In the Press

Screwball Comedy

Screwball Comedy brings fast-talking fun to the New West stage [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

February 27, 2020
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Screwball Comedy brings fast-talking fun to the New West stage

If you love classic Hollywood comedies starring the likes of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, then this one’s most definitely for you.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company is returning to the Anvil Centre stage with Norm Foster’s Screwball Comedy, onstage March 6 and 7 at the Anvil Centre. The Canadian playwright pays homage to the screwball comedies that were popular in Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s, playing on the fast-talking, wise-cracking hilarity of those classic films.

In Screwball Comedy, the year is 1938, and the hard-working Mary Hayes, who’s trying to find a new career, sets her sights on the male-dominated world of newspaper journalism. The editor-in-chief pits her against his self-absorbed ace reporter, Jeff Kincaid, in a high-stakes contest. If Jeff writes the better story, he gets to keep his job; if Mary wins, she will replace Jeff.

The story in question? A society wedding – with a mystery.

It’s all packed with snappy banter and goofy characters – who, in the production, are played by just four actors. New Westminster’s Ian Harmon is onstage as Jeff, with Keara Barnes as Mary. They’re onstage alongside Michael Charrois and Toni Reimer. New Westminster’s Stephanie Bruce is the stage manager.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s production will be the Western Canadian premiere of the play, and the Anvil Centre dates mark the first shows in the company’s six-city Lower Mainland tour.

It’s onstage Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, with shows at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. both days. The Friday matinee will be a special relaxed performance, adapted for those with sensory issues or other challenges that can make typical theatre productions an overwhelming experience.

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Snow White – Enjoy the hilarity at this holiday panto [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

November 27, 2019
[ click to read at their site]

Enjoy the hilarity at this holiday panto in New West

New Westminster audiences can once again enjoy the fun of a holiday pantomime.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company is returning to the Massey Theatre with Snow White. The company is led by Ellie King, known as the “Queen of Panto,” a well-known force in New Westminster for her time leading the Burr Theatre. Snow White, featuring an original script, lyrics and music, tells the story of young Snow White, living with her family in the kingdom of Happitania – which, unfortunately, is going bankrupt. Snow White must marry Prince Roland of Romanzia to save her kingdom.

The princess wishes she had the freedom to choose, while her stepsister, Rose Red, wants to marry the prince for his fortune and conspires with her fellow villains – Nabbem, Grabbem and Queen Belladonna – to get rid of Snow White for good.

As always, the audience gets to cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys, while laughing along to the cheesy puns, jokes, music and magic of a traditional British pantomime.

This year, the theatre company is offering a special relaxed performance on Friday, Jan. 3. The 7:30 p.m. show will be adapted so that people with intellectual and other disabilities, or anyone else who can benefit from a relaxed sensory experience, can feel comfortable in the theatre.

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Spider's Web

Spider’s Web Enjoy an Agatha Christie classic [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

October 2, 2019
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Enjoy an Agatha Christie classic onstage in New West

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company Company is bringing Spider's Web to the stage

An Agatha Christie favourite is coming to the stage in New Westminster.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company is bringing Spider’s Web to the stage Oct. 18 to 20 at the Anvil Centre.

The play tells the story of a lively young woman whose imagination can sometimes get the better of her – and who finds a real dead body. Who is he? Where did he come from?

“Secret panels, a mysterious caller, a priceless object – all ingredients in this fun and entertaining family-friendly show,” says a write-up about the play.

The production will feature a special relaxed performance on Sunday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 p.m., for anyone who can benefit from sensory adjustments (young people, patrons with disabilities or additional support needs, or those on the autism spectrum).

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Family-friendly theatre coming to New West this fall [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

July 23, 2019
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Check out the family-friendly theatre that's coming to New West this fall

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company Company Season 2019-20

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company is coming back to the stage in New West for another season of family-friendly entertainment.

The company has announced its 2019/20 season, and season ticket sales have opened for the three New Westminster performances.

The season launches with Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web, onstage Oct. 18 to 20 at the Anvil Centre Theatre. The company continues its holiday pantomime tradition with Ellie King’s Snow White, onstage Jan. 3 and 4, 2020 at the Massey Theatre. It closes out the season with a return to the Anvil Centre with Norm Foster’s Screwball Comedy in its Western Canadian premiere, March 6 and 7.

All productions will include relaxed performances – open to all but specially designed for audience members with disabilities, with additional support needs or those on the autism spectrum.

Buying a series ticket will get you savings on all three productions, or you can also buy family four-packs and group tickets at a discount. Tickets for relaxed performances are two-for-one.

