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Category: performances Page 1 of 2

Improv Mondays with Michelle, Vancouver Theatre Sports

At this point I have been to a handful of improv shows, so I am not exaggerating when I say this has to be my favourite one to date. As our host of the night so aptly claimed, “this is the most fun you’ll have on a Monday night”.

Tonight was the first of many Monday performance to come, hosted by “Michelle”. This was her show, featuring actors she hand picked to work with. Essentially each challenge and scene was in the form of a familiar improv game. And with the audience’s suggestions our performers injected humour into every day people, places, and things. The only and most important difference was Michelle. She set the tone and the pace, really elevating the stage presence.

She was the hostess with the mostest, and this is the first time I can actually utilize that saying fully. She caught your attention with her elegance in sequin gowns and retro shoulder pads. They paralleled her bougie persona and dry humour. She had quick quips and great reactions to suggestions, and even her expression to her actor’s ad libs added to the over all performance. I don’t want to spoil the whole character for you, but I wish it was her actual personality, because it was larger than life and one that I aspire to.

To start, she welcomed the audience up by assuring us that we were at the place to be on a Monday night. And that drinking was the right course of action, as she herself threw back a cosmopolitan cocktail. Then she got us warmed up to improv by having us shouting out our names and favourite foods.

From there, she set up scenarios and threw curve balls for tonight’s actors. Act one had our players unable to look at one another, unless music was playing. Another game had them freezing in place at random, and taking over for one another, keeping their positions but changing the scene. I was especially impressed by their “four square” match. A game that had all four actors switching scenarios with rapid fire speed, backwards and forwards. This was a great way to see their talent and ability to think on their feet.

Act two had Michelle highlighting her improv chops in a group scene. Here, each player took on multiple roles and they tried to trip each other up. There was the suggestion of intense dialogue between two characters, played by the same person. And for individuals to give long winded explanations told through song. The scene was set with the audience’s suggestions and drama ensued. Tense music and elongated pauses. Secret romances and drug fuelled story lines. All the above a sneak peak at Michelle’s other acting project.

Tonight was the perfect platform for you to fall in love with her character and want more. The perfect time to introduce you to her YouTube web series. A comedic drama that takes place in the “fast pace” night life of Hope, BC’s restaurant scene. If your aren’t able to check out any of the upcoming shows on Monday, you should at least see what you are missing. The entire first season has been uploaded with the link to the first episode below. Spoilers, the ex is back in town with his new girlfriend and is coming for Michelle’s restauranteur crown.

Overall a great night of improv with a show worth checking out, a character worth visiting, and the most fun you’ll have on a Monday.

 

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Vancouver Opera Festival launch: VOX

Today I was invited down to Queen Elizabeth Theatre for the launch of the 3rd annual Vancouver Opera Festival, and 1st annual singing competition: VOX. Many young singers across Canada auditioned, and they managed to dwindle this number down to eight to compete. Eight future opera stars from across the country, competing for cash prizes and recognition on Vancouver’s large stage. A decision as voted by six judges and the entire audience. A panel of esteemed judges chaired by Music Director Emeritus, Jonathan Darlington. And we, the live audience voting for our favourite singer.

Attendees gathered prior to the show for a cocktail reception. The bar poured glasses of sparkling non stop. A pop and a fizz to get the night flowing.

You couldn’t bring glassware into the auditorium, but beer or wine in plastic sippy cups were fine.

And to keep you balanced, servers offered up small bites on slate trays. Like this tomato bruschetta on a crostini.

Seared tuna on crispy wonton skin.

And chocolate covered strawberries in milk and white chocolate.

Then when 6:30pm neared, we were invited into the auditorium for the live competition. Where I got my first taste of live opera and the ability to live out my “America’s Got Talent” dream as a judge.

The first performance got the pace going. Shantelle Przybylo was energetic and welcoming in her singing.

By comparison Amanda Perera was soft spoken. Her voice didn’t project the same and I couldn’t properly take her range in. But she was stunning, and great to watch; with her body motions matching the intensity of the effort she put into her singing.

I like having a male voice next for contrast: Ryan Nauta was mellow and smooth, and he sang us a smoothing ballad.

Joé Lampron-Dandonneau was another male voice, giving us a Tenor with more range.

Ana Toumine was a Soprano with powerful vocals. Though that broadcast came at a cost. You could hear the quick breaths and at points her being out of breath. She also showed off her ability with plenty of high to low notes in her choice of music. It was certainly interesting to listen to.

Sarah Bissonnette, a Mezzo, sang the happiest of all the tunes. It was upbeat and loud to start, really drawing you in. And the humorous gestures and quirky quips in piece kept you wanting more. She also choose the best song to showcase her skillful voice manipulation, and proved that the choice of song can determine a win.

