RANT: The extreme inconvenience of Ticketmaster’s mandatory “convenience charges”

by Johnny K

So the other day I purchased a ticket to an upcoming concert (Infected Mushroom, if you’re just dying to know) for $30. Of course, as usual, I knew there’d be other charges on top of it and some of these, like the $1.50 “facility charge”, I really have no qualms about paying. What does get me spitting venom, however, is the $9.75 “convenience charge” that is so bluntly – and bravely – tacked on. I mean, that’s 33% of my ticket price right there! So where exactly lies the convenience that could warrant such a major appendage? A quick research of convenience charges became a pretty enlightening experience: it seems that these entities were originally added on to tickets when one was to receive them in some manner other than the venue’s box office – snail mail, email, ticket outlet, etc. However, if you actually got off your lazy ass and drove to the venue to pay in cash this fee was waived, as there was clearly no “convenience” provided.

I hope you’ve noted that I’m writing in the past tense here and for good reason: these days, it simply doesn’t matter whether you walk 14 km on your hands to get the tickets directly from the drummer’s grandma – the fee still applies. So why is this? Well, the simple answer is because the omnipotent deity of ticket creation that is Ticketmaster wills it so – and who are we, the minions, to argue with them? After all, since they exclusively sell tickets to the majority of shows, we simply have no alternatives – no matter how much we moan and cry. Unless everyone protests simultaneously (which, having done the math, I found to be about as likely as finding a camel in Alaska), and forces them to lower their costs, this is something we’re just going to have to somehow continue digesting – and likely witness getting more and more expensive. But how much longer before we reach a breaking point?

Having thought all this before even proceeding to the last stage of checkout, imagine my surprise when I found out that at that point they added yet another fee – a $4.35 “order processing fee”! You’ve gotta be $#@&ing kidding me! Just slap me in the face and then spit in it, why don’t ya? What’s more, although we are given a number of ticket delivery options, the easiest and most convenient one would be an e-ticket that we can print ourselves. You’d think that this would be free of charge since it actually involves no paper, printing or even manual labor but no, this one will actually run you another $2.50! The best part of this is that they actually have the audacity to write beneath it that this is the method they “recommend”. You don’t say? The most expensive option that puts even more coin in your bulging pockets is the one you would prefer us to use? How thoughtful – thanks for the tip, TM!

So let’s do a roundup here of the extraneous numbers: $1.50 + $9.75 + $4.35 = $15.60, or 52% of my original ticket price. Add the $2.50 e-ticket delivery and that shoots up to 60%! Is it just me, or is there something seriously and horribly wrong with this picture?

It’s Time for The Zolas

by Laura Melvin

Deep in the underbelly of the Vogue Theatre, down a long corridor lined with countless doors, I met up with Vancouver band The Zolas before their December 18th show with Current Swell and Hey Ocean!.  Founding duo Zach and Tom sat with drummer Aaron and bassist Henry in a small dressing room with beer and ibuprofen, cracking jokes about “pill-poppin’” before going on stage to perform tracks from their album, Tic Toc Tic.  Luckily, the band had some time to sit and chat before being rushed on stage by a frantic organizer trying to get the show rolling.

What’s a ‘Zola’?

Zach: It’s the name of a French writer named Emile Zola.  He’s the father of naturalism, which was writing about regular people for the first time.  He sold like hundreds of thousands of copies to rich people… books about hookers and mining towns and regular people.  They were stories about underclass people being devoured by the upper class.

Why ‘Zola’? What’s the significance of this particular author?

Zach: It’s about just being a nerd, really… He also wrote a lot of interesting essays to the young people of France about not being so damn racist and being less apathetic about life in general.

Why is Vancouver making a name for itself now in the Canadian music scene when traditionally it’s been Toronto and Montreal?

Tom: There’s just enough going on… What’s going on now is that there are just a lot of good bands.

Zach:  And they’re good in they’re own way.  The reason we’re doing so well is, ten years ago, people listened to very regimented types of music.  Some people listened to rock; some people listened to pop; some people listened to rap.  That was it.  There was very little bleed [between genres].  And now it’s almost a stupid question to ask ‘What kind of music do you listen to?’ because everyone says they listen to everything… except country.

Aaron:  Part of it, too, is there’s a lot of feel good music coming out of Vancouver and it doesn’t stick to a certain genre.  It just feels good.

