Saturday, January 02, 2010

This post is pulled from Pacific Theatre's long-time top stage manager, Lois Dawson's blog Lois Backstage. If you're looking for another Vancouver theatre blogger, Lois is your girl. She blogs about everything from the state of the art, to shows she's seen and wants to see, to her work as a stage manager.

Tuesday The Globe & Mail published their Top 10 Productions of 2009. Wednesday The Vancouver Courier followed suite with their Top 14. Today it's my turn. 2009 was a big theatre year for me. I saw 68 shows. I worked on 12 shows. Picking a top ten was hard, but I love that it is a huge range. It includes an opera, a musical, some shakespeare, but mostly it includes shows by small, local companies who are doing fantastic work. I did find that I couldn't rank them from one to 10, so I've listed them in chronological order.

1. 20 minute musicals (Rumble/ Push)
* Distant Second: The Steve Fonyo Story * Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata
When I first saw these shows at Club PuSh back in January I rushed home to gush about them here on the blog. I called it "one of the funnest nights of theatre" & told everyone to go see them. 11 months later I still remember that evening's entertainment & the amount of laughter that accompanied it.

2.Rigoletto (Vancouver Opera)
Rigoletto was a show I wasn't sure I would see. It was on a "hopefully" list, but money was tight and when I called they were out of their cheap tickets. Then my friend Craig called. He'd bought two tickets and didn't have someone to go with and he knew I liked theatre and would I like to go to the Opera with him. For me it was a no-brainer. I was first exposed to opera as a genre at 14 and fell in love with the grandiose nature of it all. Rigoletto was no exception.

Lissa Neptuno in Tempus Theatre's 36 Views

3. 36 Views (Tempus Theatre)
36 Views was one of the most visually stunning plays I saw this year. When I originally gushed about it, I said, "Michael Kopsa is pitch perfect as Darius Wheeler, the somewhat shady art dealer and the use of projection with the design is beautiful." The script was intriguing and had myself & friends talking about it for weeks following its viewing.

4.Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op)
I had read Fat Pig about a year before it's Vancouver premiere this past spring. I read the play and thought "Wow. Tom is an asshole. Other than that this play has potential." I went into the local production with low expectations based on that and they were blown out of the water. In this production Tom was not just an asshole - he had depth & his struggle was real. And Kathryn Kirkpatric as Helen was wonderful: endearing, hilarious, & heartbreaking.

5.Palace of the End (Felix Culpa, Touchstone Theatre, & Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)
Three theatre companies. Three Directors. Three incredible performances. Three different looks at the war in Iraq. One show I'm glad I saw because I will never look at the war in the same way.

6.Alls Well That Ends Well (Bard on the Beach)
Prior to this Bard production, I had never seen a production of Alls Well that worked - the offstage bedroom scene always felt wrong. Even in reading the play it was like this enormous plot point was missing from the story (of course, that can be said for a lot of Shakespeare's plays where major plot points happen offstage and are only ever discusses), however under Rachel Ditor's direction, it works. And it worked. Well.

7.Midsummer (The Cultch & Traverse Theatre Company)
A quirky little play about Bob & Helena. He's a used-car salesman. She's a high powered divorce lawyer. With original songs & a set that transformed into everything from a bar to a bondage club to the church steps for a wedding, it was both hilarious & made me wish there were more designs that transformed as well as this one did.

Bob Fraser as Judas & Michael Kopsa as Satan in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Pacific Theatre. Photo by Tim Matheson.

8.The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Pacific Theatre)
What can I say about Judas? The script is so rich that even now that I've read it multiple times I am still finding new depth. Add to that the remarkable performances given by the entire cast & the beautiful simplicity of the final moments and I still find myself moved by it.

9.The Project (Solo Collective)
The Project had everything going for it - Aaron Bushkowsky's new script is a witty look at starvation in Africa through a new lens - a camera lens. Christian fundamentalism. Militarism. Hollywood. And strong performances by the cast, especially Lindsey Angell & Andrew McNee.

Alessandro Juliani as SuperFrog in Pi Theatre/Rumble Production's After The Quake.

10.After The Quake (Pi Theatre/Rumble Productions)
I didn't have to come home and gush about this show because Simon beat me to it. This show was a perfect balance - no one element outshone the others, but rather all the elements (design, direction, acting, script) worked together to make the story ever more engaging. This show certainly earned its place on this year's top 10 list.

Honorable Mentions:

Anne (Chemainus Theatre Festival) - My first trip to Chemainus was just a week ago to see Anne. It didn't break the top ten, but this girl whose middle name is Anne with-an-E, was delighted by this stage production of a story that shaped my childhood.

Antigone Undone (Leaky Heaven Circus) - One of the more bizarre plays I saw this year, it was all choreographed to 67 minutes of music & projections and sure, it didn't stick directly to the traditional story of Antigone, but you would expect nothing less from Leaky Heaven.

Skydive (Artsclub/Reelwheels) - Skydive doesn't really qualify for the top 10 since it premiered in 2007, but the innovation of the ES Dance Instruments & it's ability to let anyone fly makes it worth another mention. Besides, who doesn't love a Madonna dance party mid show?

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