Last stop for The Number 14

Cast members from The Number 14 check out the Courier while waiting at a bus stop. (Jason Lang photo)

One of the Vancouver theatre scene’s biggest homegrown success stories is heading back to town for one last run before getting parked for good.

In 1992, a group of thespians from the Axis Theatre Company put together a high-energy, often politically incorrect comedy about an experience they figured pretty much everybody could relate to — riding on a bus full of strangers from very different walks of life. They modeled it on the #14, one of Terminal City’s longest and more colourful bus routes stretching from UBC through upscale Point Grey to the downtrodden Downtown Eastside and all the way to the Burnaby border.

Wayne Specht, the theatre troupe’s founding artistic director and an original cast member, says he never expected The Number 14 to still be rolling 20 years later.

“It sort of took off right from the very beginning,” he admitted, “but the original idea was to run for just two and a half weeks back at the Firehall Arts Centre. A few months later the Waterfront Theatre happened to be available and we reopened there on New Year’s Eve and had a great month there. As a result we were able to get some good marketing material and offer it out across Canada and internationally. We’ve really had a wonderful response from audiences of all ages.”

The family-friendly play — a parade of unrelated vignettes featuring acrobatics, song, mime and a variety of imaginative masks inspired by commedia dell’arte — has been around the block more than a few times since, going on to successful runs all around the world, including two stops on Broadway.

Six different actors (currently Morgan Brayton, Stefano Guilianetti, Chris Adams, Scott Walters, Neil Minor and Sarah Rodgers) play a total of 60 different passengers ranging from stoners and corporate types, fare cheats and new immigrants, a tipsy schoolteacher and her unruly young charges, and even a couple who unexpectedly find love riding the loser cruiser.

The show last pulled into Vancouver back in 2009 but Specht says they will be rolling out plenty of new material.

“By looking very closely at who we are playing for, adapting our material and keeping it contemporary, we’ve been able to keep it relevant and accessible,” he said. “We’ve also added four new actors and in my opinion they are all A-list comedy and physical theatre performers. That right there will freshen up the show a lot.”

The Number 14 pulls into Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre from October 25 to November 18 before heading down the road for a final cross-Canada tour. Specht says he has mixed feelings about retiring the show but feels the time is right.

“We have to move on because, if we don’t, pretty soon we’ll have the children of the original cast performing it! But seriously though, our attitiude is let’s finish off with a bang in Canada, particularly in Vancouver where we’ve had such a wonderful response.”

Tickets prices start from $29 and are available in advance at ticketstonight.ca or by calling 1-877-840-0457.

© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier

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