Chutzpah Festival February 18 – March 13

by Richard Wolak on February 6, 2016


In their 16th year of showcasing world-renowned artists in a vibrant celebration of the performing arts, the Chutzpah! Festival has unveiled another amazing the line-up of electrifying music, theatre, film and breath-taking dance scheduled for presentation at various venues around Vancouver.

An eagerly anticipated highlight of Vancouver’s dance season is the Chutzpah! Festival’s Dance Series. The 2016 Festival presents some of the most sought-after contemporary choreographers in the world. This year’s performances again offer high calibre, challenging and gorgeous dance delivering innovative and spell-binding work including Canadian and North American premieres from Italy’s brilliant Spellbound Contemporary Ballet; the incomparable Israeli dance company Maria Kong performing their much lauded Open Source; New York-based Gallim Dance in their repertory work Wonderland by choreographer Andrea Miller, which Dance Magazine praised as

“Gutsy. Wild. Smart. Original.”; new to the international scene, New York City’s hot all male company MADBOOTS and a world premiere from our resident dance company, the acclaimed Shay Kuebler Radical System Art (BC) in a spectacular double bill; and Ballet Kelowna presents works by Artistic Director Simone Orlando, James Kudelka, Heather Myers and John Alleyne, with Toronto’s Continuum Contemporary Music accompanying (Chutzpah!PLUS).

Chutzpah! Festival 2016 presents outstanding internationally-celebrated music, including leading world music pioneers. The rich global landscape of music presented this year showcases some of the world’s most exciting musical performers from Israel, Mexico City, Germany, USA, Cuba and Canada.  Highlights include Israel’s sister group A-WA, whose sweeping and uncompromising creation will take you on an exciting journey. From the first time they took the stage, they’ve been dropping jaws, raising eyebrows, making people dance: from hipsters to families, from festivals to clubs, young and old alike; Juno Award winners Odessa/Havana in an exhilarating, unprecedented project of musical discovery, the Jewish-Cuban connection. Trumpeter and composer David Buchbinder and Cuban piano master Hilario Durán joins forces with a team of top Jazz and World musicians,  taking the audience on a journey that consistently engages, challenges and delights; a remarkable band out of Mexico City Klezmerson, seamlessly combine melodies and rhythms from Europe’s Jewish tradition and blend with Gypsy and Mexican influences, creating a unique fusion of rock, funk and jazz; with its members hailing from Berlin and Tel Aviv, Baladino offering fresh, yet deeply authentic interpretations of Sephardic and Ladino melodies, with Mediterranean-Gypsy grooves,  extended technique, subtle electronics, improvisation and stunning vocals;  the inspired work of Israel’s Victoria Hanna depicts her ongoing experimentation with the vocal and conceptual boundaries of language.  Accompanied by three world class musicians, this vocal artist enacts in her work a unique presentation of sacred Hebrew texts and spirituals in an entirely modern context, integrating music, spoken word and video; described by DownBeat Magazine as “a remarkable talent and a welcome new voice on the scene”, Israel/New York Jazz trio Rotem Sivan Trio; one of his generation’s premier mandolinists and clarinetists, New York’s Andy  Statman with his trio featuring Jim Whitney (bassist) & Larry Eagle (drummer and percussionist); and Israel’s Avishai Cohen Quartet featuring award-winning trumpeter Avishai Cohen, who has earned renown as a musician with an individual sound and a questing spirit, an ever-creative player-composer open to multiple strains of jazz and active internationally (Chutzpah!PLUS).

Chutzpah!’s thought provoking theatre and hilarious comedy lineup is always at its best. Theatre highlights include a world premiere from Israeli-Canadian BC based playwright, performer and lighting designer Itai Erdal in collaboration with Maiko Yamamoto (Theatre Replacement) and Anita Rochon (The Chop Theatre)  in a humorous and moving site specific play A Very Narrow Bridge, that reveals the complexity of living between cultures and family relationships. Joining Erdal onstage are local favourites Patti Allen, Tom Pickett and Anton Lipovestky; two much anticipated stand-up comedy performances from NYC’s one-of-a-kind Jessica Kirson and Canada’s own Jon Steinberg will get you laughing.  Jessica Kirson’s unique and captivating stage presence and wide variety of characters capture the attention of audiences everywhere she performs. Comedian Jon Steinberg draws material from his unique and twisted view of the world and is a perennial favourite on CBC radio’s The Debaters. Jon has been entertaining audiences across North America for over a decade.

NEW this year, as part of Chutzpah!PLUS is a memoir book reading and interview with Jennifer Teege in conversation with Marsha Lederman, the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail.  Teege is the bi-racial granddaughter of Nazi commandant Aon Goeth, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in ‘Schindler’s List’.   In her memoir My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me, Teege reveals the horrifying moment she discovered her ancestry after being given up for adoption and recounts how this discovery shook her life to the core (co-written with journalist Nikola Sellmair and newly translated from German).

