The best of Vancouver theatre in 2009

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By our calculations, my partner (and the occasional stand-in) attended some 50 theatre productions in 2009 – almost one per week – and since we only managed to scratch the surface it only goes to prove that Vancouver’s theatre scene is thriving. As we look back on the year we wanted to acknowledge the best that 2009 had to offer.

Vancouver's Best Theatre of 2009

Believe me when I say compiling this list was no easy feat given how many really excellent shows there were last year. But for what it is worth, here is my list of the Ten Best Theatre Productions for 2009.

10Best use of the phrase “you will believe he can fly” since Superman – Skydive (Realwheels/Arts Club)

Every once in a while a theatre experience transcends the usual and delivers much more than an audience expects. This is what can make live theatre so compelling, relevant, surprising, and have the ability to open the theatre-going experience to those that might not otherwise attend.

09Best way to beat the summer theatre doldrums – Songs for a New World (Not Another Musical Co-op)

Co-director Shane Snow half-jokingly said that he hoped for a cloudy and rainy August to help drive the audiences to Not Another Musical Co-op’s presentation of Songs for a New World but Shane, nor the rest of this very talented group, needed to worry as they had another summer hit on their hands that deserved its accolates despite the weather.

08Most fun I’ve had with wacky tobacky since high school – Reefer Madness (Joint Effort Theatre)

The John Water-esque comedy Reefer Madness is so full of energy that I was exhausted by the end of the evening. I also slept like a baby knowing that Vancouver’s next generation of actors are a very talented lot if this group, primarily Capilano University students and graduates, is any indication.

07Queer. Diverse. Relevant. Need we say more? – Stop Kiss (Secretly Women Productions)

This is one show that queer and straight audiences alike should be flocking to see. Not only because of the relevance to recent gay-bashings in Vancouver but because Director David C Jones has managed to illicit such incredible performances from his actors under less-than-ideal circumstances.

06Best use of cosmonauts, hippies and a caravan in a Shakespearean play – The Winter’s Tale (Studio 58)

Both inventive and accessible, Studio 58 served up a touching, sometimes funny but always entertaining production of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

05Best show with the shortest run – Ashes by Bill Marchant (Eye Heart Productions)

This is actually Bill’s first of two entries in our top ten list for 2009. This man is a talented writer but so were the actors: Patrick Currie, Matt Fentiman, Stephen Park, Dimitri Arvanitis, Tamara Prescott, Patrick Spencer and Taylor Bishop.

04Best use of Abu Ghraib prison for a setting – Gift of Screws (Independent)

Bill Marchant’s second entry in our top ten list, this reinforced Marchant’s skill as both writer and director and coupled with a great cast, was definitely another Marchant show you should not have missed.

03Best holiday show that had nothing to do with the holidays – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Vancouver Playhouse)

In 2008 Director Max Reimer and his team gave us the hilarious The Drowsy Chaperone.  In 2009 it was the loopy and wacky Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Christmas 2009 wasn’t even over and I was already looking forward to finding out what the Playhouse had for me under the tree in 2010! I’m getting my letter to Santa Max early this year!

02Most fun I’ve had in “church” since … well … never – Altar Boyz (Arts Club)

Hallelujah! The Altar Boyz were in town saving souls and serving up a fun (and funny) summertime treat. Heaven help you if you missed it!

01A magical trip back to Narnia that I will not soon forget – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Pacific Theatre)

This was not the magic of special effects, lavish costumes or elaborate sets, but the magic of great theatre. And indeed theatre didn’t get much better than this as our number one pick for 2009.

Of course, there were a few other shows that almost made our list as well:

  1. A Beautiful View (Ruby Slippers)
  2. The Miracle Worker (Vancouver Playhouse)
  3. Black Comedy (Arts Club)
  4. Les Miserables (Arts Club)
  5. Studies in Motion: The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge (Vancouver Playhouse)

If 2009 is any indication of the calibre of theatre that can be produced in Vancouver, 2010 will be a stellar year.  Go out and experience live theatre – you will be glad you did!

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