Arts & Culture
When a struggling village theatre company hires a has-been Hollywood action star to spice up their production, confusion enters stage right.
Photo by Tracy-Lynn Chernaske
Metro Theatre shows what 'A Bunch Of Amateurs' can do
Published 4:26 PST, Tue November 12, 2019
Last Updated: 11:44 PST, Thu November 28, 2019
This British script is perfect for Metro.
What is an amateur theatrics group to do when their numbers are down? Why, hire a washed-up action star from Hollywood as a draw. When he hears “Stratford, England” he is impressed that he’s going to strut the stage with the likes of Judi Dench and David Tennant. Little does he know, there are many Stratfords in England, and this theatre group is not in the one Upon Avon.
One of the delights, among many, at Metro is the music that gently permeates the public spaces before the performance. It is Elizabethan and Baroque – gentle, beautiful and soothing. The strings relax theatre-goers as they settle in the ultra comfy seats. (The only down side to the atmosphere was the waves of loud perfume crashing over the audience from one attendee.)
The musical beauty continued throughout the play with perfectly-timed snippets bridging the scene changes. These musical clips, chosen by director Catherine Morrison, varied from contemporary to old British folk songs to even a few turns from Noel Coward with Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington and a personal favourite, Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
The set in this gentle British farce was perfect. The quality was what one would expect in London or New York, as was the set in metro’s previous production. We have Les Erskine, who is also the company’s general manager, to thank for the set design. Kudos as well to head carpenter, Robin Richardson and crew for bringing the design to life.
It was hard to tell if it was lighting design or blocking that caused a few actors to be out of the limelight particularly in the B&B scenes. It was subtle and did not mar the enjoyment of this romp.
Lisa Gach as the struggling theatre director, Dorothy Nettle, is spot on as is Peter Robbins playing Nigel Newbury, the local lawyer and amateur actor who is sweet on Dorothy. When Roger Monk enters the stage, his rich characterization of fellow volunteer thespian, Denis Dobbins, shines.
Laura Burke as the vamp with a brain, and a physiotherapy degree, is perfect.
Jamé Wonacott as the young daughter of the former Hollywood star hits all the right notes.
A youthful Samuel Barnes plays former action hero, Jefferson Steel, while in the movie version of A Bunch of Amateurs, a grizzled Burt Reynolds plays that part.
Alison Schamberger as Mary Plunkett, the theatre troupe member who also runs the local Bed and Breakfast, is utterly believable whether worrying about the troupe or pining after her American actor B&B guest.
If you enjoyed Calendar Girls, this play will be a pleasure.
The musical selections enhanced the production all the way through, with the curtain calls reprising Brush up your Shakespeare. It sent the audience off in a jolly mood.
Growing up on the Prairies, a lot of effort went into similar amateur theatrics. They were important and well-attended. Here in the Lower Mainland, while tickets at other venues can be more than $100 a seat. That’s the cost of a Metro four ticket package. Metro Theatre is affordable fun, close to home with convenient and free on-street parking. The main floor of the theatre is wheelchair accessible. The licensed upstairs lounge, full of tasteful grey velvet couches trimmed in royal blue, opens early before each show and stays open after for theatre-goers to mix and mingle.
A Bunch of Amateurs runs through Nov. 23 at Metro Theatre, 1370 SW Marine Dr., Vancouver (north end of Arthur Laing Bridge). For more information go to metrotheatre.com and for tickets call (604) 266-7191 or go to tickets.metrotheatre.com
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