Alastair “Jamesy” Knowles (on floor) and Aaron “James” Malkin in O Christmas Tea. (Thaddeus Hink photo)

On Stage: The Secret Garden to Nearly Neil and British tea at Christmas

A roundup of things coming to stages across Greater Victoria

Next month, Langham Court Theatre presents Les Belles-Soeurs a comedy written by Michel Tremblay and directed by Judy Treloar.

Montreal housewife Germaine has won a million Gold Stamps – given out by grocery stores and exchanged for goods like barbecues and lawn chairs – and invites all the women she knows to help her stick them into redemption booklets. As they stick, the women discuss the men in their lives, the church, and their small joys – like bingo. What Germain doesn’t realize is that while the women are talking, they are also robbing her of her Gold Star stamps.

Written by Tremblay in 1965, Les Belles-Soeurs was his first professionally produced work and remains his most popular and frequently translated work. The play is generally held to be the most iconic and defining piece of French-Canadian theatre written; profoundly influencing not only Canadian theatre, but also language, identity and culture. It is a highly appropriate choice to complete 2017, the year of Canada 150.

This production marks the 20 year anniversary of the first time Langham presented Les Belles-Soeurs.Given the popularity of the play, it may also not be a surprise that two of the actresses – local notables Pam Miller and Monica Prendergast – have performed in it before.

Miller (playing Germaine Lauzon), well-known for roles with VOS, Langham and Kaleidescope, played Rose in Langham’s original production 20 years ago.

“When I saw Langham doing it again I was drawn,” Miller says. “I have an affinity for all things Quebecois. I was born in Montreal, schooled in Howick, a little town in Quebec, and graduated from the Montreal General School of Nursing. As for the setting of this play ‘I have often walked down this street before’. This play is as relevant now as 20 years ago, to understand the struggles women who went before us had in a patriarchal world, and to continue a societal evolution.”

Prendergast (playing Thérèse Dubuc), a theatre educator, critic and performer, also played Rose but in the final year of her BFA degree 35 years ago.

“I remember the play very well and it has remained a favourite of mine,” Prendergast says. “I thought this production would offer me the chance to revisit the play at a time in my life when I think I can better understand and relate to what these women who have been through, and are still going through, many struggles in their lives. My life has been a much easier one than the lives these women face. That’s my good fortune. But my empathy for them is deeper, and I ‘get’ their class circumstances much more than I could possibly have done at 21.”

See Les Belles-Soeurs at Langham Court Theatre from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2

Join the Victoria Symphony for the 17/18 season with new Music Director Christian Kluxen.

Feel the tension build and your heart race, with Hollywood Thrillers, Oct. 28 at the Royal Theatre. Join conductor Sean O’Loughlin and soloist Lorraine Min for music from Jaws, Psycho and more.

Maestro Joey and Classical Kids join forces Oct. 29 for Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage, a journey back in time to Mozart’s childhood.

National Arts Centre Orchestra visits Victoria Oct. 30 with Jan Lisiecki performing Shumann’s Piano Concerto and the orchestra performing Dvoák’s Symphony No. 9From the New World.”

All concerts are held in the Royal Theatre. Tickets and information available at victoriasymphony.ca.

The Belfry Theatre presents Onegin, through Nov. 18. The multi-award-winning musical by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone is based on the poem by Pushkin and the opera by Tchaikovsky. Onegin is a co-production with the Arts Club Theatre Company in Vancouver.

Onegin stars Josh Epstein, Lauren Jackson, Alessandro Juliani, Andrew McNee, Caitriona Murphy, Meg Roe, and Andrew Wheeler with Chris Tsujiuchi (pianist), Barry Mirochnick (percussionist/double bass), and Jennifer Moersh (cello).

Victoria Baroque continues its concert season Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. with “Death and Transcendence” – music for this time of remembrance and the upcoming season of advent. The instruments in the period instrument ensemble include baroque oboe, bassoon, flute and strings.

Co-presented with the Church of St. John the Divine, Victoria Baroque will combine their talents with the 25 voices of the St. John’s Chamber Singers under the direction of David Stratkauskas. In keeping with the custom of Bach’s time, five soloists will sing as part of the choir.

The program features works by J.S. Bach including two Cantatas, Aus der Tiefen BWV 131 and Nun komm der Heiden Heiland BWV 61, and one of Bach’s most well know chorales, Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu Joy Man’s Desiring). Bach’s Motet, O Jesu Christ, mein’s Lebens Licht BWV 118, concludes the program.

The program also includes the Magnificat by Dieterich Buxtehude. His work had a significant influence on Bach and the Magnificat (The Song of Mary) is commonly associated with the season of advent.

The Victoria Baroque concert series continues Jan. 12 when highly acclaimed UK baroque violinist, Kati Debretzeni, returns to lead a virtuosic programme of Italian Baroque concerti.

