Theatre Under the Stars 2011 – Stanley Park’s Outdoor Musical Theatre

Seth Little as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh & Andrew Cownden as Moonface Martin in TUTS 2011 production of Anything Goes.

Last night, when my partner and I went to the opening night of Stanley Park’s Theatre Under the Stars’ (TUTS) Anything Goes, it was raining. It wasn’t raining terribly hard—more of drizzle, really—but it was wet enough that the TUTS crew gave out complimentary rain ponchos. So there we are, my partner and I, holding hands under our plastic-bag ponchos, listening to star Irene Karas (playing Reno Sweeney) belt out Cole Porter hits like “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and thinking that it doesn’t get any more Pacific Northwest than this: watching outdoor theatre in July in the rain and loving it.

The smiles on our faces lasted long after the show ended. It’s experiences like that that make TUTS a Vancouver summer tradition, rain or shine.

TUTS is one of Vancouver’s largest musical theatre companies, and every summer they bring two musicals to life, staged outdoors at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl (where you can sit in traditional seating or bring your own blanket and sit on the lawn). For the 2011 season, TUTS is performing two musical comedies, the bright-and-witty Anything Goes and the classic, funny Bye Bye Birdie; they alternate performances throughout the season, from July 8 – August 20, 2011.

My partner and I loved Anything Goes. Set in the 1930s (when the play was originally written), Anything Goes is a comedy of romance and mistaken identity set aboard a transatlantic cruise from New York to London. Everyone in the TUTS cast did excellent work, from the art-deco set to the big, all-cast tap dancing numbers, but the star of the show is Irene Karas as Reno Sweeney.  Karas’ Reno, a nightclub singer, is unabashedly sexy, confident, tough, and thoroughly modern, and Karas has the singing chops to do justice to the play’s most famous numbers, including “You’re the Top” and the titular “Anything Goes.”

Along with Reno, the other stand-outs were Seth Little as the comically-oblivious Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Little’s rendition of “The Gypsy in Me” is laugh-out-loud funny) and Andrew Cownden as the gangster-with-a-heart-of-gold Moonface Martin.

As mentioned, it isn’t just the amazing musical productions that make TUTS an annual tradition for many Vancouverites, it’s also the experience, sharing the laughter and applause and wonder with your family, friends, and loved ones, even when its raining and you’re wearing a plastic-bag poncho on your head.

Whether you’re seeing Anything Goes or Bye Bye Birdie, TUTS makes it easy to make a night of it: The outdoor theatre area includes a TUTS bar and a Garden Cafe—which serves delicious salmon burgers and fire-grilled hot dogs, among other treats—so you can have dinner-and-a-play right there.

Tickets for Theatre Under the Stars’ Anything Goes and Bye Bye Birdie are available online; performances run until August 20, 2011.

Seen TUTS yourself this summer? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

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