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British comedy ‘A Bedfull of Foreigners’ returns [SNL]

By Tom Zillich

Mar. 1, 2019
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British comedy ‘A Bedfull of Foreigners’ returns to Surrey stage

Royal Canadian Theatre Company brings adult laughs to theatre at Bear Creek Park

Surrey-based Royal Canadian Theatre Company has remounted the comedy A Bedfull of Foreigners, a tale of two couples on holiday in France who are accidentally assigned to the same hotel room. The British farce, billed as “Fawlty Towers meets Benny Hill,” … …involves “a succession of enough disasters and misunderstandings, twists and turns to create the perfect comedy of chaos,” says Ellie King, who directs the play. King, originally from England, says she holds A Bedfull of Foreigners close to her heart, as she loves exploring how relationships are affected through crazy and zany situations. Royal Canadian last brought the play to the stage in 2011, for a month-long summer run at Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock, plus some dates at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Arts Centre. Some “slightly suggestive situations” are involved in Dave Freeman’s script, first performed in 1973 in London’s West End; in 1998, a film version starred John C. Broderick, who also directed. “The setting for the play is the dingy Hotel Heinz on the border between France and Germany where the inept staff create pandemonium when they book two couples into the same guest room,”explains a post on the theatre company’s website, rctheatreco.com. “Mistresses, mistaken identities, misunderstandings and unexpected wives along with food poisoning outbreaks, monks and nun and a Bulgarian lady cyclist all add to the mayhem during the ‘Festival of St. Wolfgang.’” The seven-actor cast features Gary Peterman (as Karak), Nikolas Perry (Heinz), Steve Weller (Stanley), Sally Anderson (Brenda), Cindy Hirschberg-Schon (Helga), Dan Weber (Claude) and Crystal Weltzin (Simone). “Gary Peterman is reprising the role (Karak) he played in 2011 when we brought the same show to White Rock,” Ellie King told the Now-Leader. “Crystal Weltzin (who lives in Cloverdale) plays Simone and (she) was backstage for that one. Nick Perry was one of the Burr Babes when I ran the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Centre back in 2000-2005, and I hadn’t seen him for about 15 years until he came out to read for this. “Dan Weber (Maple Ridge) was also a Burr Babe and played the same role (Claude) at the Burr in about 2003 or so,” King continued. “Cindy (Richmond) I saw in a play in another theatre and asked her to read for Helga because I felt she’d be right for the role, and she’s perfect so that was a bit of serendipity.” Backstage, the production team includes director and set designer King, her husband Geoff King as technical director and sound/set designer, stage manager Stephanie Bruce, assistant director Jacqueline Charrois, costume designer Mikayla Wuss, lighting designer Nigel Brooke, show marketer Crystal Weltzin, photographer Stacey Sherback, program designer Leah McCullough and front-of-house manager Jean ‘Mac’ Blackburn. “The music of the French marching band that we hear in Act 1 is taken from an E.P. of an actual French military band that Geoff and I watched, in France, in 1969 or so,” King added. “We couldn’t believe their performance, so we bought the recording. We’ll leave the audience to decide what they think or it!”

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A Bedfull of Foreigners [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

February 25, 2019
[ click to read at their site]

Catch this classic British farce onstage in New Westminster

A Bedfull of Foreigners

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company is wrapping up its season with a classic British farce.

The setting for the play is the dingy Hotel Heinz on the border between France and Germany, where the inept staff create pandemonium after they book two couples into the same room. “Mistresses, mistaken identities, misunderstandings and unexpected wives, along with food poisoning outbreaks, monks, nuns and a Bulgarian lady cyclist all add to the mayhem during the Festival of St. Wolfgang,” a press release says.

The release notes that Ellie King, the theatre company’s artistic director, holds the show close to her heart as a classic British farce, and she loves exploring how relationships are affected through crazy and zany situations.

The cast includes Gary Peterman, Nikolas Perry, Steve Weller, Sally Anderson, Cindy Hirschberg-Schon, Dan Weber and Crystal Weltzin. It’s directed by King. Two New Westminster residents have key production roles: stage manager Stephanie Bruce, and lighting designer Nigel Brooke.

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Hansel Gretel and the Strolling Players [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

December 13, 2018
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British pantomime fun returns to New Westminster

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company presents Hansel, Gretel and the Strolling Players

Families and folks of all ages are invited to turn out for merriment and mayhem when Royal Canadian Theatre Company brings its traditional British pantomime back to New Westminster. Hansel, Gretel and the Strolling Players is onstage Friday, Jan. 4 and Saturday, Jan. 5 at the Massey Theatre.

Ellie King, a.k.a. the “Queen of Panto,” brings a newly written script to life featuring all the action expected of a holiday pantomime. The story follows Hansel and Gretel, who live with their father in the town of Understrudel, where the apple crop has failed for the past five years.