 

Elizabeth Harris, a Soprano, too choose a difficult song. This one also showcased her ability to hit high peaks and low dips. Like her out reaches arms, her voice called you and pulled you in. Her mystical melody make me think of the ones mermaids would call out. Especially when the accompanying piano stopped playing and only her voice rung out through the hall.

Our last performer, Zainen Suzuki was a Baritone. I enjoyed how animated his facial expression were. They brought me into the story he was telling. And the audience gave him the loudest clap for it.

Next came time for us to vote, using hand held remotes, we keyed in our pick by number.

And while the judges deliberated we were serenade by Vancouver’s own Erin Wall, Canada’s leading opera singer. She melted so much through her facial expression and hand movements, that she had to stabilize herself against the Stanley and sons piano.

In the end Elizabeth Harris won third place. Second went to Ana Toumine. And for both first place and people’s choice, the win went to Sarah Bissonnette. Winning $5k and $2.5k respectively.

This was just the beginning of the night, as Vancouver opera’s signature fundraising event. A handful of attendees also purchased dinner tickets that began when the competition ended, and the curtains on stage lifted to reveal a banquet hall set to serve.

In short, this was a very nice way to kick start Vancouver’s Opera Festival, a taste of what to expect, leaving you wanting more. For all other showings and all opera fest events, and how to get your tickets, visit the link below soon to not miss out. This year’s theme is fables and fairytales, as told through visual, musical and theatrical arts.

Vancouver Opera Festival creates extraordinary experiences that redefine opera. Running from April 27 to May 5, the annual festival features nine days of operas, concerts, and free events. Explore #VOFest and buy tickets at www.vancouveropera.ca

Titanic the Musical, presented by the Lindbjerg Academy

On the anniversary of the Titanic‘s sinking I was invited down to the “Shadbolt Centre for the Arts” for a special musical performance.

This was only the second time that the five-time Tony award winner, “Titanic the Musical” was coming to Metro Vancouver. During this occasion it would be preformed by 27 locals from “Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts”, under the direction of music theatre instructor, Mark Turpin. This show ran from April 12 – 14, 2019 and I had the privilege of taking in the second day’s showing during, its matinee performance.

About Lindbjerg Academy of Performing Arts as taken for their website. “Lindbjerg Academy is a performing arts centre dedicated to teaching the art of musical theatre, dance, singing and acting. Classes are open to all different levels of ability and children between the ages of three to 18. For more than 20 years, Lindbjerg Academy has taken pride in the fact it is not only a centre where children learn the skills to perform, but also a place where those skills are applied and enjoyed. The school is parent-participation focused and offers volunteer opportunities throughout the year to ensure parents can share their talents and feel engaged with every show the school delivers.”

The Lindbjerg’s production of “Titanic the Musical” was as authentic as possible to the original Broadway production. One that was eclipsed by James Cameron’s blockbuster that centred around the fictional love story of Jack Dawson (Leonardo di Caprio) and Rose DeWitt (Kate Winslet).

This shipwreck story began as a vision of the shipbuilder and the pride he felt seeing its fruition, from page to metal sitting at a dock.

The production moves pretty quick from scene to scene and song to song. It follows the view points of a handful of characters and tells the story of the ship’s triumphant maiden voyage through their wide eyed wonder.

Irish immigrants looking for a new life and their chance to recreate themselves in America. A second class passenger wanting more for herself, starting with the ability to hob-nob with the elite welcomed into first class. A worker in the boiler room longing to complete this journey, in order to be back in the arms of the woman he wishes to marry. And the captain under the pressure of the ship’s financier, wanting the ship to push harder and travel fast than any others before it.

Given that this is the story of the Titanic, we all know what happens with the ice berg, therefore I won’t go into detail recapping it. But with this retelling you get more characters, more story lines, and more of the actual logistics of its travel then from Leo and Kate’s rendition.

Naturally, the performers were much younger than the historic characters that they are depicting, but with accurate costuming and the right props they were able to draw you into the illusion. These rising stars spent the greater part of seven months working hard to reproduce this show, to capture the real chronicles of the actual passengers and crew on the Titanic. Studying music and lines, and memorizing choreography. They even studied the passengers in-depth and even went to the Titanic exhibit that was on display in Metro Vancouver for inspiration.

It was my first foray into this world, and I was glad it was on a topic that I was already family with. This and other shows at the “Shadbolt Centre” are a great way to support local talent, and a way to take in the Arts in Burnaby. This was a great experience and a great performance. And best of all, during the intermission they do open up the drink bar, where you can order a glass to help better immerse you into this sing-song world.

For more shows and their next big project visit the link below.

What’s Happening!

 

OK Tinder – Swipe Right Comedy, Vancouver Theatre Sports

Who has yet to watch “Vancouver Theatre Sport’s League’s” “Merry Kiss-mas” performance? If you haven’t I suggest you do. And if you have, I suggest going back again, as I have first hand information that it does hold up a second time!

