Theatre Under the Stars

Date and Venue 14 July - 22 August 2009 @ 8pm | Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park

Reviewer Ed Farolan

TUTS gets better each year. Opening night performances of ANNIE and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE were delightful despite the cold starless nights. But the audience was enthused by the energy and enthusiasm of the actors who danced and sang with vim and vigor.

Michelle Creber (Annie) was amazing. What a talented performer at so young an age! I noticed some teary eyes in the audience whenever she sang the classic "Tomorrow" that made this musical a hit. David Adams (Daddy Warbucks) was fantastic. The rapport between him and Creber was simply marvelous.

I was amused by Max Creber (Sandy) who plays the stray mutt Annie picks up. When I looked at the programme, I noticed this was a family affair. Max is actually part of the Creber family. No wonder he felt so at ease with Michelle. And this is the second time he plays Sandy. Michelle and Max were in the 2007 production of ANNIE in the 2007 Footlight Theatre production. The third member of the family, Michelle's mom, Monique, is also in the show as one of the members of the ensemble. All in the family, as they say.

Colleen Winton (Miss Hannigan) got a lot of laughs. She was as funny if not funnier than Carol Brunett who played this role in the movie version.The children playing the orphans were also marvelous. Where do all these talented kids come from?

Glynis Leyshon did a fabulous job directing the show, as well as Music Director Wendy Bross Stuart, Choreographer Jason Franco and Costume Designer Chris Sinosich. I liked the costume change of Annie towards the end of the performance where we see her dressed as Little Orphan Annie just as she looks in the comic books.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE was another fantastic show. I'd swear the performers were at par or even better than Broadway performers. The tap dancing, the singing, the vibrant charisma of all the performers -- just simply wonderful. Hats off to choreographer Shelley Stuart Hunt for those dances which I found truly innovative and creative.

Diana Kaarina (Millie) was full of energy. She is indeed a peformer. The range of her voice, her movements, her dance steps...truly the mark of a talented and formidable performer. Danny Balkwill (Jimmy Smith) was likewise first-rate in his opening night performance as well as Sarah Rodgers (Mrs. Meers), the "villainous" owner of the Hotel Priscilla who did adlibs and got a lot of laughs from the audience.

I enjoyed the acrobatics of Aaron Lau (Ching Ho) and Dae Young Danny Kim (his brother), who spoke and sang in Chinese throughout the whole musical, except at the end when Lau says "I love you" to Miss Dorothy. They were both excellent playing these parts. Seth Drabinsky (Trevor Graydon) was also fabulous. The audience enjoyed the scene when he falls madly in love with Meghan Anderssen (Miss Dorothy Brown) and both sing "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" in tongue-in-cheek fashion. That was good, really good.

Nancy Herb (Muzzy Van Hossmere) who attended a performance of HELLO, DOLLY! when she was ten actually dressed and sang like Dolly in this performance. Really worth the wait, eh? Finally, congrats to the members of the Ensemble who were just fabulous in their singing and dancing.

Kudos to Director Shel Piercy. Music Director Christopher King, Set Designer Francesca Albertazzi, Costume Designer Chris Sinosich, Lighting Designer Gerald King, and Sound Designer Paul Baker for a fabulous performance comparable if not better than the best Broadway productions to date!

© 2009 Ed Farolan