The Zolas don’t necessarily think of themselves as a feel-good-Vancouver-band, but, as bassist Henry puts it, “the bands we’re talking about don’t necessarily sound the same, but you can play them all on the same radio station.”  They are part of a growing list of Vancouver bands, including names like Said The Whale, We Are The City and Hey Ocean! that demonstrate a great deal of diversity in their sound.  If The Zolas combined playlists of the latest Grizzly Bear album, jazz musician Avishai Cohen, MGMT, and classical composer Gustav Mahler represents the wide-ranging musical tastes of local bands, it’s no wonder Vancouver has so much to offer.

PREVIEW: Salute to Vienna

Entering its 15th season, the Salute to Vienna (STV) concert series has become a favourite holiday musical tradition throughout North America. The series combines the brilliant talents of The Strauss Symphony of Canada with stellar European maestros, tenors, sopranos and dancers to perform and celebrate the glorious, uplifting music of Vienna’s “Waltz King”, Johann Strauss Jr., and his contemporaries. STV is delightfully reminiscent of Vienna’s famous and beloved Neujahrskonzert, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for over 70 years and televised annually to 1.3 billion people around the globe.  Over the past decade STV has grown into the largest live concert series of its kind in North America, under the leadership of Attila and Marion Glatz, founders and producers of this unique project.

In 1995, STV premiered in Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall.  By 2004 the show was presented in 33 major concert halls over a 5 day period across the continent, including sold-out performances in Montreal (Place des Arts), Vancouver (Orpheum Theatre), Calgary (Jack Singer Concert Hall tat the Epcor Centre), Los Angeles (the Walt Disney Concert Hall), Philadelphia (the Kimmel Center), Washington (the Kennedy Center), New York (the Lincoln Center) and Boston (Symphony Hall). The 2010 concert will mark its 14th season in Vancouver.

Salute to Vienna is the only genuine re-creation of the original Viennese production and is officially recognized by the Mayor of Vienna as an authentic Viennese New Year’s celebration. What Nutcracker means to Christmas, Salute to Vienna means to the New Year!

Salute to Vienna plays on Friday, January 1 at 2:30 pm at Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre

For a complete list of Salute to Vienna concerts and ticket information visit:

www.salutetovienna.com or call 1-800-545-7807.  Group rates available.

Start Dreaming of a White Christmas

by Bob Pember

The Christmas season is up and running at the Stanley with Arts Club’s stage presentation of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical. It’s a lively revival of the Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye 1954 classic, starring Arts Club veterans Jeffrey Victor and Todd Talbot in the crooners’ places. The cast does a great job at bringing the story to an accessible place for those in Vancouver who aren’t scared of some Christmas spirit, and will be running until after Boxing Day for those who want to deck the halls as appropriate.

Todd Talbot, Monique Lund, Sara-Jeanne Hosie, Jeffrey Victor in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical. Photo by David Cooper.

In case you’re not familiar with the original story, the show follows Bob Wallace (Victor) and Phil Davis (Talbot) as they attempt to help out their General from World War II. Wallace and Davis are popular entertainers and they use their craft to give the General’s hotel a boost over the unseasonably warm Christmas they’re having in Vermont. The duo team up with the Haynes sisters (played by Monique Lund and Sara-Jeanne Hosie) to put on a musical exhibit set in the barn behind the hotel with a number of challenges and misunderstandings that just might have a happy ending. It’s a heartwarming story to say the least, with songs from the Tin Pan Alley pillar, Irving Berlin, that have soundtracked Christmas’ for generations now.

Todd Talbot, Monique Lund, and the cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical. Photo by David Cooper.

The cast has a bevy of experience in Vancouver as well as throughout Canada and the US. Lead by Victor, Talbot, Lund and Hosie, the ensemble manages to bring enthusiasm and freshness to this classic from the fifties. Their work is cut out for them with the slightly antiquated content – the “everything works out in the end like you knew it would” ending and arbitrary moments of song are challengingly quaint for modern times. However, this production doesn’t disappoint, and though the “AM radio” style of arrangements and matching comfortable sweaters might not be the most congruent with an audience well-versed in several forms of instant messaging, the youthful cast finds a fuzzy Christmas tale to tell even the most jaded crowd of contemporary cynics.

White Christmas at the Stanley is a great way to get a jump start on holiday frivolity, and it will have the whole family singing along before the curtains are down.

White Christmas plays at Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre until December 27, 2009.

Theft charms at the Metro Theatre

by Jacquie Lanthier

What do you get when a philosophising crook with high blood pressure breaks into the country home of a millionaire? The makings of Theft by Eric Chappell, playing at the Metro Theatre until December 5th.