I am always pitching for viewers to return and watch their favourite improv shows again and again, and for the first time I have found one I wanted to go back for more of. Not only to get a second dose of Yuletide comedy; but I was curious to learn how much of the show is scripted, and how different one can be from the next. Tonight was my chance with a double feature. I was back for a second round of “Merry Kiss-mas” and followed it up with more tongue and cheek, from their rated PG 17 show of “Ok Tinder”. And here, I didn’t know there were ratings for an improv show and wanted to explore that “x-rated” world a little more. Each show I have watched is already so funny without the reference of sex and the absence of comedically timed swears. Therefore I could only imagine how much more relatable the actors would be, being able to let lose and speak to anything that pops up into their mind. No children in the audience means no filters needed, which is true improv in my opinion.

But first, for my original review and experience of Merry Kissmas, check out the link below; as I will be comparing it to my notes below.

Merry Kiss-mas at Vancouver Theatre Sports League

 

In “Merry Kissmas” they reference romantic Christmas specials and take queue for each skits from them. So each performance and every improv “game” within it, plays upon a whole new set of romantic comedy and classic Christmas stories. I found myself laughing just as hard with the new actors, new themes, and new jokes. Even the last half of the evening, where one person had a romantic comedy crafted around them felt brand new.

 

As for the “OK Tinder – Swipe Right Comedy” I have a few notes. The show is only 60 minutes long, and is only available Thursday night at 9pm. You can either stop by after dinner for a light laugh, or did what we did and tack on this additional 60 minutes after the main show, show. Doing so gave us more time for my girl friend and I to enjoy a bottle of wine and some snacks that we purchased from the in house concession. The bbq peanuts, chocolate covered nuts, and gummy bears went down quick, as the jokes only got funnier, and we got hungrier the more we drank.

“OK Tinder – Swipe Right Comedy”, is described as “60 minutes of fast-paced, no-holds-barred comedy looking at the good, bad and the laughable of Vancouver’s dating scene”, (according to their website). Although I found the topics and the themes were simply discussing dating and romance in general. Whereas given the name and the blurb above, I expected more humour derived from the use of dating apps, more jokes at the expense of those on such apps, and just stereotypes about using it in Vancouver’s specific dating pool.

I wanted Vancouver’s bleak dating scene as told through improv! Where were the jokes about “Tinder” being just hook up app? The actors (which were mostly different from the ones on earlier) could have created funny dating profiles using audience members suggestions (although during this performance our full house turned into 5 tables full). Maybe they could have done a skit of what’s it like to date some one from Yaletown versus Commercial Drive? Or maybe create pick up lines using puns? What about acting out scene of weird, made up fetishes as recommended by the audience? Given that it is on much later, that it is marketed as an adult only event, and the topic matter: I almost expected more on sex and some fowl language to perk our ears up. I recall there being just the one f-bomb.

Although, overall as a show it was still hilarious. There was a game where everyone was finishing each other’s sentences. And a round where the players on stage used a collection of audience member’s items to create a scene. Every show I have seen has always been consistently good. I have yet to have a bad time or leave without tears in my eyes and an ache in my belly from laughing. Improv shows are truly one of the great past times our fair city offers, and not enough people take advantage of it. Skip movie night next week, and instead head over to Granville Island for some live action humour and suspense.

To purchase your tickets visit the link below.

Ok Tinder – Swipe Right Comedy

 

Merry Kiss-mas at Vancouver Theatre Sports League

Getting some Yuletide cheer at Vancouver Theatre Sports~

Christmas means so many things to so many people. Fond memories reflected on and created around all that this season embodies: from lights to food, characters to presents. And today we were down at “Vancouver Theatre Sport” (VTSL) to celebrate all the romantic Christmas specials that air on repeat this time of year. Apparently “Hallmark” does majority of them, playing out the classic will she or won’t she tropes with everyone pairing up by the movie’s end. And leave it to “VTSL” to find a way to turn these movies that make your lips quiver and your heart flutter into a laugh out loud fest. Aptly named “Merry Kiss-mas”, the performance left me with tears in my eyes. Not heartfelt water ducts of emotions, but ones of unbridled laughter as audience participation was key, and the engagement the best during these skits.

In line with this theme “VTSL” even made a trailer for their highly anticipated performance. One that you can hype yourself up to, by checking out the link below. The link also includes performance dates and how to get tickets to this seasonal show, running from November 21 through to December 24th.

http://www.vtsl.com/show/merry-kiss-mas/

 

The evening’s host was also the performer that created the entire format for this show. She was the one to pool her favourite romantic Christmas specials and build skits round them. Each “activity” or classic improv game that was acted out, was base on one of these “Hallmark” movies. In fact, the real version of the replicated gazebo that was part of this intricate set, has been featured in many, if not all of them. The entire stage was a whimsical recreation of a sleepy town. A hand painted town that included a grocery store and a town hall. Each “building” was snow trimmed and lined with blinking lights.

