Joining the Vancouver Presents team in September, our newest writer Chelsey Stuyt has covered a lot in a relatively short period of time. As we begin to take a look back at 2014, we asked Chelsey to give us her top five theatre moments since joining us.
5. Neezar’s stilt-walking entrance in The Virtual Stage’s Broken Sex Doll
Bursting through the red curtains at the height of a crescendoing verse, Neezar’s entrance on huge stilts ripped audible gasps from the audience. Neezar’s vocals had the tension flying through the rafters as he puppeted the hero about the stage like a car-struck Pinocchio. But that moment when he first revealed himself was visual metaphor played brilliantly. Terrifying, cheesy, and technically astounding all at once. Theatrical spectacle at its finest.
4. The lighting in the Wonderheads’ Loon
I would sing the praises of this show until the cows came home, but the lighting was so subtly central to the show that it deserves a second round of applause. From the opening halo surrounding a single umbrella to the spotlit dating advert, to the way the moon shone alone in the pitch black of the theatre, Loon mastered the art of lighting and used it to continually pull your attention back to the moon and the face of the man – hypnotizing you into falling in love with both. The light played across the face of the mask, altering its expression with just a tiny twitch of the head. It was all done with such a graceful mastery as to be almost unnoticeable, but the show would not have succeeded without such incredibly careful and crafted work. An absolute pleasure to watch.
3. Joan’s trial in the Arts Club’s Saint Joan
Do you remember the first Matrix film? The first time people saw “bullet-time” they freaked out. Suddenly we could slow down a moment and view a situation from all angles without losing the emotional resonance. It was both technologically exciting and emotionally satisfying. Director Kim Collier’s stage for Saint Joan capitalized on that same combination. In Joan’s trial, where the phenomenal Meg Roe (Joan) stands before her judges, the stage begins to turn. Rotating out like a loose hand on a clock face, we watch on tenterhooks as Joan pleads for her life. The wheels’ creaky industrial groan compounds the tension while the the change in perspective allows you to see the emotion etched on all faces from all angles. You begin to feel as though Joan is surrounded on all sides as she is forced towards her terrible end. If this show taught me anything, its that borrowing from cinema should definitely be more of a thing.
2. Seeing the real Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Three weeks before I saw the Ghostlight Projects’ production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Cobalt, I was sleeping out on the street in New York for a chance to see the same role played by Neil Patrick Harris. I succeeded, saw the show, and was blown away. It was flawless – meaning it literally had no flaws. But what I realized after seeing Ghostlight’s production was that it just didn’t suit. Hedwig is not flawless, nor is her story nearly as resonant set in the glitz and glamour of the Belasco theatre. But set in the grungy old Cobalt hotel bar and staged with cheap glittery banners and boas, and you’ve got that desperate edge to the vulnerable heart that defines Hedwig. Ghostlight’s production added that level of desperation and outsider edge that was missing from the slick Broadway show. It had a heart that, while not perfect, fit. Ryan Alexander McDonald (Hedwig) fell apart and sang his heart out in a shady part of town which made his final exit burn all the brighter.
1. Interviewing Jeremy Crittenden and Andy Toth
Like interviewing a runaway freight train, talking to Jeremy Crittenden and Andy Toth from the Arts Club’s Avenue Q was, without a doubt, one of my favourite moments from 2014. From the constant callbacks to fart jokes, to their candour and joy, to witnessing the incredible bond the two share, I barely had to say a word. Both men display such a passion and exuberance that they’re viral – you can’t help but get swept up in it. Infectious laughter and constant jokes balanced out a totally open conversation about censorship and the true meaning of the beloved musical – namely, that it’s about the love (and some pretty fierce 69). It was like riding the wooden coaster when you’re eight years old – you can barely hang on but can’t wait to do it again.