The Ticket: Theatre Under the Stars

Catch Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story live this summer in Stanley Park

July 11, 2016

By Dominika Lirette / Photo: Tim Matheson

Theatre Under the Stars is bringing back the magic this summer with two romantic musicals: Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story. “We sort of named it ‘The Summer of Love,’” says Shel Piercy, longtime Theatre Under the Stars director.

And what better place for outdoor theatre than Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl? “There is a magic quality to TUTS that is quite unlike any other theatre in the world—for a bunch of reasons. Not the least of which is it’s set in one of the world’s favourite places,” says Piercy, who’s also directing this year’s Beauty and the Beast. “There’s this special sort of smell in the air, you know that fresh woods quality that is in Stanley Park, it’s just really, really great.”

A panorama of Malkin Bowl
The Malkin Bowl seats approximately 1,200 people, which doesn’t include audience members who sit on the hill.

Beauty and the Beast opens the summer season on July 12 and will alternate showings with West Side Story until August 20. Piercy is thrilled to be directing Beauty and the Beast since it took years to get the rights for the show. “It was hard—it’s a show that Disney cares about a great deal. It’s the first of their movies that they transformed into musicals, and arguably, it’s one of the best that they ever did.” Even though the tale is as old as time (sorry, we couldn’t resist!), it still resonates with audiences today. “I think the love between Beauty and the Beast is something that everybody can relate to, because there aren’t any of us that haven’t at some point in our lives stood in front of somebody hoping desperately that they can see past our exterior to what we have inside,” says Piercy.

Peter Monaghan as Beast and Jaime Piercy as Belle
Peter Monaghan as Beast and Jaime Piercy as Belle in Beauty and the Beast

Each performance will be accompanied by a live orchestra under the direction of TUTS veteran Wendy Bross Stuart, with lavish costuming by Chris Sinosich, set-design by Brian Ball, and lighting design by Gerald King. “Lighting design is a big part of Theatre Under the Stars, because we start out when it’s still light outside. So, in order to make lighting effective it’s quite an art form,” says Piercy. Involved with TUTS since he was a kid, Piercy first started out as a stagehand in 1970. Since then he has directed many musicals including, Oklahoma, Annie Get Your Gun, Singing in the Rain, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat. “My whole career has been in the entertainment industry and I feel like my involvement with Theatre Under the Stars really was the first step on that career.”

TUTS is semi-professional theatre, with a mixture of paid and unpaid actors, front of house volunteers, and paid stage management. According to the local director, more than 350 actors auditioned for this year’s productions. “We have really great depth of talent in this city,” says Piercy. Adding that the productions provide the actors, many of which are local theatre graduates, an opportunity to showcase their talent to large audiences; it’s estimated that 40,000 people will come out for TUTS over the next two months. The Malkin Bowl seats approximately 1,200 people, which doesn’t include audience members who sit on the hill to watch the shows.

Whether you’re on a date, or looking for some family fun, TUTS welcomes everyone. Theatre-goers can make a night of it by grabbing a bite before the show from on-site food vendors and a drink from the bar. “There are still those die-hard TUTS fans that come with a blanket. They sit on the hillside. Sometimes they bring their kids or their grandkids” says Piercy. “Half the time kids come with pyjamas and sleeping bags and they just curl up, and watch a show, and fall asleep under the stars. It’s kind of magical.”

When: July 12-August 19 | Where: Malkin Bowl | Price: $30-$45

Jennifer Gillis as Maria and Matt Montgomery as Tony in West Side Story
Jennifer Gillis as Maria and Matt Montgomery as Tony in West Side Story

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