2012 Predictions – The Arts – Philomena Hanson

If musicals are so hot with Victoria audiences, there’s more on the horizon

  • Jan. 4, 2012 6:00 p.m.

Philomena

• Box Office success of Mamma Mia. It was a record-breaking stampede in early December for tickets to this July/August, 2012 musical. Eight performances are to be staged at the Royal Theatre. This ever-so-popular ABBA -inspired Broadway show could be the beginning of other promoters surfacing, (both local and off-shore), vying to sell ‘musical-theatre’ into the Victoria market.

• If musicals are so hot with Victoria audiences, there’s more on the horizon:

Langham Court Theatre should also break box office records with its staging of “The Drowsy Chaperone” in January. A Canadian success story, this snappy musical won many Tony’s a few years back. This cast is hot – Alison Roberts and the Northover brothers, Cam and Dylan – and director Roger Carr is ably assisted by choreographer Jacques Lemay.

In April, look forward to the Canadian College of Performing Arts staging of “Footloose”. It’s a great dancing story and these students know how to dance. They are the perfect age to showcase dancing and rock ‘n roll as a metaphor for rebellion. Are these future grads heading for the ‘Great White Way’?

Feeling whimsical for Celtic nostalgia? The Victoria Operatic Society will stage “Brigadoon” in May. Expect a charming romance set in misty Scotland with love songs galore. This Lerner & Loewe classic will showcase the many talents of the VOS. Original dances created by the great Agnes de Mille. A right Ceilidh in springtime.

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre will woo with “Little Shop of Horrors” in August. This is a terrific Off-Broadway musical with multiple opportunities for character actors (i.e. the dentist?!). I want to be one of the back-up singers (just kidding Brian!). Do wop de wop – oooha!

• Vital programming. Some of the major players in the Victoria arts community have had a wee hit in the past couple of seasons. Hence, critical decisions are needed to woo back subscribers and single ticket buyers with more approachable programming. Pacific Opera Victoria will be going back to a three-opera season for 2012/13. I suspect they will also bookend the season with two well-chosen operas to appeal to their many followers. Catch their sexy “Carmen” in February. The Belfry Theatre has enjoyed a great opening to their current season with two well-staged plays. Expect a terrific “God of Carnage” in April. They will want to build on this enthusiasm with a hot line-up for next year. The Victoria Symphony had over 10 sold-out concerts in 2010/11 and will strive to attract even stronger box office thanks to many well-thought out concert themes (Beethoven’s Ninth) and guest artists, (Jonathan Crow). These groups have outstanding artistic directors (Timothy Vernon, Michael Shamata and Tania Miller) and are backed by solid general managers, dynamic staffing and a hard-working board of directors. These three power groups make Victoria an outstanding city for high-quality main-stage theatre, opera and classical music.

• Will Brian Richmond be able to pull off another casting coupe for his 2012 Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre summer season? Last year’s mega-hit, “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” starring Meg Tilley, will be a hard act to follow. But after that marketing sensation, I’m hopeful he will surprise us all again. Should we speculate? A legendary Shaw Festival actor for “A Farewell to Arms”?

• Audience development. Whew, Victoria has so much to offer and so much to build on. The Rifflandia Festival is a huge bonanza of music and culture for the vital youth market. Building on its success should lead to more interesting concert options. Dance enthusiasts are thrilled by the great spring line-up from Dance Victoria, Ballet Victoria and Michael Flatley blowing into town with his “Lord of the Dance”.

Meanwhile, there are other unanswered questions, such as the future of government funding. Will there be a pre-election burst of sharing? Not likely, and the performing arts community will have to continue to be imaginative in terms of fund-raising, marketing and the ever-changing world of ticket-buying.

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