Vancouver Opera's Stickboy

You needn’t be an opera fan to enjoy the Vancouver Opera’s ground-breaking, multimedia tour de force that is Stickboy. I greatly enjoyed this show, focusing on daily bullying and its effect on one Boy—a Boy that in reality can be any one of us.

By keeping the protagonist generic, Stickboy allows every audience member the ability to picture themselves in a similar situation. The cast is tight and extremely giving, intensity adding layers of dimension into the characters that are all too relatable and sometimes downright nasty and hurtful.

Vancouver Opera's Stickboy

The Vancouver Playhouse is an intimate venue, with quality multimedia playing a vital role in the setting of mood as well as location. The revolving stage (cleverly executed by Set Designer Drew Facey) works extremely well in seamlessly weaving through scene changes. Many talented players lend their creativity to this project and the effort is evident in the graceful simplicity of three screen backdrops that drew me into each scene as the story’s locations shift between schoolyards, offices, hallways, homes, and hospitals.

Sunny Shams in Stickboy
[Sunny Shams in Stickboy]

Super-talented Sunny Shams performs the lead of the Boy; I am grateful to have witnessed his impressive voice and acting, bringing so much life into the production.

The Grandmother, played with strength and love by Megan Latham, is the lone anchor of warmth and solace in a world of hate and woe. Scenes with the Boy and his Grandmother communicating via slipping notes under his bedroom door were both moving and emotional.

Vancouver Opera's Stickboy

Not only does the production show the effects of bullying, but it goes further to depict the cycle of the tormented becoming the tormentors, with the message that bullies can also become victims.

Stickboy is the brainchild of spoken word artist Shane Koyczan. Together with musical designer Neil Weisensel, this world premiere is without a doubt one of the most engaging depictions of brutal themes I’ve seen to date. 

Vancouver Opera's Stickboy

I am proud to live in a city that is courageous enough to take a risk on a production of this nature. Kudos to Vancouver Opera for commissioning this piece of stagecraft mastery.

After watching Stickboy, it’s easy to understand why the Dalai Lama wanted to meet Shane Koyczan: Shane, through this production, exudes love, compassion, and the courage to deftly handle the often ignored reality that is bullying. Storytelling mirrors our own reflections; Stickboy is a harsh view of the interior inside all of us.

Vancouver Opera's Stickboy

Stickboy is also a creative way to bring attention to a tremendous issue plaguing generations of school children. I was pleased to learn that there are plans to take a travelling production of Stickboy to students, helping to teach and engage children regarding the effects of bullying.

If you only take in one opera during your lifetime, I strongly suggest seeing this one. The players are incredibly gifted and work with difficult subject matter.

Vancouver Opera's Stickboy

Stickboy’s remaining performances are on November 4, 5, 6, and 7. The November 5 show is a 2 pm matinee; all other shows begin at 7:30 pm.

Photos by Tim Matheson.

About Our Contributor Monica Moberg

Monica Moberg

A long-time lover of Vancouver's multicultural landscape, Monica often feels like a kid in the candy store of life. She’s looking forward to sharing her perspective on the amazing smorgasbord of arts and culture offered throughout the year in our beautiful coastal city. Follow Monica on Twitter @MyVancouverView.

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