates even her bleakest moments. —AW


Last May, ITSAZOO Productions’ Bridge Mix transformed a city eyesore (a concrete parking garage in the business district) into a place where anything was possible, including a spontaneous street-hockey game, a confrontation between Robert Pickton and the ghosts of his many victims, a choreographed dance-off, and a hilariously sweet demonstration by a little girl who believes she can collect people’s dreams for interpretation. Bridge Mix’s variety and lack of pretension helped showcase the raw talent of Vancouver and Victoria’s emerging theatre companies. That the audience moved between various spots throughout the parkade, with a roving bar never more than 10 feet away, only sweetened the deal. —AW


A hopeful sign after a bleak period of restructuring, Ballet BC wowed audiences with Songs of a Wayfarer and Other Works, a season opener composed of three new works. Artistic director Emily Molnar continued in her efforts to transform the once-tired group into a truly contemporary ballet company. Her titular contribution to the programme proved playful and intelligent, while choreographer Kevin O’Day brought a fresh, international sophistication to the Queen E stage. The undeniable highlight, however, was Jose Navas’s dizzying The Bliss That from Their Limbs All Movement Takes. Dance fans will also take delight in Navas’s appointment as Ballet BC’s choreographer-in-residence for the next three years. —Jessica Barrett

No comments: