Hol­i­day Arts

East Van Panto: Wizard of Oz proves there’s no place like home; plus, our guide to sea­sonal shows, from nos­tal­gic movie sendups to du­elling Nutcrack­ers

The Georgia Straight - - FRONT PAGE - by Janet Smith

Yes, nostal­gia packs the cal­en­dar this year—think odes to Jane Austen and a mu­si­cal trip into Ge­orge Bai­ley’s won­der­ful life. But those averse to sen­ti­ment have op­tions too: check out this city’s newer, less trea­cly tra­di­tions, from a sol­stice con­cert to a gritty re­set­ting of A Christ­mas Carol in the Down­town East­side. Be­low, some of the sea­sonal high­lights.

MISS BEN­NET: CHRIST­MAS AT PEMBERLEY (At the Granville Is­land Stage to De­cem­ber 30) At­ten­tion, Jane Austen fans: Miss Ben­net is a mod­ern se­quel to Pride and Prej­u­dice. In it, Lizzy and Darcy host an un­ex­pected vis­i­tor for a fam­ily get-to­gether, and he may hold out ro­man­tic hope for book­worm sis­ter Mary. Kate Dion-richard plays Mary, and Roy Surette di­rects. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Ge­or­gian Eng­land and Re­gency charm.

MERRY KISS-MAS (At the Im­prov Cen­tre to De­cem­ber 24) Van­cou­ver Theatre­s­ports League leaves the Christ­mas Queen be­hind to launch a new sea­sonal tra­di­tion. Us­ing all their im­prov skills, the cast send up ev­ery ro­man­tic hol­i­day movie you’ve ever sipped eggnog to. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Mir­a­cle on 34th Street meets Love Ac­tu­ally.

CHEZ NOUS: CHRIST­MAS WITH ELEKTRA (At Shaugh­nessy Heights United Church on Novem­ber 24 and Sur­rey’s Good Shep­herd Church on Novem­ber 25) Famed B.C. tenor Ben Hepp­ner brings his leg­endary voice to the city’s premier women’s choir, with a pro­gram span­ning tra­di­tional carols from a range of cul­tures. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Heav­enly voices with added star power.

A CHAR­LIE BROWN HOL­I­DAY DOU­BLE BILL (At the Water­front The­atre from Novem­ber 25 to De­cem­ber 30) Carousel The­atre for Young Peo­ple dou­bles the fun with both A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas and You’re a Good Man, Char­lie Brown hit­ting the stage. An­drew Cown­den dons the iconic yel­low-and-black shirt to take on the role of Peanuts’ lov­able loser. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Snoopy danc­ing and the world’s most droopy-bu­ta­dorable Christ­mas tree.

EAST VAN PANTO:WIZARD OF OZ (At the York The­atre from Novem­ber 28 to Jan­uary 6, 2019) Ex­pect ev­ery­thing from con­tro­ver­sial pipe­lines to cannabis shops to pop up as Dorothy and the gang land in the mag­i­cal East Side of Van­cou­ver. The­atre Re­place­ment’s twisted tra­di­tion re­turns for a sixth year, with play­wright Mar­cus Youssef script­ing the fun for the first time. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Bri­tish hol­i­day tra­di­tion warped through the lens of mod­ern-day East Van.

DIS­NEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (At the Stan­ley In­dus­trial Al­liance The­atre from De­cem­ber 1 to Jan­uary 6, 2019) The Arts Club brings back its beloved hol­i­day mu­si­cal, with its Broad­way-lav­ish sets and cos­tumes, all un­der the di­rec­tion of Bill Millerd. Watch for Michelle Bar­dach as Belle and Jonathan Winsby as Beast, as well as a live six-piece band. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Kids break­ing out their Sun­day best in the Stan­ley’s his­toric digs. CHRIST­MAS WITH THE BACH CHOIR (At the Or­pheum on De­cem­ber

2) The VBC gath­ers eight choirs to join it in song. We’re talk­ing 400 voices, plus an or­gan and the Touch of Brass en­sem­ble, bring­ing to life tra­di­tional favourites and newer works. High­lights in­clude the de­but of the win­ner of its sea­sonal com­po­si­tion con­test and the chil­dren’s choirs per­form­ing a tran­scen­dent “Ave Maria”. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Hark! The her­ald an­gels sing.

LIT­TLE DICK­ENS: THE DAISY THE­ATRE (At the Cultch His­toric The­atre from De­cem­ber 4 to 22) Mar­i­onette mas­ter Ron­nie Bur­kett pulls the strings for one of the quirki­est of­fer­ings on the hol­i­day cal­en­dar. Aimed at adults only, the show finds the cast of Bur­kett’s pop­u­lar The Daisy The­atre tak­ing on A Christ­mas Carol, with faded diva Esmé Mas­sen­gill play­ing Scrooge and beloved Sch­nitzel as Tiny Tim. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Off­beat, rowdy, and oc­ca­sion­ally raunchy.

BAH HUM­BUG! (At SFU Wood­ward’s Gold­corp Cen­tre for the Arts from De­cem­ber 6 to 22) Blues leg­end Jim Byrnes helps bring lo­cal so­cioe­co­nomic rel­e­vance to A Christ­mas Carol in this mu­si­cal ren­di­tion set in the Down­town East­side. Here, Scrooge is a ren­ovic­tion-happy land­lord. The mu­sic-filled show is put on by SFU Wood­ward’s Cul­tural Pro­grams, Van­cou­ver Mov­ing The­atre, and Full Cir­cle. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Woke.

IT’S A WON­DER­FUL LIFE (At the Gate­way The­atre from De­cem­ber 6 to 31) Lo­cal mu­si­cal mas­ter Peter Jor­gensen puts his own spin on Frank Capra’s 1946 clas­sic, blend­ing hol­i­day favourites and Broad­way clas­sics from the likes of Ge­orge and Ira Gersh­win, with ar­range­ments by Nico Rhodes. Nick Fon­taine plays down-on-his-luck Ge­orge Bai­ley and Greg Arm­strong­mor­ris is Clarence, the an­gel try­ing to get his wings. A live or­ches­tra pro­vides backup. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Aw-shucks 1940s mu­si­cal nostal­gia.

HOL­I­DAY BAK­ING TIME (At Pre­sen­ta­tion House from De­cem­ber 6 to 16) Doughy char­ac­ters Bun and Bap re­turn with a new Christ­mas-themed twist on their pop­u­lar live bread-mak­ing show Bak­ing Time. This one’s aimed at kids three to six years old and their par­ents. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Grandma’s kitchen on Christ­mas morn­ing.

ROYAL WIN­NIPEG BAL­LET NUTCRACKER (At the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre from De­cem­ber 7 to 9) The RWB retells the hol­i­day clas­sic in a turn-of-the-last-cen­tury Cana­dian set­ting, com­plete with pond hockey and Par­lia­ment Hill. All the tra­di­tional touches are there, com­bined with the pol­ished danc­ing of what is ar­guably the coun­try’s top clas­si­cal bal­let troupe. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Sparkling white-tutu per­fec­tion as crisp as fresh snow.

HAN­DEL’S MES­SIAH (At the Or­pheum on De­cem­ber 7) Jon Wash­burn takes the ba­ton for his 48th Mes­siah, his Van­cou­ver Cham­ber Choir joined by the Paci­fica Singers and the Van­cou­ver Cham­ber Or­ches­tra. A top­notch cast of soloists are on hand for Ge­orge Fred­er­ick Han­del’s re­sound­ing mas­ter­piece: so­prano Nathalie Paulin, coun­tertenor Daniel Cabena, tenor Isa­iah Bell, and bass-bari­tone Stephen Hege­dus. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Grand, glo­ri­ous hal­lelu­jahs.

A TRA­DI­TIONAL CHRIST­MAS (At the Kay Meek Cen­tre on De­cem­ber 13, the Cen­ten­nial The­atre on De­cem­ber 14, the Bell Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre on De­cem­ber 15, the Michael J. Fox The­atre on De­cem­ber 16, and St. An­drew’s– Wes­ley United Church from De­cem­ber 20 to 22) Wil­liam Row­son con­ducts the Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Or­ches­tra in a con­cert sprin­kled with read­ings by Bard on the Beach’s Christo­pher Gaze. The UBC Opera En­sem­ble and En­chor add their vo­cal power to Christ­mas songs and carols. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Sprigs of holly, sleigh bells, and chest­nuts roast­ing on an open fire.

