The best of Vancouver theatre in 2011

After seeing 91 theatre productions in 2011, I’ve seen everything from the truly bad to the truly amazing and can attest to the thriving theatre scene in Vancouver.  As in previous years, the task of compiling this list was not easy as there were so many great shows.  Here is my list of the eleven best theatre productions for 2011.

As always I am grateful to the local theatre companies who continue to invite me to see their shows and encourage you make a new year’s resolution to experience some live theatre in 2012 – you will be glad you did!

The best of Vancouver theatre in 2011

10Kiss of the spider man – Richard III (Bard On The Beach)

Bob Frazer gives the performance of his career as “a horror movie arachnid on the hunt” in Richard III.

09Worth every minute  – August: Osage County (Arts Club Theatre Company)

A darkly funny tidal wave of family drama, this ensemble piece featured five meaty roles for women and is 3 1/2 wonderful hours of theatre that I still haven’t forgotten.

08Voyeurs in East Van – Tape (Alley Theatre)

One of a couple shows on my list that are re-mounts from previous years, this one had me thinking the VPD would descend on us at any moment.

07Babes in arms this ain’t – My Funny Valentine (Zee Zee Theatre)

Local playwright Dave Deveau makes our list two years in a row with this powerful and sophisticated piece. It is no wonder Deveau won the Sydney Risk Award for Outstanding Original Script at this year’s Jessies.

06Watch out Rentheads, here come the Nexters – Next To Normal (Arts Club Theatre Company)

Not since those kids from New York’s Lower East Side struggled to survive has musical theatre brought the gritty realities of life to the stage in such a compelling way. This Broadway-worthy ensemble nailed it.

05Not a teen burger in sight – The Pillowman (Wild Geese Equity Co-op)

The rich, dark flavours of this black comedy was made even more complex with performances from Aaron Hursh and Ryan Biel.

04The gift that kept on giving – After Jerusalem (Solo Collective Theatre)

A tiny perfect Christmas present for anyone that loves theatre, this new show from Vancouver playwright Aaron Bushkowsky was full of bright shiny moments all wrapped within two beautiful performances.

03No corn cob pipe or button nose here  – Snowman (Rumble Productions)

The one show this year that I declared needed to be on everyone’s must-see list, this original and edgy black comedy was the most fun I can remember having that didn’t require batteries.

02Setting my new benchmark – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Blackbird Theatre Company / Arts Club Theatre Company)

This near perfect piece of theatre benefited from a foursome of actors that remained unmatched in 2011.

01WWJD? Why, he’d have gone to see this show of courseJesus Hopped the “A” Train (Glass City Theatre / Pacific Theatre)

Gritty, raw, and thought-provoking, in 2011 it didn’t get much better than this and the reason I go to the theatre.

Honourable Mentions

There is one show that didn’t make my top ten list, but not because it was not worthy.  In fact, if Ride The Cyclone had been a local production, instead of coming from Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville, it would have topped my list this year.  I’m just glad I am able to say I saw this E-ticket ride before it becomes really famous.

There were a few other shows that almost made my list as well and deserve mention:

  1. Bare: a pop opera (Fighting Chance Productions)
  2. My Name is Asher Lev (Pacific Theatre)
  3. Death of a Salesman (Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company)
  4. The Verona Project (Stone’s Throw Production)
  5. Bash: Latter-Day Plays (Hardline Productions)
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