Cathy Wilmot, Stephanie Roth and Irene Karas Loeper (from left to right) in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of “Mamma Mia!” at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver. (photo: artsclub.com)

MINTY: Magic moments in ‘Mamma Mia!’, with more promised in Surrey opera show

Surrey-raised actors shine in Arts Club’s hit ABBA musical, while YPOS preps ‘The Magic Flute’

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

What the world needs now, as always, is a feel-good show. After a 14-year run on Broadway, Mamma Mia! went on to become the eighth longest-running show in London’s West End history. Now, with a 15-week run in Vancouver, it will become the Arts Club Theatre Company’s longest-running production at its Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

The show will also be the first Arts Club production to feature sing-along performances, on Saturday, July 28 at 2 and 8 p.m. This very popular musical, based on ABBA songs, runs at the Stanley until Aug. 12. Tickets start from $29 at artsclub.com or at the company’s box office, 604-687-1644.

We know the music, we know the story. This Arts Club production is loaded with people we know. Some started out in Surrey-based community theatre.

Cathy Wilmot appeared in many productions of FVGSS (formerly Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society), and was memorable both on stage and off in countless productions. Not all the roles were big and lavish, but always memorable. Today Wilmot nearly steals every scene as Rosie in Mamma Mia! “Take a Chance on Me, she sings, and oh my, how can we resist her? From Legally Blonde (Theatre Under the Stars) to Shrek: The Musical (Align Entertainment), there is no doubt Wilmot is a super trouper.

Emily Matchette grew up in a Surrey theatre family, and her dad Chad is the driving artistic force behind Align Entertainment. Align isn’t quite professional yet, but given Matchette’s determination, Align may someday rival Arts Club for professional musical theatre presentations. For now, Emily’s in the dancing chorus for Mamma Mia! and she says a special thank-you to her mom, Erin, “for the music.” Like Wilmot, Emily made her Arts Club debut in Les Miserables.

Michelle Bardach (Sophie Sheridan) grew up in Surrey, and relates that all she wanted to do in life was to sing, dance and act. Like Emily Matchette, she is a proud grad of Capilano University’s musical theatre program. I remember Bardach in her first musical theatre experience with the Young People’s Opera Society of BC. She was focused, intent, and put all her efforts into her performances. Well, you’ve come a long way, baby! Outstanding performance in Mamma Mia!, and glad to have you back from Toronto.

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The whole cast is amazing. We are talking about knowing people here, with other lead roles played by Shannon Hanbury (as Ali), Jennifer Lynch (Lisa), Stephanie Roth (Donna Sheridan), Irene Karas Loeper (Tanya), Stuart Barkley (Sky), Paul Almeida (Pepper), Oliver Castillo (Eddie), Jay Hindle (Harry Bright), Warren Kimmel (Bill Austin) and Michael Torontow (Sam Carmichael). The ensemble features the aforementioned Matchette along with Sierra Brewerton, Jarret Cody, David Cohen, Frankie Cottrell, Maria Fernandes, Julio Fuentes and Brianne Loop. You know the music, now you know the people. You want to see this show. I promise (I do, I do, I do) that you will remember Roth’s rendition of “The Winner Takes It All.” Thank you for the music.

Ah yes, music. The master of the Classical period must be W. A. Mozart. This prolific Austrian composer was talented, arrogant, brilliant and dead by the age of 35. He was born Jan. 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria and started playing in public at the age of six. Although Italian was the language of choice amongst titled patrons, Mozart dared to write in German, most notably The Magic Flute.

It’s one of the most popular operas ever written, and Young People’s Opera Society of BC (yposbc.org) will perform it at Surrey Arts Centre’s Studio Theatre from June 22 to 24. Tickets are on sale now, via 604-501-5566 or visit tickets.surrey.ca for more information and to purchase tickets to one of the four show times. I’m telling you right now, these performances will be more than magical. And don’t worry if you don’t understand German — it has been translated into English.

I have been at a few of rehearsals for this production, led by artistic director Dolores Scott and stage director Laura O’Reilly. I sit in awe. There seems to be about 50 people involved, some of them from the very beginning of YPOS, which was launched in 2006.

Joe Messner was in that first production of The King Who Wouldn’t Sing, an original opera written for YPOS by Patricia Dahlquist and George Austin. In The Magic Flute, Messner plays Papageno, the bird catcher. His sister Emma is Queen of the Night. When Emma sings, everyone listens. She will graduate this year, and is entering the music program at Kwantlen Poly-U.

The mission of YPOS is to provide affordable opportunities for youth to learn about, participate in and sing opera at a community level, so as to foster appreciation of opera and to create a foundation for future opera performers and performances. Look at where Michelle Baradach is now, and look at where Emma is going.

YPOS has no royal patrons, like Mozart relied on to finance his lifestyle. Ticket sales and donations are the lifeblood for keeping this young opera company operating. Thank you for the music, Mr. Mozart. And thank you to YPOS for bringing it to life once again. This production is totally suitable for all ages and music tastes. The story has a hero, a princess that needs saving, an evil queen and comedy. The cast ranges in age from nine to over 50, so a blend of the young and the mature. Exactly the mission of YPOS. Enjoy.

melminty@telus.net

 

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