Showtunes is not karaoke

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Alan Woo hosts Showtunes at 1181 on Friday, May 9.

Do you have a love for Sondheim? Does Liza in Cabaret give you goosebumps? Does the idea of a musical about bipolar disorder get your juices flowing? If you said yes to any of those questions then Showtunes may just be what you’ve been waiting for.

Now on its third edition, Showtunes is the brainchild of Vancouver writer and musical theatre aficionado Allan Woo, after being inspired by a similar Chicago event.

“The city, not the musical,” laughs Woo. “I went to Chicago a couple of years ago and went to one of the local bars Sidetrack who had Showtunes two nights and the place was packed. I loved it and thought why couldn’t we do something like in Vancouver?”

Fast forward a couple of years and Woo finally had the alcohol-fueled gumption to approach management at 1181 on Davie Street to see if they might be interested in doing a version in Vancouver. Readily agreeing, the success of Showtunes at 1181 has only been tempered by the small space and its equally small occupancy permit.

“It really has grown since we started,” says Woo who was disappointed that a number of would-be musical theatre fans found themselves waiting on the street at the last edition. “They could hear the music playing and they were singing on the sidewalk, but it was disappointing that everyone didn’t make it in.”

Playing videos and clips from Broadway or movie musicals, Woo pretty much leaves the rest up to those that show up.

“It is not karaoke,” he says. “There are no lyrics; you either know the songs or you don’t.”

A labour of love, Woo does admit that it is a lot of work to put the evening together, but one that he doesn’t seem to mind.

“It is about creating community and about having a good time,” he says. “I really like the environment that it creates and the different mix of people that it brings. Men, women, gay and straight, it really is a mixed crowd.”

Always looking to enhance the experience of his guests, Woo has even managed to score tickets to upcoming shows to help raise even more funds for the community groups that come in to support him. This month he will be giving away tickets to The Normal Heart, Gross Indecency and, perhaps most fitting, the musical Spring Awakening.

The next Showtunes takes place at 1181 (1181 Davie St) on Friday, May 9. Visit the group’s Facebook page for more information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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