Theatre Under the Stars

Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS). Vancouver company that produced operettas and musicals 1940-63 at the Malkin Bowl. The name was revived in 1980. The original TUTS was founded under the auspices of the Vancouver Park Board by board superintendent A.S. Wootten, conductor Basil Horsfall and actor E.V. Young, with advice from Gordon Hilker, to provide entertainment in Stanley Park. In the 1930s attempts had been made by Young and Stanley Bligh to establish outdoor theatre at Brockton Oval, and these ventures set the precedent for TUTS. After TUTS' first season (which opened 6 Aug 1940 and presented The Geisha, the plays A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It, and selections from grand opera), its program was devoted mainly to operettas (The Firefly, Rose Marie, The Red Mill, Naughty Marietta and others). In 1944 the Park Board established the BC Institute of Music and Drama under the direction of Glyndwr Jones to train young performers during the winter months. The institute, whose staff included Basil Horsfall (voice), Barbara Custance and Phyllis Schuldt (piano) and Nicholas Fiore (flute), closed in 1950 shortly after it was renamed the Conservatory of Music, British Columbia.

In 1949, when the Civic Theatre Society was established to take over control from the Park Board, TUTS began producing six- to eight-week summer seasons of such musicals as Finian's Rainbow, Brigadoon, Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, The King and I, Kismet, Guys and Dolls and Carousel. In 1952 TUTS premiered Dolores Claman's Timber!!. In 24 seasons TUTS presented 104 productions, many, after 1944, also touring in British Columbia. Though established foreign artists often were engaged for leading roles, TUTS employed as well such Canadians as Ernest Adams, Milla Andrew, Donald Bell, Harold Brown, Eleanor Collins, Don Francks, Don Garrard, Robert Goulet, Juliette, Don McManus, Karl Norman, Barney Potts and Betty Phillips. Conductors included Bligh, Horsfall, Lucio Agostini, Beverly Fyfe and Harry Pryce. TUTS' operations were supervised 1940-9 by Hilker, 1949-54 by Hubert S. Banner and 1955-60 by Bill Buckingham. Plagued by bad weather and facing competition from the Vancouver International Festival, TUTS declared bankruptcy in 1963. In its 24 summers, the original TUTS had contributed greatly to the Vancouver scene and assisted significantly in the development of many performers' careers. It was the prototype for Melody Fair in Toronto, Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg and the Forum at Ontario Place in Toronto.

Theatre in the Park

However, the appeal of open-air evening musicals in Stanley Park proved strong enough to merit a revival. From 1969 to 1979 performances were given by a new organization called Theatre in the Park, which opened with Carousel and mounted two productions per year in the main (three in 1971) and co-operated, in the beginning, with local groups (eg, Dunbar Musical Theatre and Richmond Theatre). The focus from the beginning of the new era was on amateur talent working in conjunction with professional and semi-professional personnel. Productions in the 1970s included My Fair Lady, Hello, Dolly!, The Merry Widow, The King and I, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma! and Pajama Game. In 1980 Theatre in the Park re-established the former name Theatre Under The Stars for its Malkin Bowl performances which, up to 1991, included The Mikado, Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Brigadoon, Grease and others. A fire in 1982 damaged the Malkin Bowl, and there were no shows in 1983, but the company kept going. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, TUTS continued to specialize in Broadway favourites, but did put on the Canadian-composed Hair (1998) and Anne of Green Gables (2003). The TUTS 2006 season was cancelled due to financial problems, but a successful season was mounted the following year.

Actors and Directors

Directors in the 1970s and 1980s included Otto Lowy, Lorne Scott, Tom Kerr, Michael Berry, Bill Elliott, Shel Piercy, Cliff Cox, Alex McLeod, Ross Laidley, Grace Macdonald, Ray Michael, James Hibbard, Drew Borland, John Brockington and David Newman. Among the musical directors were Beverly Fyfe, Earl Hobson, Jerry McDonald, David Smith and David Fryer. Artists appearing in leading roles included Reg Romero, Bob Ross, Cecilia Smith, John Pozer, Sophie Turko, Betty Phillips, Edgar Hanson, Audrey Glass, Norman Slack, Alex McLeod, John Payne, Rosanne Hopkins, Graeme Andrews, Michael Foster and Joanne Hounsell.

Theatre in the Park, still working under the old TUTS name, continues to defy the weather and to be a vibrant part of Vancouver's summer musical scene.