I’ve been incredibly lucky this year to have been a part of so many theater openings in Vancouver. On any given week, there’s a wealth of choices, from musicals and comedy, to dance to drama. From 2011’s collection of productions attended, I’ve capped off my 10 favourites to share with you.

August: Osage County cast photo

1. August: Osage County

This one packed a punch, with a fabulously talented cast and so much to take in over the three act play. The entire cast pulls together to keep Nora McLellan in the spotlight, as she portrays pill-popping Violet (Vi) Weston, the Matriarch. The audience never loses sight of that title either, as her rock solid performance shines throughout those several hot and humid summer Osage County days and nights.

Kayvon Khoshkam and Camille Mitchell

2. The Graduate

A classic by any right, the Granville Island Stage Theatre’s production was also high on my list of excellent nights spent at the theatre. Actors Kayvon Khoshkam and Camille Mitchell play so well together, with his humour and innocence bouncing off of her worldly attraction and life experiences. Not only was the cast well suited in their roles, but the stage design was particularly spot on, depicting the 60’s decor and mood to a t.

Ron Reed photo by Andrew Smith

3. A Christmas Carol

This was the most recent play I took in, again a classic tale told in a unique way, courtesy of Ron Reed. One man and a fiddler brought the intimate Pacific Theatre stage to life this month with a rousing tale already embedded in our conscience. Both the keen attention to stage set detail and Reed’s storytelling add to a beautifully told holiday tradition.

Romeo et Juliette backstage at Vancouver Opera

4. Roméo et Juliette

As an invited “opera ninja”, I was treated to a backstage glimpse into the sets, props, and costumes of this glorious four performance run at the Queen E Theatre. It was beautiful to watch the story unfold and listen to Simone Osbourne (Juliette) and Gordon Gietz (Romeo) conduct their love affair in front of packed audiences for each and every performance.

Bennie and the Jets

5. Love Lies Bleeding

The Alberta Ballet is back in town this week with a three night run of The Nutcracker, bringing back the talented dance troupe including fantastic lead dancer Yukichi Hattori. Love Lies Bleeding, set to Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s music, was a feast for the senses. The costumes and stage set were magnificent, and the dancing was top notch. I didn’t want the show to end.

La Cage cast

6. La Cage aux Folles

Kudos to the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company for bringing this hilarious, campy musical romp to Vancouver. Based on the 1973 play by Jean-Poiret, the most popular remake has been the 1996 film The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. This VPT production was fun to watch, with comic scenes by two of the strongest in the cast, Greg Armstrong-Morris and Vincent Tong. Costumes were amazing and the production was a joy to watch, with many feathered boas in the crowd to match the party on stage.

Evan Frayne

7. Re:Union

Norman Morrison’s famous act of war protest has left the world wondering exactly what unfolded that fateful night 40 years ago. Evan Frayne (as Norman Morrison) and Andrew Wheeler (as Robert McNamara) are both strong leads in this two act play, with video footage and a stage that brought the audience back to the Vietnam war era. Alexa Devine (as Morrison’s daughter Emily) confronts McNamara and over time, the big man finally realizes that events that happened 40 years ago can’t be erased that easily.

Meg Roe, Craig Erickson, Gabrielle Rose

8. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A middle aged couple face a wall, but not without plenty of alcohol-fueled rage and petty fights. This Arts Club Theatre production featured a solid cast of four, playing off one another like four cats after the same mouse. It was at times difficult to watch the marriage crumble, but the way the characters change over the course of the evening made it worth the while to follow along for the three hour ride.

Kepinski, Clement, Marmorstein

9. The Trespassers

I’ll admit right now that I’m a big Amitai Marmorstein fan. I’ve enjoyed past performances in both Legoland and Nelly Boy, looking forward to what he’d bring to The Trespassers, from award-winning playwright Morris Panych. The entire cast was brilliant and the set brought back simpler times, when a fresh peach picked off a tree was sometimes all it took to make the day complete.

Bob Frazer

10. Richard III

I couldn’t end the list without including this fine Bard on the Beach production. Richard III and actor Bob Frazer were meant to be together. This play simply revolved around his flawless crippled body hovering over the rest of the court and making life miserable for anyone who entered his space. Richard III was known for being one of the most villainous creatures in literary history, and this production allows Frazer to bring it on full tempo. I look forward to more of Frazer’s productions, having already enjoyed his previous role in Death of a Salesman, for which he won a Jessie Award.

Photos used in this post:
1 and 8: Arts Club Theatre; 2 and 9: David Cooper; 3: Andrew Smith; 4: Ariane Colenbrander; 5: Charles Hope; 6: Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company; 7: Pacific Theatre; 10: David Blue

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