WIN­TER HARP (At the Blueshore Fi­nan­cial Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts on De­cem­ber 12 and 13, and St. An­drew’s–wes­ley United Church on De­cem­ber 15) The mes­mer­iz­ing can­dlelit con­cert tour cel­e­brates its 25th year, com­plete with ethe­real harps and rare in­stru­ments like the bass psaltery and or­gan­istrum. As usual, its mu­si­cians and singers will sport me­dieval cos­tumes and per­form a mix of carols, Celtic songs, and cen­turies-old mu­sic. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: The mar­vel­lously me­dieval. HOME ALONE (At the Or­pheum on De­cem­ber 14 and 15) It’s easy to for­get that John Hughes’s Christ­mas movie boasts a kick-ass score by John Wil­liams. So in­stead of watch­ing it on TV this year, head down to the gilded halls of the Or­pheum to see the Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Or­ches­tra cel­e­brate the mu­sic as well as the laughs. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Sweet yet sadis­tic, as Ma­cauley Culkin’s eightyear-old Kevin sets booby traps for some bum­bling yule­tide bur­glars. MIXED NUTS (At the Van­cou­ver Play­house from De­cem­ber 14 to 16) The dancers at Arts Um­brella turn The Nutcracker up­side down and in­side out in this hol­i­day pro­gram that reimag­ines the clas­sic bal­let in the forms of hip-hop, ball­room, and much more. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Tra­di­tion with a dance-savvy twist.

A JOY­FUL CHRIST­MAS (At Pa­cific Spirit United Church on De­cem­ber 14) The Van­cou­ver Cham­ber Choir is shop­ping for a new artis­tic di­rec­tor, and try­ing out its stel­lar can­di­dates in front of au­di­ences. Ger­many’s Ni­col Matt is on deck here, show­ing his stuff over a pro­gram that spans Fran­cis Poulenc’s Hodie Chris­tus na­tus est, Ben­jamin Brit­ten’s A Hymn to the Vir­gin, Ola Gjeilo’s Spot­less Rose, and much more. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Ex­quis­ite, shiny or­na­ments of ev­ery shape and colour.

CHRIST­MAS WITH CHOR LEONI (At St. An­drew’s–wes­ley United Church on De­cem­ber 14, 16, and 17, and West Van­cou­ver United Church on De­cem­ber 15) A cap­pella har­monies, sur­pris­ing new works, and tra­di­tional se­lec­tions round out a di­verse pro­gram for the all-male choir. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: A mix as fun as a box of choco­lates.

MU­SIC FOR THE WIN­TER SOL­STICE (At Her­itage Hall on De­cem­ber 19 and 20) Mu­sic on Main re­turns with its fifth an­nual edi­tion of this in­ti­mate con­cert, wel­com­ing singer Corey Payette, along with pi­anist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa and vi­o­lin­ist Karen Ger­brecht. The pro­gram is all about lu­mi­nous new mu­sic, in­clud­ing Ni­cole Lizée’s Sol­stice Noir, as well as two songs from Payette’s own crit­i­cally ac­claimed mu­si­cals—les Filles du Roi (which he wrote with Julie Mcisaac) and Chil­dren of God. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: No tin­sel or trea­cle here. Mu­sic on Main puts it best in mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als that say “mi­nus the mistle­toe”.

GOH BAL­LET NUTCRACKER (At the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre from De­cem­ber 21 to 23) Our lo­cally cre­ated Nutcracker puts the em­pha­sis on fun, with its real ma­gi­cian, cheese-hurl­ing mouse army, and danc­ing bear. Bonus: mem­bers of the Van­cou­ver Opera Or­ches­tra play the score live. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Sugar Plum Fairies and Cava­liers.

CHRIST­MAS REPRISE XVI (At Holy Rosary Cathe­dral and New West­min­ster’s Queens Av­enue Church on De­cem­ber 22) The Van­cou­ver Can­tata Singers of­fer respite from last-minute shop­ping dur­ing their mati­nee in one of down­town’s most serene spa­ces. Ex­pect tra­di­tional favourites as well as a few sur­pris­ing gems. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Warm shel­ter from the con­sumer storm.

FES­TIVE CAN­TATAS: A MONTEVERDI CHRIST­MAS VESPERS (At the Chan Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts on De­cem­ber 23) Early Mu­sic Van­cou­ver breaks out the vi­o­lins, cor­netti, sack­buts, the­o­r­bos, and key­boards in an at­tempt to re-cre­ate the Christ­mas Vespers of 17th­cen­tury Venice, with sa­cred mu­sic by Clau­dio Monteverdi. David Fal­lis leads the likes of Cap­pella Bo­re­alis, so­pra­nos Ar­wen My­ers and Danielle Samp­son, tenor Colin Balzer, vi­o­lin­ist Marc Destrubé, and many more. HOL­I­DAY VIBE: Time-trav­el­ling back to Christ­mas Eve at the chapel of the doge.

Clock­wise from left, Kate Dion-richard and Matthew Mac­don­ald-bain star in Miss Ben­net (photo by David Cooper); the Goh Bal­let Nutcracker; Jim Byrnes in Bah Hum­bug!; and Ar­wen My­ers from Fes­tive Can­tatas.

Hol­i­day Bak­ing Time. Photo by Emily Cooper

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