Those Fantastic Fantasticks & Two MoreSunday, October 31, 2010
|Jeff Hyslop & Christopher Gaze
Last night, Saturday, my granddaughter Rebecca and I went to the last held over performance of the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company’s production of The Fantasticks directed and choreographed by Max Reimer, with musical direction by Bill Sample.
The cast starred Simon Bradbury, Mark Burgess, Christopher Gaze, Bree Greig, Jeff Hyslop, Steve Maddock, Colin Sheen and Andy Toth.
Since I am of Latin American heritage I harp often here how I dislike musicals or how I don’t understand the concept of people suddenly switching from talk to song. But slowly but surely, thanks to the Playhouse and the Arts Club I have been amending my prejudices. But I must assert that until last night I was proud of the fact I never saw any kind of production of the Fantasticks either on stage or on film.
Rebecca and I entered the Playhouse and we ran into Max Wyman and his wife Susan. I asked Wyman to explain why the Fantasticks was a worthwhile show. Wyman said to Rebecca, “It is a sweet show with no malice that says a lot about human nature. In 1961 when I started my career as a critic I reviewed the London production and I ranted and raved. The show closed in two weeks!”
I then instructed Rebecca to ask Wyman what the little dogwood-like flower with a Maple leaf on its centre pin on his lapel was all about. Rebecca found out, first hand, what the order of Canada was all about!
When the show began I was instantly glued to the mute performance, (it oozed gallons of pathos) of Jeff Hyslop (who plays the mute). As good as all the other performers were featuring the delightful antics of Christopher Gaze and Simon Bradbury (who had both Rebecca and I in stitches every time they were on stage) or the imposing performance and wonderful voice of Steve Maddock our eyes were constantly on the actions, reflections and even motionless moments of Jeff Hyslop.
I think that this for me proves that this city needs competition in arts reporting. Some would say there are no arts reporting. I would not agree. I would that what passes as arts reporting does not fill in the gaps of information that would push many people to get up from their sofas or the chair facing the computer and go out to see a play, a concert or dance performance.
My Rebecca, like in most other situations where I take her to the theatre, was the only one there under 20. As Wyman would have reiterated, there is so much about human nature in this play that will remain in my granddaughter’s mind and perhaps help her in future situations.
Our conventional Vancouver media sticks to the word conventional like glue. I would have liked to read about Director Max Reimer’s dance heritage and the wonders or perhaps conflicts in both directing and choreographing a play. Another theme I would have been interested to explore was something on funny pairs in film and theatre. When I saw The 39 Steps, the comic antics of Shawn Macdonald and Davi Marr reminded me of the duo of Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford from Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). There was a lot of that feel in the performance by Christopher Gaze and Simon Bradbury.
I spotted Jennifer Gaze (Alex do you know that the harpist in Sample's band is a dentist?") in the audience so I asked her if she could whisk us backstage after the performance so we could meet up with her husband and with Jeff Hyslop.
There was another reason beyond he obvious one of having Rebecca explore the back stage happenings and to meet Hyslop as she has chatted with Gaze many times before.
Our Vancouver is not kind to veterans of the arts. They are nominally pigeon-holed and then forgotten. Christopher Gaze is the Artistic Director of Bard on the Beach. Some may have forgotten that Gaze happens to be a very good actor, too who won a Jessie Best Supporting Actor Award for his role in Equus in 2007. With the Royal Hudson, pretty well history in our Province as a tourist magnet one cannot discount the role of Bard on the Beach (and its uniqueness) in attracting out of Province visitors in the summer.
Of Hyslop I will go on a different tack. Some might still remember him as being the principal in the Vancouver production of The Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1995 for which the picture here is one I took for an article in the Globe & Mail in July 200 1995.
I first saw Hyslop as a male jazz dancer (a terrific one) in variety shows at the CBC in the late 70s. I had been hired bythe CBC to shoot stills of these shows. Being a normal “manly” latin my eyes were always drawn to the likes of Viktoria Langton and Jackie Coleman. But my eyes would drift towards this uncommonly handsome (and yes, beautiful) young man who reminded me of Michael the Archangel with Mercury on wings. In spite of my primitive Pentaxes and using unorthodox and slow colour negative film I managed to learn to shoot dance at the CBC and I could not have had a better subject than Hyslop.
I knocked on the door that said, Jeff Hyslop and I was asked in. Inside was Hyslop with his gray hair still looking not only like Mercury but perhaps Michael the Archangel with a sad streak sent back to us to try to intercede for us. I introduced him to Rebecca and it was a pleasant occasion for me to realize how lucky I am to live a situation in which I can meet up with people from my past and to notice how the time in-between has faded.
I pointed my iPhone at them and photographed the two old men ( I think I can safely say this without offending either of them). How lucky I am and how unlucky we are in Vancouver not to realize it.