Fall arts preview theatre critics’ picks: Star power and solid reviews fuel stage picks

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      In the theatre, there’s no such thing as a sure bet, but the 10 fall shows listed below are the next best thing. The Straight has already covered—and loved—earlier versions of The Daisy Theatre, Butt Kapinski, Urinetown, Where the Wild Things Are, Avenue Q, and Chelsea Hotel.

      The talent in some of the others is gold-standard (Nicola Cavendish in 4000 Miles and Meg Roe in Saint Joan). Toronto’s The Four Horsemen Project, which some Vancouverites caught during the 2008 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, couldn’t come more highly recommended by Ontario critics. And Late Company arrives loaded with star power and promise.

      If you’re buying season’s tickets this year, you’ll get your money’s worth at both the Arts Club and the Cultch: those organizations have three shows that made it onto the following list. And both just keep pumpin’ out the excitement in the new year.

      4000 Miles

      (September 11 to October 12 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage)

      A neo-hippie arrives at his 91-year-old lefty grandma’s Manhattan apartment after a long—and traumatic—bicycle trip. Subtly, messily, they start to work things out.

      The Draw: Nicola Cavendish is returning to the stage in this Arts Club production for the first time in three years. If you don’t understand why this is a huge deal, watch her and find out.

      Target Audience: Anybody who’s up for an exercise in compassion.


      The Daisy Theatre

      (September 23 to October 12 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre)

      Master marionette artist Ronnie Burkett presents a series of vignettes that varies every night. Burkett’s spontaneous humour is wicked and his wooden costars are unforgettably expressive.

      The Draw: When I reviewed The Daisy Theatre’s run last year, I said that it’s one of the best shows you’ll ever see. I wasn’t kidding. Buy your damn tickets.

      Target Audience: Folks who can appreciate actors who are 12 inches tall.


      Butt Kapinski 

      (September 30 to October 11 at the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab)

      L.A. clown Deanna Fleysher creates a low-tech film-noir fantasy—she supplies her own moody lighting with the desk lamp she carries on her back—and (irresistibly) invites audience members to play along.

      The Draw: Off-the-charts hilarity. LMAO and, I think, TMSO (took my shirt off) when I saw this show at the Fringe last year.

      Target Audience: Private dicks. Hard-boiled dames.


      The Four Horsemen Project

      (October 28 to November 2 at the Cultch’s Historic Theatre)

      The Four Horsemen were poets in Toronto’s avant-garde scene in the ’70s. This Volcano Theatre production takes their work and adds a wild mix of dance, theatre, and music.

      The Draw: Horsemen had Toronto critics wetting their pants, with the Globe and Mail scribe begging, “Please, please, please believe the hype.”

      Target Audience: Hipsters, vintage and fresh.


      Saint Joan

      (October 29 to November 23 at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage)

      For this Arts Club production, Kim Collier, one of Canada’s foremost theatre artists, is directing Meg Roe, one of the country’s finest actors, as Joan of Arc.

      The Draw: What? Kim Collier and Meg Roe aren’t enough? Okay. The star power goes deep. The supporting cast includes Scott Bellis, Bob Frazer, Daren Herbert, Tom McBeath, Haig Sutherland, and John Emmet Tracy.

      Target Audience: Talent gluttons.



      (November 5 to 29 at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      In the future, as imagined by this musical, private toilets have been outlawed and people have to pay to pee.

      The Draw: In 2006, the Firehall’s original production of Urinetown won Jessie Awards for outstanding production and direction. This Urinetown promises to be just as golden.

      Target Audience: Patrons thirsty for parody.


      Where the Wild Things Are

      (November 7 to 16 at Presentation House Theatre)

      Based on Maurice Sendak’s book, this is a guided play experience for kids aged three to seven, and—importantly—adults.

      The Draw: At the 2013 Jessies, Presentation House’s Wild Things savaged the competition, taking awards for performance, direction, design, and production.

      Target Audience: Inner wild things: everybody’s got one.


      Avenue Q

      (November 20 to January 23 at the Granville Island Stage)

      A musical-theatre Sesame Street for grownups, Avenue Q features songs such as “The Internet Is for Porn” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”.

      The Draw: Under Peter Jorgensen’s direction, last year’s original Arts Club production was virtually perfect.

      Target Audience: “People of fur” and their friends.


      Late Company

      (November 21 to 30 at the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab)

      Inspired by the story of a gay teenager who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied, Jordan Tannahill’s script imagines a restorative-justice dinner shared by the two sets of parents and the dead boy’s chief tormentor.

      The Draw: The cast in this Touchstone Theatre production is stellar: Kerry Sandomirsky, Katharine Venour, Michael Kopsa, Gerry Mackay, and Daniel Doheny.

      Target Audience: Who hasn’t been a bully? Who hasn’t been bullied?


      Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen

      (December 17 to January 3 at the Firehall Arts Centre)

      In this Firehall Arts Centre production, Tracey Power, who conceived and directed the show, sets some of Cohen’s best songs within a loosely implied narrative about creativity and love.

      The Draw: The wall of talent: Steve Charles’s arrangement will let you hear the songs as if for the first time; the cast members play a crazy variety of instruments; and the paper-inspired designs (set by Marshall McMahen, costumes by Barbara Clayden) are gorgeous.

      Target Audience: People who already know they’re Cohen fans and slower learners who haven’t realized it yet.



      A Gorilla

      Sep 10, 2014 at 4:44pm

      Feel like I've seen a few of these in past previews...

      0 0Rating: 0


      Sep 15, 2014 at 3:43pm

      No wonder companies remount the same shows year after year. Look at all the free publicity they get!