Snapshots at Studio 1398

Vancouver’s vibrant theatre scene is fortunate to be the birthplace of many marvelous productions. The Canadian premier of Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook is sure to provide theatre goers with an evening of heart-warming delight. 
Anyone familiar with musical theatre, or even watched a Disney musical, would recognize heavy-hitter composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. He’s composed and collaborated on dozens of smash sensations such as Wicked, Godspell, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The idea for Snapshots germinated from a collaboration between Schwartz and author David Stern, himself no stranger to Broadway. 

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook

Stern suggested that a select compilation of Schwartz’s vast repertoire be used to weave a story about a long-term relationship in crisis. The script morphed through several versions in the mid-90’s. Storylines were changed and Schwartz re-wrote about half the lyrics to his popular hits so they better fit the narrative. However, the tunes remain overtly recognizable and audiences will gain instant understanding regarding song choices.

In the current rendition, over 20 songs from 11 of Schwartz’s impressive canon are featured: Godspell, Pippin, The Magic Show, The Baker’s Wife, Rags, Working, Children of Eden, Captain Louie, Personals, The Reluctant Pilgrim, and Wicked.
It was no accident that a local theatre co-op, the Snapshots Collective, was able to secure the rights to stage the premier in Vancouver. The show’s co-producers, Rob and Wendy Bross Stuart, are long-time friends of Schwartz. After viewing a workshop production of the show with Schwartz, they collaborated with director Chris McGregor to introduce the musical in Vancouver. McGregor strikes a finely balanced mix of humor and dramatic undertones in this production.

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook
Snapshots is an apt name for the play. Audience members spend an intimate evening with Dan and Sue as they relive poignant moments of their life together. Their once joyous marriage-spanning 30 years-is now crumbling. The show opens in a cluttered attic with Sue, played by accomplished actress Annabel Kershaw. She has packed to leave and is in the midst of writing a farewell letter when her husband arrives home early and upsets her stealthy plans. 

Stephen Aberle convincingly plays the oblivious husband while contributing his strong vocals to the miscellany of songs. While attempting to hide her suitcase, Sue overturns a box of old photographs and the couple begin to reminisce about their past. 
The cozy quarters of Studio 1398 is transformed into the playground of the couple’s youth through Jessica Oostergo’s creative and practical set. Ignoring the conventions of time and space, Dan and Sue’s memories spring to life onstage and interact with present-day versions of themselves. The drama starts off casually, developing into a steady rollicker, ending with a crescendo of emotions. 

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook
[Anna Kuman, Daniel Johnston]

The circumstances and sentiments surrounding each life-event are etched out in detail by the talented foursome of Daniel Johnston (young Danny), Anna Kuman (young Susie), Warren Kimmel (adult Daniel), and Jocelyn Gauthier (adult Susan). Their performances are embellished by keenly-selected costumes (Christina Sinosich), at times to humorous effect. 

Johnston delivers his own brand of energy, lovability, and comedic flair while Kuman’s soaring vocals compliment her delicious character transformations. Kimmel is warm and genuine, while Gauthier shows versatility going from sexy to cool to maternal. The audience becomes absorbed in the bittersweet history of Dan and Sue: their first meeting, their first crushes, their graduation, career choices, lover choices, marriage, childbirth, and finally their state as empty-nesters. 

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook

Over the years, Sue has abandoned her aspirations to become an artist while Dan gets lost in his work. Both are feeling unfulfilled but neither choose to discuss their innermost desires. Their avoidance of conflict creates a chasm between them that Sue has finally decided she won’t tolerate. Their plight makes viewers question themselves about things neglected or words left unsaid. Everyday people unknowingly grow comfortable of their own misery. There wasn’t a dry eye left in the front rows by the time the play ended.
Snapshots boasts a headliner composer, a strong score of songs, a multi-talented cast, and a charming, yet personal storyline. The delightful tunes are terrifically pumped out by deft onstage musicians (Mark Richardson, Monica Sumulong, Wendy Bross Stuart). If a picture is worth a thousand words, Snapshots is worth a thousand praises. Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook runs for a limited engagement through November 8 at Granville Island’s Studio 1398 Theatre. 

Photos by Erin Aberle-Palm, Ethereal Photography.

About Our Contributor Cora Li

Cora Li

Cora dabbles in arts, technology, food, and travel. She loves that Vancouver offers a vast playground for exploring all of her passions. Cora’s most memorable job to date was working with VANOC during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.


  • Comment by Pauline — November 6, 2014 @ 11:48 am

    Excellent review. I saw this opening night and left with tears in my eyes and with the songs stuck in my head. Definitely would recommend others to watch this musical.

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — November 6, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

    Thanks, Pauline! I’ll let Cora know. Sounds like a wonderful production not to be missed. Glad we caught it, and it sounds like you are too.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.