Dress Cast 1[Photos by Brian Campbell.  (l to r) Gerard Ponsford, Luke Day, Tom Kavadias (sitting), Rosalyn Winther, and Chris McBeath]

John Miles, played by Gerard Ponsford, and Barbara Miles, played by Chris McBeath, are a realistic couple in a love-hate relationship based on riches and superficialities. John has invited his friend from grade school, Trevor Farrington (Luke Day), and his wife, Jenny Farrington (Rosalyn Winther), along for a weekend in the country to celebrate he and Barbara’s 30th wedding anniversary—an invitation which Barbara clearly despises because Trevor and Jenny are “poor”. The private lives of these two couples provide the fodder for the crook, Spriggs (Tom Kavadias), who becomes caught in their living room upon their return and literally steals the show by revealing their secrets in many humorous attempts to win his own freedom.

Dress Cast 2[Tom Kavadias as Spriggs, the burglar]

While the play can be somewhat slow at times, there is enough humour and wit between the characters on stage to make the ticket a worthy way to spend a Friday evening. And hey, who doesn’t like to learn the secrets of strangers?

Theft is playing at the Metro Theatre until December 5.

PREVIEW: Drawing From Life – Brian Boulton’s Streetwise Beauty

The texture of a pair of jeans, the folds of a leather jacket, the draping of a canvas bag – all of these everyday objects, are the subjects of Brian Boulton’s work. Referenced from his own digital photographs, the artist uses graphite to render, in hyper-realist detail, anonymous subjects in the kind of street clothes we see daily. Without names, faces, or even background details, the full-body figures—all male—are caught unaware, usually from behind—about to cross a street, in the midst of a conversation, walking. With no context other than a frame and white backdrop—without the urban environment in which they would blend—Boulton’s pedestrians pop out at the viewer. Our attention becomes focused on the details of strangers. An underlying sensuality emerges in their inhibition. The unknown figures have a subtle but undeniable appeal.

In his latest show, Boulton is exhibiting a new series of portraits, the type that his rapidly growing following has come to expect, but also examples of his work’s new directions. Seven of the pieces are anonymous—the subject facing away, nameless. But three new ones are of one subject in particular, Boulton’s muse, who is turned slightly towards us. A life-size piece, every fold, crease and stitch drawn in real-space, will greet gallery patrons as the Winsor Gallery presents Brian Boulton: Drawings, November 4 – 29, 2009.

The artist began the series 10 years ago as a natural confluence of two interests he has had since he was a teen: photography and drawing.

After studying architectural rendering at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, BC, Boulton moved to Vancouver. Here, he studied Film and Art History at Langara College and immersed himself in the arts scene. He has been employed in the arts and worked in galleries and with other artists for over 30 years.

A significant turning point was assisting his friend and mentor Attila Richard Lukacs. “It was supposed to be for two weeks, and turned into two years,” says Boulton. “To go into a studio with him, it was like throwing on a switch in my brain. I thought, ‘This is how to work. This is a working studio’.”

Lukacs was an early supporter—as early as possible, considering Boulton didn’t begin to draw seriously until he started his series of anonymous street portraiture. “I’d always avoided what I do best,” he says.

Drawing in Vancouver has recently resurged, with the success of this past summer’s Drawn Festival. The three-week event featured the work of dozens of artists displayed in multiple Vancouver-area galleries and museums in the first exhibit of its kind in Canada.

To Boulton, drawing connects with people in a very basic way. “People have a desire to be entertained, and a desire, especially now, to connect with art. Drawing does that automatically.”  However, it is the combination of Boulton’s technical mastery and provocative subject matter, which grabs the viewers’ attention.

“As an emerging talent who creates sophisticated work, Brian Boulton embodies everything we look for in an artist at the Winsor Gallery,” says Jennifer Winsor. “His work is striking in its simplicity, while at the same time beguiles viewers with his drawing skills.”

A long-time people watcher, Boulton sums up his feelings about his work in a simple statement.

“It’s not the infrastructure that makes a city,” says the artist. “It’s the people.”

Brian Bolton: Drawings runs at the Winsor Gallery, 3025 Granville Street, from November 4-29.

Evil Dead Musical Possessed by Spirit of Mediocrity (The Norm Theatre)

By Glen Callender

I went to Evil Dead: The Musical thinking I was all-but-guaranteed to see a great show. By my reckoning, the three classic Evil Dead movies could be adapted into a gory stage musical a hundred different ways, but so long as that essential Evil Dead spirit was preserved, the show couldn’t go wrong.

Evil Dead

But alas, the show went pretty wrong. This production certainly looks like Evil Dead—it’s got the demons, the chain-saw, the gore, and many of the films’ most memorable catch-phrases—but unfortunately, somewhere along the line it became possessed by a malevolent spirit of Mediocrity. At best, an occasional glimmer of Evil Dead’s true soul shines through as it struggles mightily against the will of its captor, but in the end, sadly, Mediocrity wins the day.

