Raymond Burr & Many Other Good Things In New WestminsterWednesday, April 29, 2015
|Royal City's Favourite Son - Raymond Burr|
This blog will be slightly unusual. It is all about how three musicals, all held in the Royal City of New Westminster, made me finally decide that New West was not a place to avoid (at all costs). Those three musicals dispelled my idea that New West was a place that depressed me.Two of them were Annie last year and this year My Fair Lady. Of the third you will read below.
To begin with I believe that our Lower Mainland is an urban sprawl that for reasons that escape me, does not promote the idea of mutual exploration. This is particularly the case for the arts. Few if any from Vancouver may have ever visited the innovative and modern Surrey Art Gallery. And I wonder how many of the people in Surrey have ventured forth to visit the VAG.
This mutual exploration goes further in what I see a cubbyholed arts community. Those who may favour Contact Improvisational Dance (as seen at EDAM) will probably not attend Ballet BC performances. Neither audience would ever be seen or caught dead at a GOH Ballet program. In music it is the same. You like new music? Don’t bother with Early Music Vancouver or the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In theatre the same fragmentation occurs.
Musicals are affected even further. If you go to a musical you will see that the audience look like me (72) and may be even older. Musicals cannot possibly be avant garde.
And yet judging from my wife Rosemary and my sojourn (via the exceptionally complicated signage of Marine Way) to New Westminster for the opening night performance of Out of A Dream you would think otherwise. This tight production, written and directed (and sung, danced and acted) by Peter Jorgensen’s Patrick Street Production made me think and re-define my concept of the avant garde. Out of a Dream was performed in the brand new soaring and modern Anvil Centre Theatre (on Columbia a mere yards from the Skytrain Station). The space perhaps can only be compared in its modern appointments with that of the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver.
You might wonder if somehow you never heard of a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein called Out of a Dream. No such thing happened. Peter Jorgensen skilfully put together a musical play in which the songs by the famous pair are weaved in a disparate chronology to tell the story of a young woman who leaves home with suitcase to follow a dream.
The six performers, Jenny Andersen, Peter Jorgensen, Katie Murphy, Sayer Roberts (nice pecs!) and Eva Tavares. They all sing and dance to perfection but let me digress via Dal Richards.
In a previous musical in New Westminster, My Fair Lady, Richards and wife Muriel sat next to me and my granddaughter Lauren. I asked Richards a very personal question, “How many times have you been in New Westminster this year?” His answer was a predictable, “Like you, two.” But Muriel Richards interjected, “I am from New West so I have been here many more times.” With that settled I asked another question to which Richards did not let me finish. I asked, “Did you notice the…?” He loudly replied, “Yes, the legs!” Who was it that said that women are as old as they look and men are old when they stop looking? Dal Richards is a very young 98 year-old man. I am not as young as he is but I must concur on those legs.
The orchestra made up by Nico Rhodes on clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax, soprano sax and flute, Scan Bayntun, piano, Marisha Devoin, bass and Alicia Murray on percussion and vibraphone (nice touch the vibraphone) was tops. Richards was particularly impressed by the man with all the winds and reeds. So was I.
Rosemary and I were able to use the most (not quite too complicated) credit card street parking and found the city of New Westminster refreshingly with-it in modernity. We managed to get back on Marine Way (I have no GPS in our car) almost without any jerking move (no jerking move and we would have been on the Queensborough Bridge to parts unknown) and when we got home we both had smiles on our face.
The reason perhaps for my black-cloud-concept for New Westminster may have been from our late 70s Burnaby days and driving to the Patullo bridge and first passing by the depressing prison.
I was lucky to have photographed a New Westminster favourite son, Raymond Burr twice. Every time he told writer John Lekich and me how he loved his hometown and its restaurants. Burr was the sort of warm man who looked at you when he spoke to you and you instantly loved the man. I should have known sooner about his hometown.
Luckily I have in me a few years more of New West musicals (and who knows what else?) and the purchase of a GPS might make getting to the Royal City even easier.
Out of a Dream ran from April 29 to May 3 and was presented by the laudable Royal City Musical Theatre and the Massey Theatre.