A look at community theatres in the Lower Mainland
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
One of the most popular things to do in New York is to see a musical or play on Broadway. You probably would want to see one because you’d like to see a musical that everyone is talking about like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, to sing along to your favourite show tunes, or to see a play that has your favourite actor in it. However, what if you do not have a lot of money for a trip to New York? The next best thing is to go to your local community theatre. Community theatre is a place where you can see high quality productions made possible by local residents and that encourages people to be involved in the arts community.
There are a lot of community theatres in the Lower Mainland. The most notable community theatre company in the area is the Arts Club Theatre Company with their three theatres: The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, the Granville Island Stage, and the Goldcorp Stage. There is also the Gateway Theatre in Richmond, the Touchstone Theatre, Studio 58, the Waterfront Theatre, and youth theatre companies including Theatrix and the Carousel Theatre for Young People.
Before musicals and plays become famous, they begin in these theatres, being developed and tested before they are premiered. If the production is successful, it will be performed in a major city like Broadway in New York, the West End in London, or Toronto. A few examples of this rise to fame is the hit Canadian musical Come From Away, which was developed in Sheridan College before it opened on Broadway, and Hamilton, which had a test run in The Public Theatre Off-Broadway before everyone was amazed by old school rap making history look cool.
A few productions started out in the Lower Mainland before they received—or will soon receive—a lot of attention. There is Onegin, which is considered to be Vancouver’s Hamilton, and the opera Eugene Onegin as a musical; the Mom’s the Word series, which follows the lives of five women and which has been so successful that the shows are being performed around the world; and Nine Dragons, which premiered in the Gateway Theatre recently, written by the theatre’s artistic director Jovanni Sy and starring Kim’s Convenience star John Ng, who you may remember as Mr. Chin.
The Gateway Theatre is a great example of a community theatre because it is right next door to Richmond Hospital, a field, and a church. When I saw Nine Dragons there, I thought that it was the best play performed in the Lower Mainland this year. The quality of it feels like watching a play on Broadway because of how it is presented, and its running time of two hours makes it feel like watching a film. The play and its potential sequel might just inspire a film or a miniseries involving its lead character Tommy Lam.
Productions in community theatres will have local actors and actors in film and TV. For example, Supernatural star Briana Buckmaster was in the Arts Club’s production of The Humans, and Andrew McNee, who was in Onegin and is currently in the Arts Club’s production of Misery, also acts in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid film series and Adventures in Public School (now released in theaters). Local theatres also do programs to train future actors and develop script-writing skills.
Community theatres have the magic of Broadway at a cheap price and there are a lot of productions to see this summer, including the Arts Club’s productions of Mamma Mia! and the musical version of Once, Bard on the Beach, and Theatre Under the Stars.