All through the opening-night show, I could hear Mediocrity’s phantom whisper, urging the writers and director to forsake the clever for the dumb and obvious, the straight gag for the wide-eyed mug. When the hapless Cheryl makes an aside about how she is walking off alone into the deep dark woods, it’s supposed to be funny because she’s so self-aware about what she’s doing. The problem is, that joke has already been done so many times that it would actually be funnier—not to mention more faithful to the original—to just walk off alone into the deep dark woods without reflection, just like they do in the movies.

And that’s the critical error that hamstrings this show. The Evil Dead movies succeeded by taking the clichés of the horror-movie genre and straight-facedly amping them up to extremes; this musical version disappoints by making its characters constantly pull faces at the audience, apparently fully aware that they are disposable cardboard characters in a supernatural horror-comedy stage musical.

And disposable cardboard characters they are, unnecessarily hammed up from their film counterparts because today’s audiences apparently hunger to see the same damned thing over and over. Two characters in particular—a dumb chauvinist jock and his slutty bimbo girlfriend—have been done a million times before, and parodied a million times more. This production merely re-hashes the standard parody, doing nothing to transcend the clichés and make these stock characters funny again—instead, we’re supposed to laugh merely because the dumb jock is really chauvinist and the bimbo is really slutty. Yawn.

However, this show is not without its charms, most of which emanate from Scott Walters’ Ash. Ash is the hero of this story, and he pulls double-duty here, because on top of saving humanity from evil forces beyond our imaginations, he also saves this show from itself. Walters has the stature, charisma and pure physical energy to pull off Ash’s manic machismo-slash-terror, and his dexterity and sharp timing make the show’s set-piece slapstick scenes—such as Ash’s mortal battles with his own demon-possessed hand—laugh-out-loud funny.

Thanks to Walters, Mat Baker’s sadly under-utilized Jake, an impressive set and some fun, gory violence, this production is worth at least half its $32-$35 ticket price. Since one can buy all three Evil Dead DVDs for about the same price as this show, my advice is to make sure you own (and love) the movies that inspired Evil Dead: The Musical before you consider forking out for this merely semi-satisfying show.

At the Norman Rothstein Theatre (950 West 41st Avenue at Oak) until November 7. Info and tickets at http://www.dsrproductions.com/

Look who’s evil now! Evil Dead: The Musical, rocks!

by Laura Melvin

It’s Evil Dead, the cult-classic Sam Raimi 80s demon-zombie movie… but with singing! Evil Dead: The Musical is a bloody hilarious theatre adaptation of the famous flick brought to us by the lovely people at Ground Zero Theatre, Hit & Myth Productions, and Keystone.

The run down: five college students take a vacation in an abandoned cabin in the woods where they discover a mysterious book in the cellar that just happens to unleash angry spirits that turn people into zombies. The cabin belongs to the professor who found the book in an old castle in Europe with his daughter. The professor is missing and the daughter comes to see him only to find a weird guy with a chainsaw in her father’s cabin. You know, standard horror movie stuff. What’s great about Evil Dead: The Musical are the pointed references to typical horror movie stereotypes. There’s the vulgar party guy, the big-breasted blonde, the book nerd, the strange local, and the random guy who rarely speaks. The hero, of course, is protected by the perfect love he shares with his girlfriend that prevents him from becoming a zombie. And it wouldn’t be a horror movie without that convenient character who just so happens to have the knowledge to banish the zombies for good just in the knick of time. Hurray!

EVIL DEAD THE MUSICAL VANCOUVER 1

The entire cast does a stand up job in this production: Tyler Rive (hero “Ash”), Jamie Tognazzini (book nerd little sister “Cheryl”), Lynley Hall (hero’s girlfriend “Linda), Kevin Corey (party guy “Scotty”), Cailin Stadnyk (big-breasted “Shelly” and professor’s daughter “Annie”), Guilly Urra (silent guy “Ed”) and Bruce Horak (strange local “Jake”) all manage to sing, dance, and act while smothered in fake blood. Evil Dead: The Musical does a great job of making fun of itself and all the horror-movie stereotypes we know and love. This play is so entertaining it may even reach the cult-status of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, beware! If you sit in the first few rows you WILL be covered in blood spatter!

Evil Dead: The Musical is playing at the Vogue Theatre until November 14.

Mom’s the Word: Remixed is full of laughs

by Laura Melvin

Moms will completely relate to the “Moms” in Arts Club Theatre Company’s Mom’s the Word: Remixed. For the rest of you who aren’t Moms but have one, Susan Bertoia, Jill Daum, Alison Kelly, Barbara Pollard, and Deborah Williams will have you laughing until you cry.