As to not ruin the surprise, I won’t go into details of the actual performance. Although that being said and this being improv means that there are no two shows alike.

Audience members typed out lines for the actors. A pair became hands and one scene that required gift wrapping. And during the second half of the show, they asked for a volunteer to star in their own Christmas romantic comedy! I am a little too shy for the above, plus prefer to laugh at everyone else’s attempts.

In short, with a well stocked bar and the ability to bring your glass in to the theatre, “Merry Kiss-mas” makes for the perfect after dinner, date night activity. And if you have the time I suggest rounding out your night of romance with their “OK Tinder – swipe right comedy” show, that runs for 60 minutes after. It pokes fun at Vancouver’s dating scene, highlighting the apps that are transforming the way we find love in the city. For more information on it and to buy your tickets online, check out the link below.

http://www.vtsl.com/show/oktinder/

Bacio Rosso: Gourmet Cabaret Cirque

I first saw adverts of this show on the Granville Street bridge. Red flags spelling out “Bacio Rosso” flapping in the wind. Without any additional information, I pulled out my phone and went on goggle. My search yielded “Cirque, Comedy, Cuisine” and I was intrigued.

This would be the first time this cabaret is making its appearance in Canada. And from Late October to Mid December you can see it for yourself. Tickets are available online and do cost a pretty penny depending on where you want to sit. The tables closest to either the musical stage at the back, or the centre stage in the middle cost the most. The further back you go the less expensive the tickets go. A difference of $120 from most priciest seats to the least.

$199 gave you premium booth seats, lined up around the centre stage, at the very edge of the tent. Each booth is named after a major city, and you get it and the space for your group alone. All other tables had you sharing, depending how many were in your party.

$159 gives you a premium seat around the centre stage. This is where you want to be sitting in my opinion. Continually, any audience participation was selected from this area. The same faces played parts in skits, and the same faces also got to be volunteers for the magic show.

And here I was paying top dollar at $239 with a $10 fee for my seat. (All the other seatings were charged the same $10 fee as well.) Having paid the most, I expected more. But I wasn’t even able to choose which table I would be seated at. It was one of four tables in an general area between the centre ring and the back stage. And sadly we were at the ones closest to the back stage, whereas majority of the action was at the centre stage, with their back towards us. At least we were in prime position to catch the action and food coming out from said back.

There is also regular booth seats for $149, these were a little closer to the back stage, with less visibility. And the “stage booth” at $119. This was the least expensive, and in my opinion, the worse seats in the house. Here, you could hardly see the musicians playing, and centre stage felt like a world away. Heck, one of the performers even called the patrons seated here “the three blind mice”.

At the end of the day you are here for the show, as the food isn’t all that memorable, not to mention you get the same three courses no matter where you are seated. Therefore, I say spend more for the best view, because anything else would be a waste.

And speaking of that view, the following is a brief recap of my experience and some photos I have taken to showcase the mood. Take them in to get yourself excited, but truly, nothing compares to trying it for yourself first hand.

Not to spoil anything, as each show is pretty much the same in terms of plot, performances and transitions, but with the occasional ad lib. “Bacio Rosso” is a three-hour performance that features artists from around the world, including magicians, jugglers, trapeze artists, contortionists, clowns, singers, and comedians.

This rehearsed show has the feeling of improv; with all of the above engaging in the audience whenever they can. This brings you, the diner and viewer, deeper into the magical world that is self contained under this red tent. “Red” like the “kiss” in their name.

The show is set around the eccentric owner and operator of said tent, and her long lost brother. Together with their crew of servers and hosts they entertain with much humour and theatrics, set to perfectly cued live music.

Be warned, given that this tent is a pop up, the bathroom was like a Porto-potty of sorts. With no actual plumbing it smelled like an outhouse: a mix of strong cleaning chemicals and waste. But constructed with proper walls and running water for the sink.

Thankfully this was the case, as we found ourselves ordering and drinking wine by the bottle. Bottles that were recommend by our server, so that we could top ourselves up more frequently. The show is respected and to not block anyone’s view from the live action, the ordering of any drinks must be done in between sets. So having a bottle means more booze at the ready.

Dinner is four courses prepared by “La Quercia’s” Adam Pegg, an award-winning Vancouver chef who specializes in Italian cuisine. Once again, it doesn’t matter where you are seated, you get the same starter, appie, entree, and dessert no matter how much your paid for your entry. But sadly given that I paid the most, this didn’t feel like a $239 + $10 meal. Thankfully I was drinking plenty and the show had me engaged and distracted from the meal below. I found myself not finishing my food, more enthused by the show, which is a good thing. I didn’t stop laughing or smiling.

