Mary Poppins

This year, instead of giving each other presents for Christmas, my husband and I decided to do a date night seeing the ArtsClub Theatre‘s production of Mary Poppins at the Stanley Theatre.

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We loved it. Although I was familiar with some of the songs, I had never seen the movie before, only bits and pieces. So now all the songs had context—there were many “ah ha” moments for me.

Given that this was the Broadway Musical and it came with a steep price ($90 each), I had high expectations for it. It did not disappoint. [spoilers ahead]

Mary Poppins had three flying scenes, including one over the crowd which was pretty awesome. Bert, the Chimney Sweep, did an impressive sequence in a harness where he walked sideways, and then upside down (while singing a line), around the stage during “Step in Time.”

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The sets were fabulous—different painted backdrops that lifted up and down for the park, Cherry Tree Lane, the bank, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The main set was the inside of the Banks’s house on Cherry Tree Lane, with the children’s room upstairs and the entryway and parlour below. Lots of doors, stairs, entrances and exits. To the left side of the stage was a chimney which Bert popped in and out of regularly to sing the “Chim Chim Cher-ee” rooftop refrain. Mary Poppins magically pulled out a hatstand, mirror, plant, and other large items from her carpetbag, reminding me of Hermonie’s magic purse in Harry Potter.

There’s something really fun about watching a big cast do elaborate song and dance sequences. My favourites were the chimney sweeps all tap dancing in “Step in Time” and the fast spelling of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The acting was fabulous too. Mary Poppins and Bert had great chemistry. I had no idea Mary Poppins was so haughty though. I mean, Practically Perfect? The two kids who played Michael and Jane did an impressive job with their lines. Sometimes their singing lines were harder to hear but overall they projected well. I think the most laugh out loud moment for me was when the butler sang “the medicine go dooooooown” in the kitchen with a dramatic full-bodied gesture that came out of nowhere. And then when Mary Poppins responds to Mr. Banks with “I don’t give explanations” and then tap dances a line from “Step in Time” for emphasis. I heard a little kid squeal with glee at that part too. It was fun seeing people of all ages enjoying the show.

We had such a fun date night and loved celebrating Christmas with this experience instead! Would definitely recommend it. Also, if you’re wanting to catch dinner in the area before the show, we found this list helpful in getting a deal!

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Marpole’s Golden Tree

A piece of Stanley Park has uprooted to my neighbourhood of Marpole. With a bit of a colour change.

The newest public art in Vancouver is Golden Tree by Douglas Coupland, installed this past August at the corner of Marine Drive and Cambie Street, in front of Intracorp’s MC2 development.

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This artwork sure adds colour to a cloudy day. View from Marine Gateway.

It stands out alright, not just for its size (13 metres tall, the exact replica of Stanley Park’s Hollow Tree), but it also stands out for its colour—gold.

In an interview with the CBC, Coupland says, “I think its more a head-turner, a, ‘what the heck was that?’ That’s my favourite reaction.”

Just to clarify, Stanley Park’s famous 700 to 800 year-old Hollow Tree is still standing in Stanley Park. After the heavy windstorm in 2006, the tree was scheduled for removal due to safety concerns, but thanks to the efforts of the Hollow Tree Conservation Society and private donations, it is still standing (albeit with cables and steel).

Coupland’s replica is made out of steel-reinforced resin and fiberglass, encased in a gold finish.

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The gold looks a little garish to me. I tend to think I would like it better if it looked natural but then it would be like having a real tree there except you know it wouldn’t normally grow there so then it would just be weird. At least the gold makes it distinct. And better than highlighter purple or blue or pink. There’s something regal and magical about gold. Maybe it’s already “growing” on me (see what I did there?).

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But why replicating this tree in Marpole is significant, I do not know. All the CBC article mentions is that Coupland said there are a lot of memories attached to the tree, which is why he chose to imitate it: “I think it takes us from one century to the next.”

Maybe so, but what is the relationship between Stanley Park, the northernmost point of the city, and Marpole, Vancouver’s southernmost? Obviously the artist is trying to make some sort of connection here with the large image of Stanley Park in the background of the artwork.

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Does the tree reference something in Marpole’s history that not many know about? Or is it trying to say something about old and new? Nature and city? Nature and art/imitation?

I love that Marpole is getting more and impressive public art but I wish this piece spoke better to its context.

Have you seen Golden Tree yet? What are your thoughts?

Celebration of Light

Last night I was among the 500,000 people estimated who swarmed to English Bay to watch the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks by the Disney team representing the USA.

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Except I didn’t watch them from the ground. Thanks to very generous friends, I watched them from this apartment building.

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It was a perfect view. There were almost as many boats as people.

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We ventured down while waiting for the show to begin so we could experience the crowds.

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Around 9pm, two fireboats circled around the barge, showing off their impressive water cannons for some pre-show entertainment.

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Once the sun had set, it started to look like Christmas lights on the water with all the boats out there.

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And then at 10pm, the sky lit up with the magic of fireworks set to iconic Disney songs. We sang along to “Under the Sea,” “Let it Go,” “The Circle of Life,” and “When You Wish Upon a Star” (the Disney theme song). They also played the Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars theme songs.