Third in the Mom’s the Word collection, Mom’s the Word: Remixed is an amalgamation of the first two plays, Mom’s the Word and Mom’s the Word 2: Unhinged. When the play was first conceived by the original six Moms, their children were all under six.  But, as their darling sons and daughters entered their teen years, the women found they had a whole new batch of material to entertain audiences with, and Mom’s the Word 2: Unhinged was born.  Mom’s the Word: Remixed takes the best of both plays and divides them into two acts, covering the life-stages from newborn to teenager.

The first act discusses those precious childhood years, complete with the lack of sleep and lack of sex the early years are known to bring. If you have young children of your own, you’ll empathize with the performers’ tales of child rearing.  Even if you don’t, you’ll still recognize the screaming, crying, chasing, bartering and bribing mommy-behaviours you see in grocery stores, malls and parks, everywhere.  You’ll even recognize those behaviours from stories your own mother tells you, like that time you stripped down naked, streaking through The Bay as your mother chased you… Oh come on, everyone has a story like that!  After seeing this play, you may just be a little more sympathetic to women trying to deal with a wailing child in a public place.

The second act illustrates the tumultuous teen years, complete with the sarcastic attitudes and typical-teen behaviour.  It’s an eye-opener to see teenage exploits from the point of view of a mother.  We all have tales from our teen years about staying out all night, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and doing things we would never do now.  We look back at those memories with fondness, evidence of a time when we felt invincible.  But, for many mothers, and parents in general, those memories are filled with tension, worry, and the image of you lying in a ditch somewhere.

Mom’s the Word: Remixed balances its humour with darker stories of hospital visits and police incidents, as well as other issues such as breast cancer and extramarital affairs.  If anything, the play dispels any notion that being a mom is easy, but emphasizes that it is a job worth doing.  After watching Mom’s the Word: Remixed, you’ll definitely feel like giving your mom an enormous “Thank You” cake… or an “Apology” cake, depending on how much of a little brat you were.

Mom’s the Word: Remixed is playing at the Arts Club Theatre until November 7, 2009.

Fun in the dark with Black Comedy

By Bob Pember

The Vancouver Arts Club is kicking off its forty-sixth season with the Peter Shaffer play Black Comedy. Set in the mid-sixties, the play follows a struggling artist as he tries to keep things together in his London apartment, despite being hopelessly clothed in lies and having to cover his tracks in the dark lest he lose the attention of a potential patron and the approval of his fiancée’s father. Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal, set in 1892 and with a similar, farcical approach to marriage, is serving as the curtain warmer to precede Black Comedy. The two shows play well off each other and work together to maintain levity and laughter in the theatre, setting the Arts Club’s season off to a great start.

The Marriage Proposal is a brief story about one farm owner wishing to propose to his neighbour’s daughter, if he could only stop arguing over the property line. A sample of the cast from Black Comedy gets to warm up with this physical and endearing one-act comedy that serves as a preview of the talent in store for the evening. The lead character Ivan (played by Jeff Meadows who later appears as Harold Gorringe in Black Comedy) gets the audience to a laughing start with an expert portrayal of the over-anxious and physically awkward suitor whose frightened attempts to propose to Natalia (played by Sasa Brown, the female lead Clea in Black Comedy) get put aside for an argument over who has the rights to a certain small piece of land. Though quaint and lower brow, The Marriage Proposal is well-acted and a fitting start to the evening.

Black Comedy is led by Charlie Gallant who plays the well-intentioned but sadly dim-witted Brindsley Miller. What makes the play an incredibly unique effort is its use of lighting in the development of the plot. The title acts as a pun, alluding to the unlit set as the characters navigate through the play entirely in the dark. This is where the play becomes cunningly physical and tightly married to the lighting technician; whenever the characters are set in the dark, the audience can see them in plain light. But, whenever a match is lit or a flashlight is found, the house lights are turned off and the audience is subjected to the dark. The play opens with a five minute scene consisting of the lead characters arranging the set without any light in the theatre until “a fuse is blown” and the lights come on in the theatre. Even though the stage is lit, the actors begin stumbling around as if in total darkness in an acting challenge that’s well-met by the veteran Vancouver players.

Any physical comedy runs the risk of being campy and running into “Benny Hill” slapstick territory, but the strength of the acting carries the play and it works seamlessly. The expert lighting creates a rare effect, expanding the capacity of live theatre—a welcome change from another night at the playhouse. Black Comedy brings refreshment for those in the theatre who love to be kept on their toes.

Black Comedy is playing at Arts Club’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until October 11.