All Victoria Baroque concerts are held at the Church of St. John the Divine. Tickets can be purchased at Munro’s Books, Ivy’s Bookshop, Long & McQuade or at the door: $28 general; $25 senior; $5 students and children. For more information see www.victoria-baroque.com.

The Victoria Gilbert and Sullivan Society presents The Pirates of Penzance, one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most beloved operettas. Directed by Roger Carr, with choreography by Ashley Evans and music direction by George Corwin, Pirates combines whimsy, light-hearted satire, and piratical characters with stirring music, including the iconic Major-General’s Song. This is the play that cemented the comic-pirate theme in popular culture, a theme that has lasted through more than a century and spawned countless movies and novels. Audiences can enjoy the original antics of pirates of dubious moral character and talent, and their law-abiding counterparts (of equally dubious moral character and talent), as they navigate Victorian contract law and social mores with varying degrees of aplomb and vigour – but with glorious song and dance. The Pirates of Penzance runsNov. 3 to 5 at the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre and Nov. 10 to 12 at the Mary Winspear Centre. Tickets online at www.eventbrite.ca and at Ivy’s books in Oak Bay.

The Yellowpoint Christmas Spectacular returns to the McPherson Playhouse. Producer, director and creator, Katy Bowen-Roberts brings this year’s show back to the McPherson Playhouse from Dec. 8 to 10.

She and her team are busy writing and planning their 11th annual production. This year’s singing and dancing extravaganza includes musical tributes to The Beatles, Nina Simone, Rod Stewart and Lady Gaga. Also Broadway showstoppers from Mary Poppins, hit tunes from Top Gun, a country medley of Shania Twain and Garth Brooks tunes as well as many more classical hits and Christmas favorites including the old classic White Christmas.

“There is something in it for everyone,” says Bowen-Roberts.

Three weeks before the show opens, a cast of 16 professional singers, dancers and musicians begin an intensive three-week rehearsal period in preparation for opening night. “James Mark, music composer and arranger, and I have been working on this year’s show since March,” says Bowen-Roberts. “We are very excited for another spectacle of music, dance, lights and sequins. We are thrilled to be adding two singers to the vocal ensemble.”

“This gives us the opportunity to create more intricate harmonies within each musical set,” James adds. “The musical arrangements can continue to develop with these added performers and I’m very excited to be arranging the show again.”

Lindsay Sterk choreographs the fast moving show featuring colorful, dazzling costumes and takes you on an emotional journey through a wide variety of music and dance from rock & roll to Broadway, jazz and classical, interwoven with touching readings and stories.

Tickets are on sale at the McPherson Theatre box office, 250-386-6121 or www.rmts.bc.ca. There are two matinee performances (Dec. 9 and 10) and two evening performances (Dec 8 and 9). For more information about the production, please visit www.yellowpointchristmasspectacular.ca.

Stunning American classical guitaristXavier Jaraperforms at UVic next month. Jara has taken first prize at numerous international competitions, including the prestigious 2016 GFA International Concert Artist Competition. His playing stands out for sheer musicality and technical brilliance, paired with imaginatively structured and adventurous programming. His Victoria concert will include fantasies of John Dowland, an impressive arrangement J.S. Bach’s own version of a Vivaldi violin concerto, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s first piece – Variations across the Centuries, and technically challenging works by Dusan Bogdanovic, as well as intriguing discoveries such as young composer Jeremy Collins’s Elegy.

A native of Minnesota, Jara was a student of Alan Johnston at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis until 2011 when he moved to Paris to study with Judicael Perroy for six years. During this time he completed his Bachelor’s Degree at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris where he also studied with the French guitarist Olivier Chassain, and the lutenist Eric Bellocq.

Victoria Guitar Society Concert is Friday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Visit http://victoriaguitarsociety.ca/?page_id=2 for details and tickets.

Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People presents the return of its unique adaptation of The Secret Garden, Nov. 4 and 5 at the McPherson Playhouse.

In 2014, Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young Audiences presented an original stage adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book, The Secret Garden. Written and directed by Artistic Director Roderick Glanville, The Secret Garden premiered as a pop-up theatre at the Uptown Shopping Centre. Originally scheduled for four performances, it sold out so quickly that a fifth date had to be added to the schedule. Now returned to the McPherson Theatre for our 44th season, Kaleidoscope is reuniting nearly the entire cast to stage a fully-realized production.

The Secret Garden takes place at the turn of the century, in an old manor home in England. After a cholera epidemic in India kills her parents and servants, Mary Lennox is sent to live with a reclusive uncle that she has never met, and his invalid son who never leaves the home. An angry and hurt 10 – year-old girl, Mary’s life is changed forever when she finds a key to her uncle’s locked and overgrown garden. As she brings the garden back to life, Mary also connects with her uncle, his staff, and his son, bringing light and love back into their lives.

The Garden, with its healing properties, helps reveal the secrets that have haunted the innocence of [Mary and Colin’s] youth,” says Glanville. “From these seeds of hope and truth, a renewed action propels us all into the power of Love and new beginnings.”