Please excuse the colour of my photos as the tent is strobed in colour and everything at our table was tinted red. And without a menu or a mention of what we were having from the servers, who dropped off plates with speed and ease, I am guessing on the below.

The first course was sliced pork with a salty tuna-fish-like spread, and a crispy pork rind.

My guest doesn’t eat pork, so got a lightly dressed bland salad instead. I was not impressed by this, given the price we paid.

Next, everyone got a bean lasagna. I found the whipped smooth paste over the tender noodles not an interesting mouth feel. It could have also used more salt and cheese to give the lasagna some punchiness. I would have preferred this prepared like a regular lasagne with tomato sauce, herbs and cheese (if they can’t use meat), at least I would have known what to expect with it and it is comforting and filling. This version left me wanting more.

The main course is also how you purchase your ticket: by choosing your entree between the vegetarian entree, the chicken or the beef. In hind sight, I should have gotten the “Polenta al Funghi”, Polenta and mushrooms dish as I feel that it would have been the comforting and filling plate that I wanted above.

The “Rosticciata di Manzo” is slow cooked tender beef with root vegetables in jus. It was a little salty, and the flavour a little bland.

I preferred the chicken a lot more. “Pollo in Umido” with roasted squash. The herbed seasoning was familiar and tasty.

I found the dessert too tart for my tastes, but at least the creamy panna cotta and raspberries was a refreshing way to end our meal.

In short, this was a great show that should not be missed. Come before the end of December for the entertainment value and the laughs. Come early and order a bottle of wine to pass the time, and to be immersed all the more. But maybe snack a little at home first?

Be warned there is no exact address, so to get here you are basically entering Queen Elizabeth Park from Cambie street. You follow the numerous small and dark erected signs and their red arrows to the beacon of lights that is the tent and the lively music that is coming from within it. Parking is any that you can find along the path, which requires a trek after. We hailed a cab and it wasn’t any easier, as both drivers that took us there and got us home, didn’t know where in Q-E to go.

 

BACIO ROSSO
Wednesday to Sunday from October 28 to December 31, 2018
7-10pm Wednesday to Saturday and 8-11pm on Sunday.
Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver.
4600 Cambie St, Vancouver BC, V5Z 2Z1
Tickets are available online from $119 to $239.
https://www.baciorosso.com/

Skookum Festival weekend

After loosing the Squamish music festival, BC felt at a loss. Luckily Vancouver stepped up and we were able to earn our very first music festival. “Where urban meets wild” this would be a “weekend of music, creativity and culinary excellence in the heart of Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park”, (as taken from the Skookum website). I was very curious to see how our fair city would take on such an endeavour. And in true Vancouver fashion they were able to inject food, drink, art, and even rain in to this scene.

Truth be told this would be my first music festival, so I have nothing to compare the weekend to. But on the same token I will be able to review this in its truest form, without prejudice or comparison. This is my recap of the very first Skookum Festival.

The festival centres around music, bringing festival goers that much closer to some of the artists they love. Indie and modern rock, with touches of rap and electronic. The “curated lineup blends acts you know and love with emerging performers you’ll be discovering for the first time – a spirited, eclectic menu of authentic artists from the West Coast, across Canada and around the world” (as taken from the Skookum website).

I was impressed by the show runner’s ability to create such a wonderland, to transform the spacious park with its matted grass, bumpy terrain, and natural forestry into this playground for adults (although families were welcomed). Behind chain linked fences guarded by numerous security detail was a scene that centred around four different stages, each named after their backdrops: meadow, forest, mountain, and skyline. (In order of smallest to largest.)

Where you were and which performance you watched was based on your artist of choice and their performance slot. The acoustics for each were on point and the bands took full advantage. I made sure check out a few performances across each stage.

Like “Chromeo” and the “Arkells” on the Mountain stage at dusk and night.

And “Sterophonics” in the light of day.

“Matt Mays” on the Forest stage and “Mob Bounce” on the Meadow stage.

Although the Skyline stage was certainly the best. It was the largest, with the beauty of water and our city in the background. Watching the stage by day and night was a different experience.

Whether you caught clouds and details from the buildings while enjoying “St. Vincent”. Or the dots of lights and the lit sails of Canada Place during the set performed by “The War on Drugs”.

This event was rain or shine, and the rain certainly didn’t slow anyone down, even though this was a strictly no umbrellas allowed festival. Thankfully many vendor sponsors offered some reprieve from the wet in the form of plastic ponchos. They were necessary way to keep dry, because umbrellas and other forms of covering, blocked the view of others. Everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder trying to get as close to the stage as possible, with no designated seats. And everyone is creating their own viewpoints, craving out their own spaces to enjoy each performance, their way.