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The fireworks didn’t make shapes of Disney characters (no Mickey Mouse or castles in the air) but there were some new things I hadn’t seen before. I loved these gold ones that, once erupted, turned to glistening sponges that lingered in the sky.

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It was a fabulous night and a great way to finish the month of July.

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Hello, Marine Gateway

Part of my rationale in choosing Marpole when I moved to Vancouver in 2013 was not just the cheaper rents, but the access to downtown and Richmond via the new Canada Line SkyTrain station at Marine Drive and Cambie Street.

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Where there’s a SkyTrain station, development always follows, and now when I walk to that SkyTrain station, I see soaring residential towers and a whole new shopping hub that has been named “High Street” (I don’t know if I’d go that far since it’s not offering anything out of the chain store norm, but you know marketers…)

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I have to say I am happy Marine Gateway has arrived in my neighbourhood— a neighbourhood that I love yet is sorely lacking retail shops and more variety of restaurants.

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No longer will the Artist and I have to go downtown to see a movie in theatres—we can walk fifteen minutes from our apartment! I am particularly excited about the Winners and Shoppers Drug Mart for the convenience factor.

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I walked around there the other day, checking out which stores have opened so far. Tim Hortons and Dublin Crossing are still in the works (shown above), but Starbucks, Shoppers, CIBC, BMO, T&T Supermarket, and A&W are up and running. (A&W is my favourite fast food joint so this addition really thrills me).

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There’s even some public art in the plaza! Here’s a statue of Simon Fraser by Ken Lum, the explorer after which the university is named.

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And on the pavement, some writing about the history of the surrounding places.

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On the stairs leading down to the bus loop, I discovered some more public art that looks like it might be back lit at night. I couldn’t find a plaque so not sure what it’s about, though I’m guessing it’s an homage to the Musqueam people and their tools/ways of life who lived in this area first.

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Here’s a complete list of the calls for public art at Marine Gateway.

Marpole is certainly getting more attractive features, and it will be interesting to see how this affects traffic and housing and rent prices that I hope can remain affordable for this neighbourhood I call home on the edge of the city.

Love Musically

You’ll have to wait a little longer to read about my favourite book of the year (sorry), but I’ll give you a review of something else this week that I went and saw—something a little more seasonal.

Who doesn’t like Love Actually?

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Actually, a lot of people don’t—my husband being one of them. So when I saw that a Vancouver improv company was doing an improvised musical based on this movie, I knew it would be a bit of a risk buying tickets for us. But I did anyway.

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And we loved it. Actually! (sorry, just had to throw that in there). We weren’t quite sure what to expect: all musical? Whose Line is it Anyway-style theatre games? A Vancouver version of the movie?

The show runs two hours with a 10 minute intermission and features 8 different characters whose storylines intersect as the show develops, much like the movie. We attended last night, and the pairings of relationships were:

  • two friends (male & female)
  • two friends (both male)
  • a mother & daughter
  • a husband and wife

As Off Key Improv’s website states, the musical relies on audience suggestions for the different characters’ storylines. At the beginning of the evening, a woman asked for a show of hands for the different pairings above and then called on these people to help provide the details, such as:

  • what’s a favourite Christmas tradition? (skiing at Whistler)
  • how do you spend Christmas day? (playing board games)
  • what’s a really difficult thing about Christmas this year? (cat died)

It was impressive to see how the actors developed the stories from such little information to make a complete musical from beginning to end with rising tension, laugh-out-loud scenes, heartfelt moments, and even some sad ones. They have a live band improvising music too, which added a lot to the scenes. All the actors took turns singing and did a fairly good job at rhyming on the spot. But the musical was more talking than singing, which I prefer.

I anticipated a little more audience interaction and hilarity, but I think that’s because the only precedent I have of improv comedy is Vancouver TheatreSports League, where there are new games the performers have to do every few minutes or so, much like Whose Line is it Anyway?

Apart from the intertwined stories and the complex, tangled love relationships, the other aspect of the musical that played tribute to the movie was right after intermission where a couple members of the audience could sit on stage under the spotlight with the chorus humming in the background and present a special message to someone in the audience like this scene in the movie:

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As this CBC article says, the actors play different roles every night, so hats off to them for changing it up all the time and not knowing what to expect either.

There’s still one more showing tonight and I would recommend it as a fun and different way to celebrate the holidays and the mix of emotions they bring. And even if you don’t like the movie, doesn’t mean you won’t like the musical!

 

 

Snow on Seymour

Unlike this weekend, last weekend was crisp and clear and beautiful. The Artist and I went to Mount Seymour to get our first glimpse of the fluffy white stuff.

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It was my first winter hike and I’m glad I had on a pair of good hiking boots for it!

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These little grey jays, or whiskey jacks as they are often called, were a common sight along the trail. Not shy at all. (Nevertheless, I was still pretty thrilled one landed on my hand).

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We climbed about halfway to the first peak so we could get this view of Vancouver rising through the fog.

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The sun was out and it felt great to be enjoying the outdoors on the last weekend of November.

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On the way down, we stumbled upon these folks with their makeshift toboggan run. The Artist gave it a go while I carried our backpacks down.

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A few slips and tumbles later, we made it back to the car and warmed up with hot drinks and an oh-my-gosh-I-cannot-believe-how-good-this-book-is book at Andrews on Eighth that I will blog about next week, so stay tuned!