When the silly and entertaining Strolling Players come to town, they play their part in foiling the dastardly plans of Mistress Grimm. While Honey Crisp and Billy fall in love, and Dame Lotta Wobbledart teaches her new students, Hansel and Gretel are led into the woods, unknowingly headed towards a dastardly fate. Can the Good Fairy, Queen Bluebird, win the day and save the children? Or will King Raven and Witch Grimm turn the children into servants forever?

As with all panto performances, the audience can cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys, plus enjoy all the cheesy puns and jokes, music and magic that they’ve come to expect. This year marks the debut of a brand-new “dame” – the tradition of a man dressed up as a female character, this time played by James King.

A New Westminster family is front and centre in this year’s cast, as Stephen Elcheshen plays King Raven, with Kerri Norris as Livia Grimm and their children Aeron as Hansel and Cayleigh as Gretel. Also part of the fun are Rebecca Trotzuk as Queen Blue Bird, Michael Widman as Englebert Strudelmeister, Charles Buettner as McIntosh, Shaun McHale as Charlie Wobbledart, Kris Williamson Dewar as Granny Smith, Rachel Craig as Honey Crisp and Crystal Weltzin as Tiffany Grimm.

King is the director, with Stephanie Bruce as stage manager.

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Dark comedy offers challenge to returning Langley actor [LAT]

By Roxanne Hooper

October 24, 2018
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Dark comedy offers challenge to returning Langley actor

A local actor steps back on stage in Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s showing of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Theatre was been a part of Shaun McHale’s world for much of his life, and he thanks his late grandma for making that so.

As a boy growing up in White Rock, his grandmother would volunteer at the local playhouse at least twice a month, and he’d be invited to tag along.

He’d always sneak in to watch the play of the day. Needless to say the action on and off stage resonated with young Shaun, and by age 13 he was cast in his first lead role as Horton in Suessical: The Musical.

“I found it was a really good way to express my creativity and curb my excess energy,” said Shaun, now 28.

Following that first production, he immersed himself in pantomimes and musicals for years, with both the Surrey Youth Theatre and White Rock Players. He even went to acting school in Vancouver a few years back.

But following the passing of his grandmother, Terry McHale, about three years ago he opted to step back from theatre for a while – instead focusing on his paying gig as a full-time landscaper.

It’s his girlfriend, Amy Goheen, he said who can be credited for pulling him back into the theatrical world – and specifically into the world of the Royal Canadian Theatre Company.

It was a chance to share more time with Goheen, who is assistant stage manager on the current production. But it was also Joseph Kesselring’s script and the “ridiculous characters” that ultimately compelled Shaun to audition for the RCTC’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

It’s nice to be back in theatre again, Shaun said, admitting he missed it more than he realized.

Shaun has taken on the minor role as Officer Pat Brophy, an Irish cop in Brooklyn in the 1940s. He’s only on stage at the beginning and end of the show.

“It’s a bit of something new for me,” said the young man who lives on the Langley-Surrey border and is aspiring to become a mental health and addictions counselor.

Describing his character, Shaun said Officer Brophy is not the “sharpest tool in the shed.” But in looking for personality parallels, he said they both share a good sense of humour and “we both enjoy having a good time with loved ones and friends.”

It’s the differences between them, he said, that are motivating him to test himself and grow as an actor.

He’s never done a dark comedy before, and finds the new role challenging. But at the same time, he said, it’s incredibly rewarding, especially under the direction of fellow Langleyite Ellie King.

Shaun said he’s looking forward to it, his uncle, step-father, and brother are expected to be in the audience.

“The show will split your sides and rupture your spleen. It’s a dark comedy you don’t want to miss,” he said, attempting to convince other theatre goers to attend this weekend’s showings.

“You’ll be totally entertained. I think you’ll enjoy every minute of it,” Shaun concluded.

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Playing foes in Arsenic and Old Lace [SNL]

By Tom Zillich

October 22, 2018
[ click to read at their site]

Battling Brewsters: In Surrey, married pair enjoy the thrill of playing foes in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

Michael and Jacqueline Charrois hit the stage together in Royal Canadian’s dark comedy

You’d never guess it by their work as adversaries in Arsenic and Old Lace, Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s entertaining current production, but Michael and Jacqueline Charrois really do like to play together.

The 80-year-old black comedy features the married pair in starring roles – Michael as Jonathan Brewster, the evil nephew opposite Jacqueline’s aunt Martha Brewster, one of the twisted sisters in Joseph Kesselring’s story of murder, insanity and family infighting at a Brooklyn mansion.

The play, RCTC’s season-opener, was staged at New Westminster’s Anvil Centre late last week, and is brought to Surrey Arts Centre for a trio of shows this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26-27).