Although for those who preferred to dance and to be less restricted in their movements, the area at the back of the crowd still offers great sound quality; with all the space they needed to hoola hoop, twirl their batons, and/or dance with their light up glow sticks.

Although, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy the festival is at one of the VIP lounges. More specifically the “Virgin Mobile” Lounge that was sponsoring and overlooking the Skyline stage. Here, you get the ideal vantage point to enjoy each night’s biggest bands. The weekend’s headliners “The Killers” played on this stage, and as I mentioned earlier it is the largest one, with the best view (in my opinion).

Virgin’s campaigns weren’t kidding, their members do get it. This wasn’t a pay to enter sort of access, you have to be one of their members to actually enjoy their hospitality. Multiple seating across their covered lounge space: couches, tables and chairs, and lawn furniture with umbrellas. And drinks at their private bar with minimal line ups, serving up cocktails, beers, and wine. And best of all: unrestricted access to a regular washroom. They had a trailer with running water and multiple stalls! Otherwise the lines to relieve yourself at the regular clusters of porto potties would have you avoiding all liquids, and what fun would that be? If being a Virgin Mobile member means such access and comfort to all the many concerts they sponsor and promote, it is certainly reason enough to switch cell phone providers.

In between musical performances from noon to night, and if you stayed the whole day, there was plenty to do and even more to see. There were a multitude of vendors hawking accessories and food stuffs.

Local purveyors of flower crowns and fresh floral leis, “Lei de Buds” were on site to help add a little colour to your rain proof, festival wear. So popular that “Florence” of “Florence + Machine” took a photo sporting an stunning circlet in bloom.

If you were looking for apparel that doubled as a souvenir, the merchandise tent had you sporting your favourite band across your chest, the hard part was choosing just one tee for $30-40. I took home “The Killers” in cotton.

Popular whiskey brand, “Jack Daniels” was on site offering mixed drinks, a chance to win merch with a spin of wheel, and spray-on tattoos. I took part in the latter, gaining some hard to rub off ink with glitter and rhinestone accents.

There were several art installations with local talent working on large scale projects. The murals surrounding an elevated platform not only gave you a vantage point, but the backdrop to many great selfies. There was a paint by number landscape, a snakes and ladders game with a native retelling, and a smoke and mirrors set up hosted by “Virgin Mobile” for some more photo ops.

Not to mention the popular, giant block letters spelling out “S-K-O-O-K-U-M” in a rotation of flashing lights.

And if you were tired and weary, there were booths offering make up and hair touch ups, and even a cluster of hammocks allowing festival goers a chance to take a nap.

As for food, there were a handful of vendors on site operating out of tents and foodtrucks. Your favourite Vancouver restaurants were on site, like “Vij’s”, “Fat Mao Noodles”, “Belgard Kitchen”, “Bao Bei, and “Coquille”. If the weather was a little drier, I would have indulged in one of their packed picnic baskets. To be able to sit down and share some meat and cheeses with my companions, on one of their many picnic tables or lawn chairs by the warming fire pits.

If standing and eating isn’t your scene, and you wanted to sit down to a slower meal, Skookum offered tickets to their long table dinners. Fine dining and stunning plates under a tent, strung with lights.

My cohorts and I braved the lengthy lines and gave the “Mr. Bannock” truck a try.

Their “bannock tacos” gave you beef, beans, cheese, and sour cream on a chewy tuff of deep fried bread. It was tasty, filling, and perfect for easy outdoor eating. Not wanting to queue in another 20 minute line, we followed this up with their dessert bannock. Raspberry sorbet, cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate sauce over bannock.

 

For a more revealing look at the festival experience, check out the latest vlog on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. Then come back to read my critiques below.

 

The walk to Stanley Park and the locale within was necessary, but not everyone is an able bodied person or has the ability to trek a quarter of the sea wall to enter festival grounds. Luckily there were rickshaw cyclists on site offering rides two at a time, there were also mobi bikes for renting; and if you had the patience, the ability to drive into the park, to park.

As for leaving the festival arranged dozens of EVO ride share vehicles were at your disposal, ready for you to sign in and drive off in. However, if you choose to drink they also offered shuttles too. But as an impatience personality, I opted to walk back to where we came and hail a cab.

 

Overall this was such a great experience and a great win for Vancouver events. Everyone I spoke to, that attended had an amazing time. It was well organized, well staffed, well preformed, and well received. I am hoping this is but the first stepping stone to an annual, larger scale music and art festival. I cannot wait for next year and am already crossing my fingers for a sunny day to enjoy the festival a whole new way.

 

SKOOKUM
https://www.skookumfestival.com/

Back to School with Vancouver TheatreSports

At this point, I look forward to Vancouver Theatre Sport’s themed improv performances every month. A new month brings a new way to make any crowd laugh with improvised hilarity. And as always, no two shows are alike.

