A scene from “Circle Game: Reimagining the music of Joni Mitchell,” which tours to Surrey Arts Centre and other theatres on B.C.’s south coast in February and March. On Feb. 20, the show opens a week-plus run at Surrey Arts Centre. (Photo: artsclub.com)

Joni Mitchell’s rearranged hits in Surrey on ‘Circle Game’ musical tour

Two-hour show brought here in Arts Club/Firehall partnership

A musical that reinterprets Joni Mitchell’s many hits will tour to Surrey and other cities in the Lower Mainland over the next month-plus.

The Arts Club Theatre Company presentation of Circle Game riffs on an Firehall Arts Centre production created by East Vancouver residents Andrew Cohen and Anna Kuman.

Debuted in the spring of 2017, the show is billed as a “reimagining” of Mitchell’s folk, pop and jazz songs, including “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Chelsea Morning,” “Help Me,” “Woodstock,” “River,” “A Case of You” and many others, with six performers singing and playing multiple instruments.

“In Circle Game a younger generation of talented creators and performers have embraced Joni Mitchell’s music and created their own interpretation of what it means to them,” notes Donna Spencer, the Firehall’s artistic producer, in the tour program. “Hauntingly, Mitchell’s lyrics and poetry remain relevant today, revealing her genius and creativity in connecting with time and place.”

The tour of B.C.’s south coast starts Thursday (Feb. 14) in North Vancouver and ends March 26 in Courtenay, with dates at Surrey Arts Centre from Wednesday, Feb. 20 to Saturday, March 2.

The two-hour show stars Samantha Bourque, Kimmy Choi, David Z. Cohen, Benjamin Millman, Scott Perrie and Adriana Ravalli.

A winner of 2017 Ovation Awards for Outstanding Professional Production and Outstanding Music Direction, Circle Game focuses on Mitchell’s music with new arrangements and choreography, but without much plot, according to Marsha Lederman’s review of the world premiere at Vancouver’s Firehall – one headlined “‘Circle Game’ is a messy tribute to Joni Mitchell.”

As directors, Kuman and Cohen say their hope is “for both the die-hard Joni fans and those less familiar with her work is that you leave preconceptions at the door and allow yourself to live (or re-live) the messages of her prose in this moment, in 2019, through the mouths of twenty-somethings.”

Their thoughts about the show are published in the tour program.

“As kids, we would listen to Joni vinyls while our parents would sing along, gleefully off-key, wondering what the fuss was about,” Kuman and Cohen write. “Upon hearing her music again as young adults, we realized that the themes and images in her music were unlike anything we had heard before.

“As we delved deeper into Ms. Mitchell’s diverse canon and profound words, we became increasingly aware that this music, though written four or five decades previous, was so much more than simply the sounds of our parents’ generation. We came to view this work as both a window and a mirror.”

The show’s set, light and wardrobe are predominantly second-hand – “reimagined from their original context, much like the music and lyrics,” they continue. ‘They originated before our time, yet we still feel a sense of ownership or stewardship. This experiment was born from the desire to create a piece that would both bridge a generational divide and posit their unresolved questions in a modern context. Just as Millennials have inherited the problems left to us by earlier generations, so too have we adopted their wisdom, warnings, and witticisms.”

Circle Game tour dates are posted on the Arts Club’s website (artsclub.com).

Tickets for the Surrey shows range from $29 to $49 and are available at tickets.surrey.ca, or call 604-501-5566. A number of “value-added performances” are planned, including opening-night appetizers (Feb. 20), First Friday dessert and coffee (Feb. 22), Paint at the Play for kids (Feb. 23), a pre-show chat (Feb. 26), Talkback Thursday (Feb. 28) and VocalEye live audio description for those with vision loss (March 2).



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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