Cabaret salutes B.C. showbiz history

David C. Jones hosts Speeding & Rolling. (Dan Toulgoet photo)

Local funnyman David C. Jones admits he wasn’t quite sure what was expected of him when first approached to work the city’s considerable cinematic history into an evening of live cabaret as part of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

“When they called and asked if I could produce something, I said sure, but then they said it would be a cabaret about the history of film and TV in B.C.,” said Jones over the phone from a coffee shop. “I said, ‘What exactly does that look like to you? Is it singing cameramen or what?'”

Instead, he decided to gather an eclectic lineup of major players from the local film biz to sit around and swap unrehearsed war stories while tossing in plenty of improv comedy, live music and video montages for a two-night show heavy on audience participation called Speeding & Rolling.

“The idea is to make history fun,” said Jones, who is also busy putting the final touches on an upcoming three-man remount of the hit comedy The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at the Jericho Arts Centre. “We’ve got very, very different people each night and none of them are being presented as experts, just people who have been involved in the film and TV industry for quite some time. We’re going to try and map out some of the oddities and the blips on the radar that have been filmed here, as well as what were the breakthroughs.”

Participants will vary on each night but include well established actors such as Jay Brazeau, Catherine Lough Haggquist and Veena Sood, directors Anne Wheeler, Richard and James Shavick, TV host Norman Young and Neil Haggquist, the first agent for the Directors Guild of Canada and the person Jones credits with helping the city earn its nickname Hollywood North.

“Neil Haggquist, he was the guy who first convinced [Stephen J.] Cannel to shoot a TV series here but managed to sign him to a three-series deal instead of just one. He locked him in and of course the rest is history with 21 Jump Street then leading to Wiseguy and all the rest.”

Fittingly, Shooting & Rolling is being put on inside the studio theatre of the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL), a Coal Harbour housing complex that is already home to a large number of showbiz vets.

“In keeping with the mission and mandate for PAL Vancouver-the unique housing development for individuals who have committed sustained time and effort to the professional performing arts in Canada – we decided that Vancouver’s 125th anniversary should include some celebration of the artist-pioneers who have helped to enliven our community, who have changed the face of our city, and who have broken fertile ground into which many seeds of artistic variety have been sewn,” said PAL president D. Michael Dobbin.

Jones says participants are looking forward to telling tales out of school.

“It’ll just be like having a fabulous dinner party with some fabulous guests reminiscing and joking about stuff that went down,” said Jones. “Come on out. Win prizes, learn stuff, see stuff. It’ll be a hoot.”

Yet another Pioneers of Performance show is being planned for the fall, one Jones says should lend itself more easily to a cabaret performance.

“The next one is going to be about the history of burlesque and drag performances, so that should be a bit simpler to pull off,” he said with a laugh.

(This story was first published July 15, 2011. © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)
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