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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The best of Vancouver theatre in 2014

It has been another great year for Vancouver theatre, and as I look back at the dozens of shows that I saw in 2014, I am struck by the diversity (musicals, comedies, dramas) that make up my top ten list of the best of Vancouver theatre.

It is always tough putting together this annual list with so much amazing talent in our city, but I always look forward to sharing those shows each year that left the biggest impression on me, and having the opportunity to acknowledge them one more time.  And just to show you how difficult it is to pick only ten, I also present a bonus five that also deserve another mention.

I am honoured to have been asked to join the Critics’ Choice Innovation Award committee for this year’s Jessie Awards and as always, I remain grateful to the theatre companies who invite me to see their shows.  And as we head into the new year, I once again encourage you to make a new year’s resolution to experience more live theatre in 2015.

GIli Roskies and Matthew MacDonald-Bain in Julie McIsaac's The Out Vigil. Photo by David Cooper.
#10 – You always remember your firsts: The Out Vigil (Twenty Something Theatre) – Vancouver theatre artist and playwright Julie McIsaac’s first script was beautiful and powerful. I look forwad to seeing how this one develops.
Craig Erickson, Andrew Wheeler and Emmelia Gordon in the Firehall Arts Centre production of Michael Healey's Proud. Photo by Emily Cooper.
#9 – Oui, Prime Minister: Proud (Firehall Arts Centre) – from Andrew Wheeler’s hair to Emmelia Gordon’s brash Jisbella, this political satire was one mother freaking funny show.
Gerry Mackay and Bob Frazer in Equivocation. Photo by David Blue.
# 8 – Focus on Shakespeare: Equivocation (Bard on the Beach) – an unprecedented year of solid shows for the Shakespeare festival’s 25th anniversary season, it was this story about Shakespeare that had me on the edge of my seat.
Jay Clift and Genevieve Fleming in the Hardline Productions presentation of Bug.
#7 – Creepy (crawlies): Bug (Hardline Productions) – this one made my skin crawl (in the best possible way), from one of our more adventurous indie theatre companies.
Innocence Lost, Cosmic Mambo and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Studio 58. Photos by Emily Cooper and David Cooper.
#6 – A trio of new talent: Innocence Lost / Cosmic Mambo / One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Studio 58) – okay, technically this is three shows, but Studio 58 had such a solid year it just didn’t feel right to only pick one. There is a reason this professional theatre school continues to produce some of our country’s best new artists.
The cast of Susinn McFarlen's Since You Left Us
#5 – Laughs in East Van from the North Shore: Since You Left Us (Presentation House) – Susinn McFarlen’s hilarious script seamlessly combined elements of farce and black comedy that elevated it beyond the ordinary dysfunctional family comedy.
Staircase Theatre Society presents a production of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Hunters Gatherers
#4 – Bloody and brilliant: Hunter Gatherers (Staircase Theatre) – this one could easily make you woozy, but as much from the blood and carnal lustings as in an appreciation for the quartet of fine performances.
Jay Clift, Ashley O'Connell and Kirk Smith in the Dancing Monkey Presents production of Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me.
#3 – Reality sucks: Someone to Watch Over Me (Dancing Monkey Presents) – the irony of the recent headlines is chilling. This show also marks Vancouver theatre artists Julie McIsaac’s second and Jay Clift’s third entry on this year’s list; we’ll be hearing more and more from them in coming years I am sure.
Dawn Petten and Quelemia Stacey Sparrow in the Osimous Theatre production of Our Town.
#2 – Who said you can’t go home again: Our Town (Osimous Theatre) – I had every intention of paying a second visit to Grover’s Corners during this show’s run, but ironically life got in the way. I can still smell breakfast being cooked in the Webb family kitchen.
Colby Wilson, Meaghan Chenosky, Sebastien Archibald, Ted Cole and Emma Slipp in the ITSAZOO Productions presentation of Killer Joe. Photo by Andrew Klaver.
#1 – The Trailer Park Boys have nothing on the Smith family: Killer Joe (ITSAZOO Productions) – I declared it the best theatre of 2014 back in April and no one could touch it. The only show that I went back to see a second time this year (and brought friends), Killer Joe may have been as black as they come, but it was also as good as it gets.

And then there were fifteen … here are five more shows that also deserve mention:

  1. Through the Gaze of a Navel (The Chop Theatre / Boca del Lupo) – a yin-yang of genuine respect and gentle derision of our west coast fascination with yoga
  2. The Tempest (Bard on the Beach) – a near perfect storm of design, music, costumes, performance and direction
  3. The Winter’s Tale (Classic Chic Productions) – this all-female production was as good anything in Vanier Park this summer (plus it had air-conditioning)
  4. Crazy For You / Annie / Shrek (Gateway Theatre / Royal City Musical Theatre / Theatre Under the Stars) – okay this is another three, but this trio still has me humming a happy tune
  5. The Chariot Cities (The Chariot Collective / Vancouver Fringe Festival) – this brand new musical is going places
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