MINTY: Theatre Under the Stars has strong Surrey connections

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It is hot and there is not much, if any, rain in the forecast. No rain is bad news for grass, gardens, farmers, and air quality but sure is good for business if you are Theatre Under the Stars, Vancouver’s open air outside theatre situated in Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park.

This year TUTS brings two beloved musicals – Oliver! The Musical and Hairspray – The Broadway Musical running on alternating evenings from July 10 to Aug. 22.

Celebrating 75 years of song-and-dance filled productions, TUTS shines the spotlight on two of theatre’s adored underdogs – one, a loveable orphan, the other an unexpected teenage heroine with big heart and big dreams.

If you have already seen the movies, but not a live production, this would be a good year to experience outdoor theatre. As always, there are Surrey connections to both shows.

Elyse Maloway grew up in Surrey and is a recent graduate of Capilano University’s musical theatre program. Elyse, who plays Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray, went to elementary school in Cloverdale. In fact, her very first community theatre production, Get Smart, was held at the Surrey Little Theatre. I remember that production.

Elyse is absolutely thrilled to have landed a lead role with such a prestigious company and admits that she has "learned so much this summer" and would like to encourage more young performers to come out to auditions for next year.

"There is nothing like it!" Elyse says.

Yes, a huge time commitment and a lot of work but the talented Elyse says it is all worthwhile.

"I knew early on that this is what I wanted to do," she says.

Elyse is more than a song-and-dance actor. She is also an accomplished visual artist and describes herself as an "avid painter."

She prefers oils and especially loves the characters from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

"I love the saturated and vibrant colours," she says. "And that’s what I love about Hairspray – it’s vibrant!" From director Sarah Rodgers, this vibrant Hairspray cast also includes Erin E. Walker (Tracy Turnblad), Andy Toth (Edna Turnblad), Chris D. King (Corny Collins) and Dustin Freeland (Link).

One of Elyse’s dance instructors at Cap-U was Keri Minty. Keri also grew up in Surrey and is the choreographer for the other TUTS summer production, Oliver!

From director Shel Piercy, this story – based on the Dickens novel – follows a young orphan on a harrowing adventure through the streets of Victorian London. It stars Stephen Aberle (Fagin/Mr. Brownlow), Damon Calderwood (Bill Sykes/Mr. Bumble), Marie West (Nancy) and Carly Ronning in her TUTS debut as Oliver.

Keri spent a few summers with TUTS both as performer and choreographer and went on to perform with Arts Club in many musicals. It’s just something that is born in to you.

Wait. There is another Kerry from Surrey involved with this summer’s production of Oliver! Kerry O’Donovan is music director for the show – another big job in the world of musical theatre.

Oh yes, there is more. Keri and Kerry both attended Earl Marriott Secondary, where they both starred in musicals directed by Rick Harmon. Rick, of course, is now the artistic director for Beach House Theatre, an annual event in Crescent Beach.

But back to TUTS. As a thrilling addition prior to Oliver! performances, the Malkin Bowl will be fully transformed into an 1840s village country fair, treating audiences to authentic food stalls, foot races, sing-a-longs, and more. Could be fun. It’s a whole summer experience.

Just some advice from me if you have never attended TUTS before. It does cool down in the evening and the bugs do come out – jackets and bug spray are important accessories.

You can get tickets to TUTS performances by phone at 1-877-840-0457 or go online to the Theatre Under the Stars website. Here’s some more of Mel’s helpful hints – be sure to specify Theatre Under the Stars Vancouver. Houston (Texas) also has TUTS and their listings just about buries our TUTS. Search a bit, get the Vancouver one.

Really, Houston. Our TUTS is better, older, and has solid Surrey connections. We win.

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