10 Live Arts Productions to Catch This Winter/Spring in Vancouver

Broadway Across Canada’s Pretty Woman

The live arts shows in Vancouver appearing this winter and spring are absolutely phenomenal, evidencing the talent as well as the innovative diversity that are being embraced and showcased on this city’s stages.

Here are ten shows to book for a thought-provoking, entertaining, and inspiring start to 2023. They range from reinvented crowd favourites to works presenting important stories related to race, colonialism, gender identity, and intergenerational conflict.

The Vancouver Opera: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

2022-2023 season artwork by Hanna Barczyk

One of Shakespeare’s beloved plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is transformed into a magical opera. The captivating story encompasses true and mistaken love, fairy mischief, and plenty of potions and transformations. Benjamin Britten’s music captures the original play’s otherworldly atmosphere where anything is possible. Jacques Lacombe conducts the Vancouver Opera’s production of the opera, running February 11-19.

The last production of the Vancouver Opera’s 2022/23 season is Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (April 29-May 7), which tells the story of a ghostly ship and its Dutchman forced to sail forever in chase of elusive love. This new production for the Vancouver Opera is directed by Brian Deedrick and conducted by Les Dala. Expect sumptuous music and a captivating narrative that explores grand themes such as love and endurance. Tickets and further info are available here.

Broadway Across Canada: Pretty Woman

The 1990 Hollywood favourite, Pretty Woman, which starred Richard Gere and Julie Roberts as Edward Lewis and Vivian Ward respectively, is coming to Vancouver as a Broadway Across Canada musical from March 29 to April 2. This reimagining of the movie for the stage is the work of star-studded talent, including Jerry Mitchell as director and choreographer, Paula Wagner as the lead producer, Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton for the book, and Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, who wrote the lyrics and musical score. The musical has all the energy and romance of the film so get ready to have fun and believe in Hollywood fairy tales.

Broadway Across Canada is also bringing Anastasia (March 17-12), Cats (May 23-28), Disney’s Aladdin (July 25-30), and Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (September 12-17). Tickets and further info are available here.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO): Carmina Burana

Appreciates of choral music will look forward to the VSO’s mounting of Carmina Burana, composed by Carl Orff in the 1930s. Based on the same named medieval poems, this cantata has become one of the most popular choral works/arrangements of the last century. This mounting of it features Canadian soloists—Benjamin Butterfield, Tracy Dahl, and James Westman—and more than 150 singers from the Vancouver Bach Choir and the Vancouver Bach Children’s Choir. Jordan de Souza will conduct this passionate and very dramatic piece.

The VSO has an exciting and varied lineup for the rest of the winter and the spring, which includes Canadian pianist Jan Lisecki playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467 and Grieg’s Piano Concerto on February 9; a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 featuring concertmaster Nicholas Wright and Han-Na Chang as the conductor March 3-4; and Leonard Berstein’s score for West Side Story along with the film itself on the big screen April 22-23. Tickets and further info are available here.

Arts Club Theatre Company: Sense and Sensibility

The novelist Jane Austen was known for her incisive social commentary, witty depiction of the trials and negotiations involved in courtship, as well as the strictures of gender roles in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Despite the fact that Sense and Sensibility was published over 200 years ago, it still remains as vibrant and as relevant as ever. From March 2 to April 2, The Arts Club presents Kate Hamill’s fresh and lively theatrical version of the novel. The story captures the financial difficulties and romantic woes of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Impoverished after the death of their father, they must navigate their altered situation, each approaching it according to her distinctive nature. Elinor is the sensible one whereas Marianne is the passionate one who feels everything with great intensity.

Also upcoming are Forgiveness (now until February 12), a stage adaptation by Hiro Kanagawa of Mark Sakamoto’s memoir; The Legend of Georgia McBride (April 20-May 21); and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (June 8-August 6). Tickets and further info are available here.

The Cultch (Vancouver East Cultural Centre): Starwalker

 

Get set for the world premiere of Starwalker at The Cultch. This musical mounted by Urban Ink and Raven Theatre in association with Toronto’s Musical Stage Company promises to be inspiring, electric, and transformative. Starwalker, written and directed by Corey Payette, presents the life of Starwalker, an Indigi-Queer Two-Spirit character, who discovers drag at the House of Borealis and suddenly develops a whole new way of expressing their identity, both personally and culturally. Payette’s musical score melds rock and pop, with strong beats that capture Starwalker’s movement toward new connections and understandings.