Celebrating our 16th year, Chutzpah!’s Artistic & Managing Director, Mary-Louise Albert says, “Another great year with world premieres by BC dance and theatre artists and a focus on the continuation of our established, and well warranted excellent reputation of bringing numerous outstanding international music, dance, and comedy to our audiences!”

Single tickets for Chutzpah! are $21 to $36 and can be purchased online at, by phone at the Chutzpah! Box Office: 604-257-5145 or Tickets Tonight: 604-684-2787. Chutzi Packs are also available: see 4 different shows of your choice for only $89.

Tickets will also be available in-person starting January 25th at the on-site Chutzpah! Box Office at the Jewish Community Centre, 950 West 41st Avenue, just 2 blocks west of the Oakridge Skytrain Station (for hours please see our website:


Over The River and Through the Woods

by Richard Wolak on January 31, 2016

metro theatre over the river

Such a great cast sees Nick, a young single man from New Jersey, is the only member of his family who’s still geographically convenient to his two sets of Italian-American grandparents. He loves them and sees them every Sunday for dinner, but they drive him a little crazy. When Nick announces that he wants to move to far away Seattle to accept a promotion for work, the news doesn’t sit so well – actually it is tantamount to a declaration of war. Why would he , his grandparents wonder, want to leave his family? Would a girl make him stay? Thus begins a series of schemes to keep Nick around that are absolutely hilarious and undeniably tender. We invite you  to laugh a little, cry a little and have a nice lasagna.

Mr. DiPietro says, “The biggest difference between these generations is their concept of family and home. Our grandparents believed that the family was central, and work is something you do just to provide for them. For our generation, it’s a lot more complicated.”

Directed by Ryan Caron,  produced by Joe Hinks, stage managed by Heather Abrahamson and features: Jack Kelly (Nick), Don Briard (Frank), Alison Schamberger (Aida), Rob Gillespie (Nunzio), Joan Koebel (Emma) and Dana Schindel (Caitlin)

Tickets are $24 Adult or $21 Senior/Student with a special 2 for $35 every Thursday.

Tickets can be reserved by calling the Box Office 604 266 7191 or purchased on line TICKETS


Arts Club Theatre presents In a Blue Moon on Tour

by Richard Wolak on December 31, 2015

A visually beautiful tale about creating a new life in a new landscape. When Ava (Anita Wittenberg) and her daughter, Frankie (Emma Tow), move to an inherited cottage near Kamloops, they discover that Ava’s late husband’s brother (Brett Christopher) is already living there. What starts as a tense relationship develops in unexpected ways as Frankie finds a role model in her uncle and Ava grows attached to the companionship of this other man. Through memories and photographs, a tender love story unfolds between the three as they begin to thread together a new understanding of family.

Arts Club Artistic Managing Director, Bill Millerd, says “Lucia has written a timely piece and it is a pleasure to be working with Western Canada Theatre Company, Thousand Islands Playhouse, and our tour partners as we give this premiere the opportunity to reach new audiences in Metro Vancouver, Kamloops, and Gananoque, Ontario.”

“We’re so proud to present the premiere of Lucia’s beautiful new script,” adds Western Canada Theatre Artistic Director, Daryl Cloran. “It’s the perfect way to celebrate Western Canada Theatre’s 40th Anniversary Season. The production is set just down the road from Kamloops, and stars Kamloops’ very own Anita Wittenberg and her daughter Emma Tow. We’re excited to partner with both the Arts Club Theatre Company and the Thousand Islands Playhouse to bring this production to life.”

In a Blue Moon is the first new script developed by the Arts Club to premiere as a cross-Canada partnership between three producing companies.

Written by Lucia Frangione Starring Brett Christopher, Emma Tow, Anita Wittenberg Director Daryl Cloran Assistant Director Randi Edmundson Dramaturg Rachel Ditor Set Designer Drew Facey Costume Designer Marian Truscott Lighting and Projection DesignerConor Moore Sound Designer John Gzowksi Stage Manager Allison Spearin Assistant Stage Manager Rachel Bland

On tour around the Vancovuer area from January 8 – 30, 2016.


Vancouver Opera and PuSh present Macbeth in 2017

by Richard Wolak on December 31, 2015

Vancouver Opera and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival are excited to announce they will together present the Canadian premiere of a stunning take on Verdi’s Macbeth by one of South Africa’s most exciting producing companies.

Macbeth will open the 2017 PuSh Festival on January 16, 2017 for five performances at the Vancouver Playhouse and will be an offering for both PuSh Festival patrons and Vancouver Opera season subscribers and ticket buyers.

