The best of Vancouver theatre in 2016

After seeing nearly 100 theatre productions this year, I can attest to the thriving theatre scene in Vancouver.

Here is my list of the ten best theatre productions in 2016, based on what I was able to see this year.

To prove how difficult it is to pick only ten, I also present a bonus five that also deserve another mention, plus ten performances/moments that stuck with me through the year.

As always, I am grateful to the Vancouver and touring companies who continue to invite me to see their shows. I encourage you to make a New Year’s resolution to experience some live theatre in 2017.

10Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol

Linden Banks gives one of the year’s best performances as Jacob Marley

Christmas came early: Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol (Theatre Obscura) – there was an early Christmas present under the tree this year in this beautifully realized production. Linden Banks gave one of the year’s best performances as Scrooge’s long-dead partner.


David J Bodor and Patrick Dodd in the Aenigma Theatre production of Red. Photo by Javier R. Sotres Photography.

Finding the right balance: Red (Aenigma Theatre) – this production found that delicate balance between the intellectual and the emotional in a play about art.


Jay Dodge takes the plunge in Expedition.

Hope versus fear: Expedition (Boca del Lupo and The Performance Corporation) – Vancouver and Dublin unite for two thought-provoking pieces on global warming.


Long and beautiful: Hair (Renegade Arts Co) – this young company would not have been born in the 1960s, but that didn’t stop them from finding relevance in this counter-culture rock opera.

6Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches

Conor Stinson O’Gorman as Roy M. Cohn in the Studio 58 production of Angels in America. Photo by David Cooper.

Red ribbons: Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches (Studio 58) – Tony Kushner’s epic play came to life with some equally epic performances.

5The Motherf*cker with the Hat

A melting pot: The Motherf*cker with the Hat (Haberdashery Theatre Company / Firehall Arts Centre) – not without its controversies, there was an honesty in a show about addiction playing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

4The After After Party

A most excellent adventure: The After, After Party (Katey Hoffman and Cheyenne Mabberley) – these comedy goddesses proved they were the best of this year’s Vancouver Fringe Festival.

3Last of the Red Hot Lovers

Barney (Paul Herbert) and Elaine Navazio (Irene Karas Loeper) in Last of the Red Hot Lovers

Caliente: Last of the Red Hot Lovers (Lovebird Artists Collective) – filled with talent, this production used the play’s vintage charm to full advantage.

2Straight Jacket Winter

Frédéric Lemay and Julie Trépanier in Straight Jacket Winter. Photo by Renaud Philippe.

In from the cold: Straight Jacket Winter (Théâtre la Seizième, 2PAR4, National Arts Centre French Theatre) – loneliness and alienation has never been so beautiful in this production from Vancouver’s only French theatre company.


Lauren Jackson and Josh Epstein in Onegin. Photo by David Cooper

Perfection: Onegin (Arts Club Theatre Company) – a beautiful, quirky and emotion-filled love story. There is a reason this new musical swept this year’s Jessie Awards. My biggest regret in 2016 was I didn’t go back to see it a second time.

Five More that Deserve Mention

And then there were fifteen. Here are five more shows from 2016 that also deserve mention:

  1. The Dance Teacher (Tomo Suru Players) – difficult subject matter handled with skill
  2. A Good Way Out (Pacific Theatre) – surprising and brutal
  3. Little One (Alley Theatre / Firehall Arts Centre) – one chilling ride
  4. The Invisible Hand (Pi Theatre / The Cultch) – powerful and chilling
  5. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Fighting Chance Productions) – this one was T E R R I F I C

Ten Performances & Moments

And finally, here are ten performances/moments that stuck with me this year:

  1. The fearless cast of Let’s Talk About Sex
  2. The flying car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  3. The found space for Movements 1&2
  4. Jay Dodge’s bravery in taking the plunge into False Creek in Expedition
  5. Andrew Wheeler’s transformation in A Good Way Out
  6. Alison Kelly’s bravura performance in A Dog at a Feast
  7. Conor Stinson O’Gorman’s performance as Roy M. Cohn in Angels in America
  8. The cast and crew of Hidden
  9. Kelli Ogmundson taking a knee during Pledge of Allegiance in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
  10. Linden Banks performance as Jacob Marley in Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol