SFU Woodward's holiday tradition “Bah! Humbug!” celebrates six years
By Ian Bryce
When SFU Woodward’s first opened its doors six years ago, “Bah! Humbug!” was the first production to take the stage at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. Now an established holiday tradition and an SFU Woodward’s flagship program, “Bah! Humbug!” returns with 10 performances from Dec. 10 to 19.
Not just another reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “Bah! Humbug!” sets the Victorian holiday classic in Vancouver in the 21st century: a sushi-loving Scrooge owns a pawn shop on Hastings Street and checks his iPhone to time Bob Cratchet’s late arrival to work.
Juno-award winning singer and actor Jim Byrnes, who currently stars in the television series “The Romeo Section,” returns to the stage as Ebenezer Scrooge. Margo Kane, winner of the 2015 City of Vancouver Award for Theatre, reprises her role as the narrator.
Since its inception, SFU Woodwards has partnered with the Downtown Eastside-based Vancouver Moving Theatre to produce this seasonal production that feature Downtown Eastside actors and singers. This year, the Bah! Humbug! team welcomes new partner Full Circle: First Nations Performance.
The cast of Bah! Humbug! includes some of the city’s finest First Nation actors, and spirits of this classic tale are re-imagined as emerging from Coast Salish territory buried under the side-walks of today.
“We’ve moved the show substantially from its origins with Charles Dickens, changing the theme from extolling charity to instead promoting social justice,” says Michael Boucher, director, SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs.
Each year, the script is adapted to reflect modern, and specifically Downtown Eastside, issues.
“This year, we’re creating a backstory for Bob Cratchit as a former addict,” says Boucher. “This character was previously very one-dimensional so we’re creating this aspect where Cratchit is in a journey of recovery—it’s all done with a redemptive light.”
While some of the content deals with serious issues, “Bah! Humbug!” is a creative, boisterous family event.
“We’ve embraced a modern songbook,” says Boucher. The show has more than 40 musical numbers ranging from traditional Christmas carols to First Nations songs and arrangements of modern rock, pop, and soul songs, including some by Buffy-Sainte Marie and Nine Inch Nails.
The song list comes to life with the talented accompaniment of the Saint James Music Academy Choir. During each performance, audiences may join a sing-along carol session with the cast.
The Vancouver-themed set comes to life with colourful pieces by Strathcona-based artist Richard Tetrault’s large-scale mono-print and linocut projections of East Vancouver’s back alleys and houses.
Commissioned and co-produced by SFU Woodward’s Cultural Programs with Vancouver Moving Theatre, “Bah! Humbug!” supports the Downtown Eastside’s Heart of the City Festival, which partners each year with 40-plus Downtown Eastside arts and non-arts organizations. All proceeds from the show support the festival.
“Bah! Humbug!” runs from Dec, 10-12 and Dec, 15-19, at 7:30 p.m., with 2:00 p.m. matinees on Saturday, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19, at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, 149 West Hastings St. Tickets are $29 (general) and $15 (students/seniors) and can be purchased online at www.sfuwoodwards.ca, by phone, or in person at the Box Office. There will be a preview on Wednesday, Dec. 9.