Tickets on sale now through the Royal McPherson box office.

Award-winning British comedy duo,James & Jamesy, brings holiday cheer to Victoria with O Christmas Tea: A British Comedy.

Fans of Monty Python, Mr. Bean, and Dr. Seuss will delight in a rollicking Christmas romp through a world steeped in tea, as James & Jamesy present their uproarious holiday-themed comedy, O Christmas Tea: A British Comedy, as part of their Pacific Northwest Tour.

“The Christmas season is a magical time of year that brings people of all ages together; a time when we are encouraged to dream big, embrace imagination, and celebrate a childlike excitement for merriment,” explained Alastair Knowles, who plays Jamesy, the quirky and playful half of London’s three-time Impresario Award-winning duo. “This year’s production maintains the joyous holiday spirit sweeping spectators into an immersive adventure, leaving them bubbling with laughter and brimming with holiday cheer.”

After writing a letter to Santa requesting tea, the duo must deal with the catastrophic repercussions that come from having their wish granted. Audience members of all ages join them in their action-packed quest to save the world, ever finding innovative and hilarious solutions to keep them, and their hopes, afloat in a sea of tea.

Aaron Malkin, who plays James, added that the duo will be incorporating more of the vibrant fun, meticulous choreography and playful Christmassy adventures that sold out houses last year.

“We have new developments to make the whole family squeal with joy: dazzling costumes, floor-to-ceiling projections, new songs and choreography, and magical effects, providing more adventure and wonder than ever before,” he said. “While awash in holiday sparkle, this show has delight enough for Santa-followers and abstainers, both.”

James & Jamesy have toured across North America and the UK since 2012, performing their original works – including High Tea, 2 for Tea, and In The Dark – earning rave reviews and lifetime fans. Among other accolades, the physical comedians are winners of the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Live Ensemble (2016), and 2-time finalists for the Just for Laughs Best Comedy Award. They are 20-time “Best of Fest” winners.

O Christmas Tea is Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Royal Theatre. Get tickets ($25 to $35) online through jamesandjamesy.com.

Nearly Neil Diamond, featuring Bobby Bruce and the Solitary Band, rocks and rolls into the Mary Winspear Centre on Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

For over 20 years Bobby has astounded appreciative audiences around the globe with his dynamic and passionate musical tribute to Neil Diamond.

On his first national tour of Australia, the press dubbed him “Nearly Neil” and the name stuck. His travels stretch from Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo to the Cayman Islands; aboard luxury liners at sea, on national tours stretching tens of thousands of miles, to audiences as large as 30,000 – Bobby continues to impress.

Bruce’s tribute to Neil Diamond was born of a chance discovery by an “Elvis” impersonator at a karaoke contest in Toronto, Ontario in 1994,and within a year, news had travelled to Las Vegas about Bobby and he was picked up by Legends in Concert and began a ten-month tour of the US with the largest impersonation company in the world. Joining his first tour with Legends of Rock – Bobby played 60 shows in 10 weeks throughout Australia. Directly following was his maiden visit to Malaysia for a royal performance for the King and Queen, successfully spawning more than a dozen returns over the next few years to play the country’s most exclusive private clubs and elite events.

Using his international touring as a launch pad, Bruce formed Nearly Neil and the Solitary Band in Vancouver in 1997 which quickly became a staple in the Canadian market.

Nearly Neil and the Solitary Band took up what would become a decade-long residence at the brand-new River Rock Casino in Vancouver in 2004.

Bruce’s tender retelling of Diamond’s classics this holiday season at the Mary Winspear is sure to be a magical evening of song and music that will move you to sing and clap along to all of his greatest hits. The Celtic Tenors make their second appearance at the Charlie White Theatre in less than a year, Dec. 5 and 6 with their festive Christmas concert.

Their holiday program includes a unique performance that will represent their pasts and signature harmonies.

The song selection will come from their holiday album The Celtic Tenors Christmas, and will include Oh Holy Night, The First Noel, and Wexford Carol.

The Celtic Tenors have established themselves as the most successful Classical Crossover artists to have ever come out of Ireland, and continue to re-invent the whole “Tenor” idiom. The Celtic Tenors continue to stretch musical boundaries while paying homage to their traditional Irish roots. Signed on the spot to an international record deal in London in 2000, their first album went on to achieve double platinum status in their homeland, Number 1 in Ireland and Germany, Number 2 in the UK, and won them countless awards.

Their eclectic mix of classical, folk, Irish and pop will leave the audience applauding for more and demanding a return engagement.

Get tickets for Nearly Neil and Celtic Tenors at www.marywinspear.ca or 250-656-0275.

 

Alastair “Jamesy” Knowles in O Christmas Tea. (Thaddeus Hink photo)

The Yellowpoint Christmas Spectacular returns to the McPherson Playhouse Dec. 8 to 10. (Submitted photo)

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