Theatre scene alive and well in Victoria

Expanded offerings by one company indirectly helps others

Zachary Stevenson and Elena Juatco star in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. The show will be staged in Victoria in November.

Zachary Stevenson and Elena Juatco star in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. The show will be staged in Victoria in November.

Just three years ago, there was nowhere to see professional classical theatre in Victoria.

That’s when Brian Richmond, a longtime theatre producer and director, founded Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre. The company started by mounting three classics in the summer of 2008. In the seasons that followed, it added an annual Christmas reading, then a fourth summer show, and now, for its 2011-2012 season, there’s an ambitious fall show planned.

“We’re going to try to fill the Royal Theatre,” Richmond said. “It will be a test for us, and for theatre in Victoria, to see what we can support.”

The largest theatre in Victoria, the Royal is twice the size of Blue Bridge’s regular 700-seat venue, the McPherson Playhouse. And it’s where Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story will run for three shows in two days, Nov. 15 and 16.

It’ll be presented by Blue Bridge, but produced by Vancouver’s Art Club Theatre through a new partnership between the two companies. “We’ll see how it goes and if we can continue bringing big shows here,” Richmond said.

If Blue Bridge’s last season – it wrapped up this month with a two-week run of Paul Ledoux and David Young’s Fire – is any indication, audiences are keen to see its productions.

Ticket sales jumped 35 per cent over the previous year, with 12,000 seats sold.

“I think there’s a real hunger for classic theatre in Victoria that hasn’t been filled for a long time,” Richmond said.

The last company to focus on the classics was the New Bastion theatre, which folded in 1993. Keith Digby was artistic director of Bastion Theatre for six years and has been with Langham Court Theatre for nearly a decade. A keen theatre observer, he’s impressed by Blue Bridge’s early success.

“To start a new theatre company, especially a professional company, these days is an act of faith and courage,” he said. “Victoria is not a huge market to work in, but there’s a lot of support for theatre here.”

He’s not worried about another company cutting into Langham Court’s audience base.

“Theatre breeds theatre, we build off each other’s success,” Digby said, noting that Langham Court, going into its 83rd season, already runs at 80 per cent capacity in its 170-seat theatre with six shows per year.

The situation is much the same at the Belfry Theatre, where publicist Mark Dusseault has had to squelch rumors that the 300-seat theatre is always sold out.

“People think they can never get a seat here, which isn’t true,” he said. “It gets quite full, but there’s usually still seats available.”

As for the number of shows the company offers: four mainstage shows, one or two summer shows and the SPARK festival – it’s always either in rehearsals or running a show. “To do any more, we’d need more months in the year.”

Blue Bridge is hoping to get to that point, eventually.

“People are still just getting to know us,” Richmond said. “We’re building up slowly and seeing where we can go.”

news@goldstreamgazette.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ronald Schinners, owner of The Cabbie in the #YYJ, opened his taxi service in the West Shore last month. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
‘One man show,’ The Cabbie in the #YYJ cultivates 45,000 followers on Instagram

New taxi company brings unusual spunk to the West Shore

West Shore RCMP say police presence in Esquimalt Lagoon Saturday was not related to the shooting death of a 37-year-old man in Metchosin Friday night. (Black Press Media File)
West Shore RCMP says presence in Esquimalt Lagoon Saturday was not related to death in Metchosin

Police continue to investigate what they describe as ‘targeted incident’ in death of a 37-year-old man

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past warned of Öffnungsdiskusionorgien (translated as an orgy of discussions about openings), one of one of the 1,200 words added to the German lexicon as reported by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
German lexicon grows by 1,200 words, many inspired by COVID-19 pandemic

Öffnungsdiskusionorgie (orgy of discussions about openings) among new entries

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read