For September they are bringing audiences a performance that plays on the inevitability of summer ending and having to go back to school. And although majority of the crowd in attendance on this, their opening night, no longer attends school, many (like myself) still remember those days. But today my guest was a teacher, so despite working throughout the summer, she knows this feeling all to well. She found the familiarity and the first hand experience had her in stitches.

The evening was themed around the age old rivalry of “jocks” versus “nerds”. With players dressed in stereotypical gear and spouting stereotypical speak. The “teacher” hosted a competition between the two “classes” pitting them against one another for prize money. Round after round they competed in improv “games” based on the audience’s help and suggestions, with guest judges scoring each performance out of a “5”. This rendition was more closely related to the traditional improv competitions I have watched on television. Game shows like “whose line is it anyways”, where those performers too were challenged to compete in various rounds for points. But being able to see it live and being part of the crowd that shouted out suggestions made it all the more fun. There was also the most audience participation tonight, than from any of the other performances I have attended in the past. I laughed the hardest at the mannequin game, which I will explain more on below.

A few of the “games” included the acting out the same scene three different times with three different approaches based on countries. Ie: a class room setting set in BC, Toronto, and Thailand. Having an audience member move three of the players as they spoke aloud their intentions and responded to the audience member’s positioning of them. And having the audience shout out three different code words and having one of the improvers guess what they were based on puns from other actors and the audience’s “oohhhs” and “ahhhs”.

The only thing I would say is that I would have liked to see them act out the scene of the team winning and what they would have done with the grant money. For example, the “jocks” wanted a creatine cooler installed in the gym, and the “nerds” were fundraising for a field trip to the set of the “Big Bang Theory”. This would have rounded out the story a little more completely for me.

In short the possibilities and scenarios are endless. The theme of September’s performance may change based on those improving on stage, the characters they portray, the games they play, and the audience’s suggestions for them. So come back as many times as you like for a whole new experience each performance. And as always, I encourage stopping at their bar before the show starts and during the intermission, to fully enjoy your experience.

If the back to school blues has you down, I definitely suggest taking a trip down to Granville Island and laughing your head back (literally as in my case). A great time with unique laughs. Cheers.

 

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Avocado Toast, Vancouver Theatre Sport

Tonight I was invited to Vancouver Theatre Sport’s latest improv show: “Avocado Toast”. Its name and theme, meant to poke fun of Vancouver and all its stereotypes. And here, I didn’t think Vancouverites even had a distinct characteristic, but boy was I wrong.

Launch night included a reception featuring a more literal representation of “avocado toast”. Mashed avocados with various toppings, over a crisp crostini. Tomato, peach, mushroom and feta, chilli rubbed shrimp, and beets. Sadly there was a time limit on these, as the green avocado was quick to turn brown from oxidation. But the flavour lived on with bold spice from the prawn, a thick saltiness from the feta, and some sweetness with the softened peach.

The bar is pay to drink, with the ability to purchase as many glasses and cups at a time. You can either drink on their sun soaked patio, or bring your bubbles with you, into the auditorium. We saved ourselves some time and trouble and simply got a bottle to-go, enough to have us continuously drinking from start to intermission.

And it maybe because of said bottle that we finished, but I truly found this the best improv show that I have watched, to date. There were points where I laughed so hard at the relevancy that I teared up. Although, you know you are gonna have a good time when an giant avocado greets you at the door and begins doing the two step as she leans back to some hip hop beats. And each attendee gets into the avocado frame of mind with miniature pins you were encouraged to prick on to your lapel.

The great thing about this show, and any improv performance held here, is that if you wanted to come back again, the show would be completely different. Improv uses suggestions from the audience, therefore, the themes differ based on the suggestions taken. Although each show night would rally around the same storyline, leaning towards Vancouver themes.

The backdrop spoke to this without using words. It gave you an exaggerated, yet realistic look at Vancouver’s city life. Where half a dozen cranes litter any given skyline, how there are plenty of free newspaper bins marking busy intersections, and parking signs are in abundance. On stage, a few even went so far as to list “No parking anywhere”, with arrows pointed in all directions.

The performance centres around a city tour. You, as the audience is taking a tour of Vancouver, lead by our narrator. Her introduction has her poking fun at Vancouverites not knowing what an umbrella is, and how our city is so dense with Starbucks’ and sushi and taco restaurants. As the night wore on, she would have the “tour group” dive deeper into Vancouver culture, showcasing our dating scene, how we earned the nick name “Hollywood North”, and touching on all the exercise trends come and gone.