As a married couple, Michael and Jacqueline relish the opportunity to hit the stage together.

“Michael and I, we always have fun playing together on stage – it’s just easy, you know,” Jacqueline said in a conference-call interview with the two on Friday, the morning after Arsenic and Old Lace previewed in New West.

“When you’re on stage, there’s a definite familiarity, even though you’re playing different characters every time out. There are times when I go, ‘Oh, you’re doing that little trick!’ And that’s the familiarity we have.”

Michael and Jacqueline met at the Burr Theatre in New Westminster in 2003 while working on a production of Harvey, and have gone on to act together in close to a dozen plays.

Michael is a full-time actor, while Jacqueline recently retired from her job in the commercial real estate business – “not as a seller but as an administrator,” she noted. They live in North Vancouver, and commute regularly to Royal Canadian’s rehearsal studio in the heart of Whalley.

“We’ve done that for the last two or three years, quite a bit,” explained Jacqueline, noting a long history with Ellie King, the theatre company’s artistic director.

“Michael was already involved in her (shows) at the Burr Theatre when I came aboard, and right away, (King) was so nice – a wonderful, welcoming, warm person and highly creative, so it’s just a thrill to work with her so often.”

In conversation, Michael and Jacqueline finish each other’s sentences. In one sequence, Michael started. “Jacqueline, Steve Weller and myself, two seasons ago, played the cousins in It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, and Ellie liked the… “…chemistry between the three of us,” Jacqueline said without missing a beat. Michael continued. “And when it came to this play she said, ‘Oh, you guys would be great as these three characters in (Arsenic and Old Lace). She always wanted to do that play…” “…which was great,” Jacqueline quickly added. “I saw the original movie, with Cary Grant, when I was a little kid – I’m over 60 now, but I saw that film and I’ve always just loved it, always. So this is a role I’ve always wanted to do, so I was very excited when Ellie mentioned it.”

In Royal Canadian’s version, Weller wears dresses and a wig to play Abby Brewster, Martha’s sister. Together, they work to poison visitors who happen upon their home, much to the horror of their nephew Mortimer (played by Steven Simpson), a theatre critic. When his long-lost brother Jonathan shows up with an uneasy plastic surgeon (Kurtis Maguire), things get even darker in a house with a jet-black secret.

Last Thursday’s show included a hiccup with an old phone that just wouldn’t ring properly – but no problem, just on with the show. “When we were backstage and waiting to go on for the second act, and Ellie commented (to the audience) about it being a preview and how the phone didn’t ring properly, that was lovely because it brings the audience in, and the audience knows, right,” Jacqueline said. “It’s just that acknowledgement, and gives them a good laugh. It’s some insight about the show, and it’s real. That’s the thing today, because a lot of people who go to theatre don’t realize that we only get one shot at this, we don’t get to stop and say, ‘OK, let’s take that again,’ like they do on TV and in the movies. So it’s all what’s happening now, at that moment, and if something goes wrong, well OK, you have to deal with it.” Added Michael, with a laugh: “And that’s why we study improvisation, so we can fly by the seat of our pants.”

Other actors featured in RCTC’s Arsenic and Old Lace include Charles Buettner (as Harper/Rooney), Victor Vander Merwe (Teddy), Shaun McHale (Brophy), Kyle Brogan (Klein), Amanda Prasow (Elaine), Jess Redmond (O’Hara) and Rob Larsen (Gibbs/Witherspoon).

The show comes with an audience advisory of some slightly scary situations, and is suitable for older children.

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Arsenic and Old Lace [NWR]

By Staff Reporter

October 3, 2018
[ click to read at their site]

Classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace coming to Anvil Centre

A classic black comedy is coming to the stage at Anvil Centre this month.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company is staging Arsenic and Old Lace in New Westminster from Oct. 18 to 20, followed by shows at the Surrey Arts Centre Oct. 26 and 27.

The play – best known from the 1944 Frank Capra film, starring Cary Grant – tells the story of Mortimer Brewster, a happy man who heads home to announce his engagement to his family. But there’s a catch: his family is, well, crazy. And in his attempt to keep his fiancée safe from his homicidal aunts, an uncle who believes he’s Teddy Roosevelt and another who doesn’t look quite like he used to, Mortimer starts to lose his own sanity.

The Royal Canadian Theatre Company production features a return of the trio of Steve Weller, Michael Charrois and Jacqueline Becher, who were a hit in the theatre company’s 2016 production of It Was a Dark and Stormy Night.

It also includes the talents of two New Westminster actors: Kurtis Maguire, who plays Dr. Einstein, and Rob Larsen, who plays Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Witherspoon. Steven Simpson is Mortimer, and Amanda Prasow is his fiancée, Elaine.

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