Bard on the Beach
The Shakespeare festival is anchored by The Taming of the Shrew, wherein the canny Petruchio “tames” his beastly wife, Katharina. Directed by the excellent Meg Roe, this production is happily politically incorrect. The superb comic actress Lois Anderson has the starring role of Katharina and gives us a howling shrew indeed, but a fiercely intelligent one. John Murphy, no slouch in the comedy department, is Katharina’s bullish tamer – though Roe makes the wise choice of having him be truly enamoured of her. Expect Bard’s Shrew to sell out. Macbeth is the festival’s alternate main-stage attraction; again, some of the city’s finest theatre folk are conspiring. Bob Frazer (keeper of a hoard of Jessie awards) has the title role, playing an ambitious Scotsman whose hands are indelibly bloodied in his violent ascent toward the throne. A stony Colleen Wheeler plays Lady Macbeth, the wife who leads her husband to regicide and is subsequently plagued by guilt. Wheeler is at the top of her game – it’s worth the price of admission just to watch her descent into madness. The festival is rounded out with Studio Stage productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor, wherein Sir John Falstaff (Ashley Wright), attempts to solve his money woes by wooing two wealthy women simultaneously; and the rarely produced King John, wherein treacherous men leave a bloody wake as the French and English scramble for dominance. This is one of those ruthless Shakespearean worlds where folk seem to drop like flies. Starring Scott Bellis in the title role. Vanier Park, to Sept. 22 (bardonthebeach.org).
Otto and Astrid Riot, a fictitious indie rock duo, cannot agree on whether their parents were eaten by a lion or crushed by a train. In the tradition of Spinal Tap and Flight of the Conchords, Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) are an infectious musical outfit that delivers a kind of play between the songs – comic and catchy throughout their 75-minute concert/squabble. This is the Vancouver premiere of the pair’s latest creation. Cultch, to Sept. 2 (thecultch.com).
Before the Beatles, there was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (and, okay, the Beach Boys, too). The blue-collar group from Newark, N.J., sold 175 million albums before its members turned 30 – and in doing so they shaped the fledgling sounds of pop-rock (Big Girls Don’t Cry, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Sherry). Lead singer Valli, now 78, is the only one still touring.
But original content is pretty scarce these days, so a thoroughly nostalgic biopic musical feels just fine. Jersey Boys, a 2005 creation, won a whack of Tony awards when it premiered, blending behind-the-scenes narrative with toe-tapping recitations of favourite songs.
The current production features hunky Nick Cosgrove as Frankie Valli. Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Sept. 5 to 23 (dancaptickets.com).