I really appreciate the theatre’s ability to create such a show, one that pulls together improv scenarios and strings them along in a play of sorts. There is creativity needed to sew together sing-a-longs where the improvers make up the lyrics as they go, and have it flow seamlessly into a game where the goal is to interpret a scene three ways, each in a different perspective. I don’t want to go into too much detail, as to not spoil it for you, but here are a handful of the Vancouver’s identifying features covered: the tearing down of distinct neighbourhoods to build developments, bike lanes, religiously doing the grouse grind, a free flowing marijuana culture, and being a student with a $60,000 debt and a general arts degree focused on women’s studies. I especially liked seeing the confusion over the name of our beaches acted out, “does second come after Jericho?”

And after all that, there is still so much more about Vancouver that they didn’t get a chance to poke fun of. The list starts with their name sake “Avocado Toast”. There was not one joke about the healthy food trend, or even too much about yoga, as their performance poster advertises. So if you visit, maybe you will get some jokes on one or maybe both. Or maybe you will get some laughs from Vancouverites wearing active wear everywhere and the inconsistency of our weather, and how we always complain about it either way.

In summary, this was a great show to watch. Given how relatable it is to someone living in or around Vancouver, the performers had the crowd in stitches. A couple of the actors did especially well in their comedic timing. As a whole, the cast did well to pull suggestions from the audience and engage them as much as possible, in the form of “props” or “characters. They also did a few call backs: jokes made referencing a past skit in a new one. Those are some of the the hardest to plan, so I can only imagine how much more of a challenge it is to improvise them. But the return for such an investment was some of the funniest and most well received jokes of the night.

In short, “Avocado Toast” is definitely worth checking out for fun or a fun night out.

 

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Murder on the Improv Express

I am only familiar with improv though the television show “Who’s line is it anyways”, originally hosted by Drew Carey, staring Canadian funny man Colin Mochrie (who coincidentally will be performing at Vancouver Theatre Sport in the near future).

So when I was invited to check out their latest production, “Murder on the Improv Express”, I jumped at the opportunity. Being familiar with the book turned movie, which this performance was based on, made it all more engaging. You know what is going on, but with all the twists and ad libbing, you are still kept guessing.

The show promises to be “A Killer Comedy” running from April 12 through May 26, 2018 at the Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge, in The Improv Centre on Granville Island. Each show is completely different as the audience helps to build the story. Several scenes and each character’s personality is crafted through the suggestions audience members shout out. And the improv artists make plenty of attempts to engage their viewers. So really, you could watch serval performances and get a different out come and experience each time.

The show is an “improvised whodunit” set in the 1930’s. The host/narrator starts the scene off by explaining a few how to’s. He sets up the stage where himself and six other characters are on a train, trying to find out who killed their victim (a member from the audience chosen at random). The background to it is described as “a glamourous era when Art Deco was in vogue and anyone who was anyone travelled ‘abroad’ on luxury liners or trains. The best chefs, servers, and bartenders were recruited to cater to these elite travellers. Prohibition had just ended and classic cocktails were crafted and served to this sophisticated clientele.”

Due to the fact that the way the events unfolded followed a pseudo-script/storyline some of the improv themes you just had to guess at. Like when the characters tried to start a new scene with the exact phrase that the last character spoke in the scene before. And when one character had to guess the secret word that another character was hiding by sorting through their clues made out of puns.

Without giving any of it away, I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did. Nor did I expect the plot line to hold up as well as it did. But the frame work of a play, surrounding improv within each scene was well done.

For those who wish to be more engrossed with the performance and possibly play a role in, I suggest getting tickets for the tables up front. There, the audience members were asked to participate by making noises and lending themselves to the backdrop of the scene. And those times where they audience couldn’t catch on or weren’t participating as the host had hoped, the “actors” made jokes and worked it into the performance with hilarious consequences.

These tables are also the best places to catch a drink at. Sitting at them gives you plenty of room to store your drinks. Drinks from the Vancouver TheatreSports’ Bar. And as they will tell you, drinking and laughing go naturally together.

To christen the show and in homage to the great cocktails of the period, the bar is offering two “Killer Cocktails”. Both are priced at $8.75 for a single and $12.75 for a double, and are only available during the show’s run.

The “Corpse Reviver” is based on a classic 1930’s hangover cure, joking that “it’ll bring you back to life” with gin, lemon-lime juice, and a splash of soda.

The “Prohibition Pleaser” was in reflection of the times where people couldn’t drink before 1933, but were still able to find a way. This was the sweeter of the two cocktails. It looked, smelled, and tasted like was alcohol-free with the feature of Glayva Liqueur shaken with Amaretto and cranberry juice.

Straws were available for both, but rest assured we were told that they were of the biodegradable kind.

Another favourite libation of the era was champagne. So they also offered piccolo-sized bottles of Henkell Rose bubbly at $9.75; in addition to their regular menu of wines, spirits and beer. It was mandatorily poured into glasses out of its miniature bottle.

Overall this was a great show and a great experience. I definitely recommend checking out the performance yourself. For tickets visit the link before May 26th, 2018.

 

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

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