A Lovely Un-Christmas With Mary Poppins & An AngelFriday, December 05, 2014
Vancouverites for a long time were creatures of habit. You drank your coffee at Murchie’s, bought your books at Duthie’s, went to Stanley Park, bought your umbrellas at the Umbrella Shop and for Christmas you went to a Nutcracker and made sure you witnessed and sang along one Messiah. And of course you had to take in It’s a Wonderful Life at the Stanley and rent the 1951 A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Things may be changing perhaps with the demise of family-owned businesses not being able to compete with the American Big Box. Some changes are not of that ilk.
Consider that a couple of weeks back I went to the Art Club Theatre’s anti-Christmas (but very definitely with that Christmas spirit) A Twisted Christmas Carol at the Granville Island Review Stage.
Second in this trend that I call the Alternative Vancouver Christmas was Saturday’s Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s Mixed Nuts. With an occasional nod to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Mixed Nuts was to The Nutcracker what A Twisted Christmas Carol was to Charles Dickens.
The last Nutcracker I ever saw (with both my granddaughters) was some years ago. We went because the Sugar Plum Fairy was the inimitable Sandrine Cassini who at the time was dancing (briefly) with the Alberta Ballet. I will have to be still alive and sentient in some far away future to take my great-grandchildren (none yet, thank God) to another Nutcracker.
There are two more anti-Christmas (but very Christmas events to add to the list. One of them is the Sunday, December 21 Early Music Vancouver presentation at the Chan of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (whew! no Messiah chorus for me this year) just Bach
The other event I went to last week with my 12 year-old granddaughter Lauren. It was the opening night of the Arts Club Theatre presentation of the Broadway play Mary Poppins, Directed by Bill Millerd at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre.
Both of us had enjoyed this production last year (virtually the same as all the actors came back) staring the phenomenal Sara-Jeanne Hosie as Mary Poppins.
Since I knew I would want to write here about our experience I searched for a handle. I found it quickly thanks to Lauren. She wanted to know (and guessed at some) how the magic tricks like pulling a long floor lamp from a carpetbag on a bed could be done.
While attempting to write an essay for the Vancouver Sun’s Religion/Spiritual writer Douglas Todd on the spirituality of J.S. Bach I found that in the past century and most of the others an organized (and then) most important Christian religion, not to mention the miracles that God performs in the Old Testament for the Israelites, there was an idea of unexplained magic, the miracle.
By the late 1960’s (with a nod to Cecil B. DeMille who managed to successfully part the Red Sea in his 1956 film The Ten Commandments) special effects in film had taken care of making the idea of pulling razor blades or a rabbit from a hat boring. Magic was dead and is more so this century. Not a couple of days ago I read how the plague of frogs was digitally (partially) accomplished in this year’s soon-to-be released Ridley Scott blockbuster Exodus – Gods and Kings. It would seem that special effects become boring until more elaborate and complicated ones are found.
While I am not advocating we all go en masse to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, there seems we have lost our ability to wonder about the impossible and the magic of it.
Without angels, and Christmas trees, Mary Poppins deftly brings back that spirit of magic, that spirit of Christmas to this season.
But I must mention an occurrence
that charmed my Lauren. As we were about to leave the Stanley, a gentle tall man came down the
stairs from the balcony. I stopped him and told him, “This is my granddaughter Lauren.
I am going to ask you a question and I want you to answer it truthfully. Are
you an angel?” With a smile on his face and with that marvellous voice of his,
Bernard Cuffling looked at Lauren and said, “Indeed I am. And will be more of
one this coming year.”
It would seem that Lauren and I have our Christmas play all planned for 2015. It will be It’s a Wonderful Life. After a couple of off years this will be a fresh new start for another Vancouver institution at the Stanley?