Theatre Under The Stars
Dates 11 July - 18 August 2007, 8pm nightly, 7pm on Fireworks nights - 25, 28 July and 1 & 4th August; 2pm Matinees 22 & 29 July 2007 Venue Malkin Bowl (Stanley Park)
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Two fabulous shows,Grease and Oklahoma!, are currently showing at the beloved Malkin Bowl open theatre of Vancouver, patterned after Hollywood Bowl. The Broadway and film hit Grease, and the production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic musical drama Oklahoma! excited opening night audiences as they cheered, laughed, and applauded at the actors who danced and sang in these two classic musicals. And I could tell the actors also had a lot of fun entertaining in this venue that was jam-packed on both opening nights.
TUTS President James Cronk introduced Grease saying he was in the cast twenty years ago when it first was produced. He also thanked the Eagle Scouts for constructing the entrance to the venue. The problem, though, was it took longer to exit than to enter the venue. I think they should put more exits so the audience could leave as fast as possible. The shows are quite long, and by the time the crowd gets out, it's past eleven.
Grease was fabulous. Director Lalaina Lindbjerg Strelau who played Sandy to her husband's Danny in a previous production did a fantastic job. It's really an advantage if you've been involved in the same production. Music Director James Bryson did a great job with his band. They were placed at an upper level at the back of the stage, and they accompanied the singers really well.
Choreographers Alex Pesusich and Kevin Tookey did fabulously with the dance numbers. I particularly liked the Prom Night scene where the dancers competed, and it looked like the finals of a Ballroom Dance competition, with the female dancers doing their acrobatic rock and roll stints.
Sandy (Tracy Neff) was fantastic. The audience was really impressed with those high notes in her solos "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Since I Don't Have You". Olivia Newton John would be totally impressed with her performance as, in my opinion, she does surpass Olivia in her singing prowess.
Danny Zuko (Gaelan Beatty) came close to impersonating Travolta in the film version, but lacked the charisma of the popular film actor. However, he did perform well and his song "Alone At a Drive-In Movie" was well-executed.
Another scene that really got the crowd howling and enjoying was the song "Beauty School Dropout". Teen Angel (Andrew Cohen) really enjoyed himself singing this song, and Frenchie (Kayla Dunbar)with her green hair is transformed to a beautiful redhead by the "company of angels" in white robes and curlers . This was a really enjoyable number.
The other members of the cast were really in character: Eugene (Iain Stewart) as the Nerd; Rizzo (Nicole Stevens), tough on the outside, but sensitive as she sang the poignant "There Are Worse Things I Could Do"; Roger (Mark Turpin) and Jan (Melissa Assalone) in the comic rendition of "Mooning"; and naturally, Miss Lynch (Barb Brolly), played her role as the school marm to the T.
Set changes designed by Francesca Albertazzi were smooth, as sets were moved in and out, and turned around to show different scenes, while period costumes designed by Chris Sinosich, including hairdos, matched the 50s teenage look. As I left the theatre, I could hear some of the kids smiling, dancing, and singing the theme song of the company at the end of the first and second acts, "We Go Together," as their parents hummed along.
The opening night performance of Oklahoma was also delightful but too long. Three and a half hours! Director Shel Piercy should try to edit the show to at least three hours or less. Some of the dance sequences went on and on. I think choreographer Shelley Stewart Hunt although she did a fabulous job should try to edit some of the dances.
Another comment: I believe a lot of the actors were hamming up the show too much, such as Gordon Doerkson (Andrew Carnes) and Ryan Egan (Ali Hakim). They should tone down a bit. I felt they were overacting. Jayme Armstrong (Laurey) had a beautiful soprano voice, and Mat Baker (Curley) played his role really well. I also liked Kevin Cripps (Jud Fry) particularly with his chansons noire duet with Baker, "Pore Jud Is Daid."
Senator Stanton Taylor of Oklahoma was introduced at the start by TUTS President Cronk, and he presented TUTS with a certificate of appreciation from the Governor of Oklahoma which, by the way, celebrates its 100th year as a State this year. He also gave a brief historical background of how playwright Lynn Riggs picked up true-to-life characters of her play from the town of Claymore where Taylor's from.
The staple songs "Oh What a Beautiful Morning,""The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," and "People Will Say We're in Love" are classics and will stay with us till the end of time. Conductor Wendy Bross Stuart did a good job conducting the singers and the orchestra.
The accents were natural; I guess if you live in the western part of Canada, it's easy to pick up on that cowboy/farmhand accent, especially Aunt Eller (Kimberly Page) whose Oklahoma diction was really good.
All the other actors/singers/dancers, both professionals and amateurs alike, (including some children!) did a fantastic job. They were full of energy (sometimes too much) and when Oklahoma! was sung by the entire company, at the end of the show, everyone was looking at the direction of the US Senator as he stood and cheered patriotically with his family.
© 2007 Ed Farolan