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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The best of Vancouver theatre in 2015

After seeing nearly 90 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 2015. And just 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 local theatre 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 2016.

Top Ten Vancouver Theatre Productions in 2015

Sean Harris Oliver and Claire Hesselgrave find the truth in Philip Ridley's Tender Naplam through dance and words. Photo by David Cooper.
#10 – Defying easy description: Tender Napalm (Twenty Something Theatre) – this theatrical hybrid was beatiful, sexy, and infuriating. Claire Hasselgrave and Sean Harris Oliver were devastating and Julie Casselman’s original music was hypnotic.
Members of the cast of The Best Laid Plans: A Musical. Photo by Tim Matheson
#9 – Politics are rarely this funny: The Best Laid Plans: A Musical (Patrick Street Productions / Touchstone Theatre) – perhaps it was the timing as this one appeared in the middle of our national election this year, but this musical based on Terry Fallis’  book was the perfect cure for all the election rhetoric.
The cast of Les Misérables. Photo by Ross den Otter
#8 – Such clarity in story – Les Miserables (Arts Club Theatre Company) – there is a reason this story still resonates, but what made this particular production so strong was how it brought such clarity to its epic story. I’ve seen this show multiple times and discovered more in this production than I have in all the others combined.
Foreign Radical
#7- This one lingered: Foreign Radical (Theatre Conspiracy) – I spent more time thinking about this show than any other in 2015. There is a reason it won the Critic’s Choice Innovation Award at this year’s Jessie Awards.
Members of the cast of Glengarry Glen Ross. Photo by Megan Verhey
#6 – No fucking pink Cadillacs: Glengarry Glen Ross (Classic Chic Productions) – proving that great acting can be genderless, if this all female cast had balls, they would have been scratching them.
Members of the cast of Hairspray. Photo by Tim Matheson.
#5 – You couldn’t stop the beat: Hairspray (Theatre Under the Stars) – never mind the big hair, this was one big summer hit. Even Stanley Park’s raccoons and squirrels couldn’t get enough of the nicest kids in town.
Fool For Love
#4 – It was hot inside the Havana: Fool For Love (Clockwork Theatre) – in its inaugural production, this new indie theatre company proved they are going places.
Empire of the Son
#3 – This show was gorgeous: Empire of the Son (Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre) – Tetsuro Shigematsu’s one-person show had gorgeous storytelling wrapped inside an equally gorgeous production.
Lucia Frangione and Darryl Shuttleworth give electric performances in Annapurna. Photo by Anne Marie Slater.
#2 – This one was electrifying: Annapurna (Christy Webb Productcions) – Lucia Frangione and Darryl Shuttleworth gave two of the best performances of the year in a production that found the delicate balance between the light and the dark side of relationships.
Kyra Zagorsky as Emily and Patrick Sagongui as Amir in the Arts Club Theatre Company production of Disgraced. Photo by David Cooper.
#1 – As smart as it was relevant: Disgraced (Arts Club Theatre Company) – refreshingly accessible with a tension-filled slow burn, the real power in Disgraced came long after the curtain fell.


Five More that Deserve Mention

And then there were fifteen. Here are five more shows from 2015 that also deserve mention:

  1. 3..2..1 (Speakeasy Theatre) – an intense first outing for this young theatre company, they are to also be applauded for their “pay what you want” ticket model
  2. Murder Ballad (Fighting Chance Productions) – the best thing from this amateur / pre-professional theatre company in a long time, this one showed a level of maturity that will hopefully serve them well
  3. The Duchess a.k.a. Wallis Simpson (Ruby Slippers Theatre) – Diane Brown gave a stunning performance as the woman who could topple a king
  4. FLEE (Electric Company Theatre / Studio 58) – a professional / theatre school co-production that had me scratching my head (and other parts of my body)
  5. Rapture, Blister, Burn (Mitch and Murray Productions) – this dense play was an intellectual workout with a killer cast

Ten Performances & Moments

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

  1. Andrew McNee’s sweaty performance in One Man, Two Guvnors (Arts Club Theatre Company)
  2. The appropriately fearless (and often nude) cast of The Competition is Fierce (ITSAZOO)
  3. Lisa C. Ravensbergen’s powerful performance as Johnny in God and the Indian (Firehall Arts Centre / Native Earth Performing Arts)
  4. Jennifer Copping’s gender-bend Jesus in Godspell (Arts Club Theatre Company)
  5. The wedding scene from Romeo & Juliet (Studio 58)
  6. The death-defying acrobatics from the “cast” of A Simple Space (Gravity & Other Myths)
  7. Nadeem Phillip’s mesmerizing performance in Cock (Rumble Theatre)
  8. The final scene of Nirbhya (Assembly, Riverside Studios, and Poorna Jagannathan)
  9. The street-involved youth in Death in a Dumpster (Access to Music Foundation / Directions Youth Services)
  10. Cecilly Day’s performance in Murder Ballad (Fighting Chance Productions)
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