Other shows presented by the Cultch include My Little Tomato (March 9-19) about romance and tomatoes; Paradise of the Impermanence of Ice Cream (March 23-April 2), a one-man show featuring Jacob Rajan, with a narrative inspired by Mumbai and Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death; and Raven (April 26-30), which explores the theme of motherhood through circus performance by the Berlin-based collective still hungry. Tickets and further info are available here.

Chan Centre for the Performing Arts:  Black Futures – Saul Williams, Moor Mother, and Irreversible Entanglements

Saul Williams in Black Futures

In a musical imagining of a world that is not yet here, and full of possibility, Black Futures at Chan Centre for the Performing Arts will certainly be uplifting, provocative, and musically innovative and genre-bending/blurring. This collaborative performance will explore Black Futures and the trajectory of Black music and artistic expression, including free jazz, hip hop, poetry, noise, and blues. The night (February 25) will feature Saul Williams, a multi-talented hip-hop artist, who combines political expression with hip-hop, rock, and acid house music. Meanwhile, Moor Mother—visual artist, poet, and musician— will be performing some of her solo work as well as singing as vocalist and co-lead of Irreversible Entanglements, who leverage free jazz to critique American politics, race relations, and the marketplace. Tickets and info available here.

The Dance Centre: Dancers of Damelahamid

Dancers of Damelahamid; Photo: Chris Randle

As part of their Discover Dance! Series, The Dance Centre is hosting Dancer of Damelahamid, an Indigenous dance company from BC. The company was launched in the 1960s as part of a desire to promote, preserve, and keep dynamic cultural dance practices that were outlawed during the Potlatch Ban. In this performance entitled Spirit and Tradition, the dancers use masks, dances, drumming, singing, projected imagery, and drumming in order to explore ideas of community, ecology, and culture that are embedded in the lands and water of traditional Indigenous territories in BC.

Other upcoming shows include Hillel Kogan April 13-15; Lamondance on April 20; and FakeKnot May 4-6. More info and tickets are available here.

Pacific Theatre: Black & Rural

This guest production from Pi Theatre promises to be spellbinding, deeply thoughtful, and rooted in resilient human experience. Creator and performer Shayna Jones is an absolute powerhouse who owns the stage while at the same time conveying vulnerability and nuance in her performances. Black & Rural, mounted at Pacific Theatre March 31-April 15, represents the culmination of an ambitious project to learn about and spotlight the lives and stories of Black individuals in rural Canada. Jones, who herself is from “Canada’s countryside,” interviewed people and has woven what they told her into this theatrical piece, insightfully exploring intersectional experiences within Canadian society that often go unvoiced. Tickets and info can be found here.

DanceHouse and Vancouver New Music: Broken Cord

Photo credit: Lolo Vasco

From February 23-25, DanceHouse and Vancouver New Music will be presenting Broken Cord at the Vancouver Playhouse. In this Canadian premiere, choreographer Gregory Maqoma and composer Thuthuka Sibisi present the experiences and significant impact of The African Native Choir, a South African vocal group that sang around the world in places such as Britain and Canada in the late 19th century. The African Native Choir, 16-members strong, included men, women, and children and became known for their combination of traditional African songs, English hyms, and operatic choruses, in addition to their traditional African attire. The performances of Broken Cord in Vancouver will uplift through song, music, and storytelling while also providing thoughtful commentary related to colonialism, stereotypes, and the power of music to give people mobility and dismantle boundaries. Performers include Maqoma, four vocal soloists, as well as the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Tickets are further info are found here.

Firehall Arts Centre: The Wrong Bashir

Image graphic design by Emily Cooper. Photography by Pedro Augusto Meza. Pictured in image (L-R): Seth Ranaweera, Aman Mann, Neha Devi Singh, Sabrina Vellani

Touchstone Theatre, in association with Firehall Arts Centre and Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre (vAct), premieres The Wrong Bashir March 2-12. Playwright Zahida Rahemtulla examines intergenerational misunderstandings, the evolution of tradition, and the effects of immigration on culture, language, and religion. The comedic play—the product of Touchstone’s Flying Start Program, which nurtures emerging talent—depicts the character Bashir Ladha who has been supposedly chosen for a very important religious role, even though he is becoming a nihilist. The responses of his Ismaili parents to his new assignment, as well as Bashir’s attempts to define who he truly is, and how he fits into his family and community become the focus of the play. Ultimately, The Wrong Bashir questions the Ladha family’s shifting identity as individuals and as a collective. Tickets are info are found here.

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