Produced by the internationally acclaimed Third World Bunfight and conceived, designed and directed by celebrated South African director and playwright Brett Bailey, Macbeth sets Shakespeare’s story of greed, tyranny and remorse in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Visually stunning, politically provocative and musically adventurous, Macbeth has thrilled audiences and has drawn critical praise in Africa, Europe, Australia and South America. The VO and PuSh festival co-presentation will be only the third in North America.

Verdi’s score has been adapted by Belgian composer Fabrizio Cassol for 12 onstage musicians and 10 opera singers. Members of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra will perform alongside 10 singers and two percussionists from South Africa. The performances will be led by Serbian conductor Premil Petrović. Macbeth will be sung in Italian, with English SURTITLES™, by Brett Bailey, projected above the stage.
Over the past 20 years there have been more deaths in the eastern DRC than in any conflict since World War II, yet the crisis barely registers in the global media. Within a milieu of multinational double-dealings, ethnic conflict, ruthless militia, ‘blood minerals’ and glittering Chinese imports, a Congolese warlord, General Macbeth, and his ambitious wife murder the king and unleash atrocities on the crumbling province that they seize.

“We are thrilled to be working with the PuSh Festival on this exciting collaboration, and to bring Third World Bunfight’s team to Canada for the first time,” says James Wright, General Director of Vancouver Opera. “Brett Bailey is an influential theatre artist whose work demands to be experienced. His artists are exceptional and we will be pleased to welcome them to Vancouver. This will be a breathtaking Macbeth.”

“There are projects of such magnitude and importance they simply cannot happen unless you put your shoulder into them—as a curator, as a festival, and as a community,” says Norman Armour, Artistic and Executive Director of PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. “Undertaking this presentation with Vancouver Opera is that type of endeavour. Under Jim Wright’s leadership, VO has proven again and again that the operatic form can, and indeed must, wrestle with the world around us if it is to remain relevant, exciting, and truly of this time and place. For its part, the PuSh Festival remains driven by a commitment to present the work of artists such as Brett Bailey who are redefining and reaffirming the power of the live performing arts.”

Macbeth will be onstage at the Vancouver Playhouse for only five performances: Monday, January 16; Tuesday, January 17; Thursday, January 19; Friday, January 20; and Saturday, January 21, 2017.

Information about Third World Bunfight and Macbeth, including photographs and video excerpts, can be found at

Tickets to Macbeth will be available to Vancouver Opera and PuSh Festival patrons in summer 2016.


VSO Kicks off 2016 with Exciting Concerts

by Richard Wolak Music

The New Year, 2016, begins with a favourite tradition:  A Salute to Vienna, with members of the VSO in the company of the Strauss Symphony of Canada, vocal soloists and ballroom dancers for an enchanting selection of waltzes and operetta highlights. Take a trip down the Danube right here at home, New Year’s Day at […]

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SnapShots: A Musical Scrapbook

by Richard Wolak Theatre

SnapShots is one of the musicals that will have you humming along throughout the show as I did during opening night last night. It’s funny, well played out and has a great cast. Starring Stephen Aberle, Annabel Kershaw, Steve Maddock, Jocelyn Gauthier, Daniel Johnston and Georgia Swinton; each actor complements the other so graciously and […]

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Hofesh Schechter Company at DanceHouse November 13 & 14

by Richard Wolak Dance

For the opening of its 2015/16 season, DanceHouse is pleased to announce the return of the Hofesh Shechter Company. The internationally renowned UK-based troupe is bringing its new work, barbarians, to the Playhouse this November. The trio of pieces premiered this summer to great acclaim at Berliner Festspiele as part of the illustrious international performing […]

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Ballet BC Launches their 30th Season November 5-7

by Richard Wolak Dance

Under the artistic leadership of Ballet BC Artistic Director Emily Molnar, PROGRAM I features three individual works by choreographers who are reshaping contemporary ballet. The program includes a World Premiere by Belgian-born choreographer Stijn Celis, the Canadian premiere of Solo Echo by Vancouver-based Choreographer Crystal Pite and the return of the critically acclaimed 2014 World Premiere […]

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Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s October Highlights

by Richard Wolak Music

His mother claimed that an Angel visited her in a dream and promised that her son would have miraculous musical ability. Others viewed his talent as anything but God-given. In fact they openly speculated that it must be the result of a deal with the Devil. Music by Niccolò Paganini takes a prominent place in […]

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Vancouver Jewish Book Festival November 21-26

by Richard Wolak Culture

This popular cultural extravaganza attracts celebrated authors and a wide audience from the Lower Mainland as they welcome an exciting roster of writers from across Canada, the US, and Israel.. The Festival week is jam-packed with innovative literary events including unique meet-the-author opportunities, readings and panel discussions,  the annual book club event, writing workshops, children’s […]

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