Arts Club celebrates 50 years of glittering memories

This year, the Arts Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary with lectures, workshops, new plays, and on June 7, a benefit concert called Cue the Memories, which brought the city’s theatre lovers out in droves to reminisce at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage.

Photos courtesy of Vancouver Arts Club Theatre

Red Robinson kicked off the Bravo 50th Benefit by describing the Vancouver Arts Club Theatre as the “most commercially successful arts club in Canada”. Robinson, renowned as the legendary DJ who brought Rock n' Roll to Vancouver, has been a fixture in Vancouver’s art scene paralleling the rise of the Arts Club, so it was natural to have him get this red carpet and champagne party rolling.

This year, the Arts Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary with lectures, workshops, new plays, and on June 7, a benefit concert called Cue the Memories, which brought the city’s theatre lovers out in droves to reminisce at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage.

Founded in 1958, The Arts Club Theatre Company has grown steadily over five decades from a converted gospel hall at Seymour and Davie streets to become Western Canada’s largest theatre company presenting musicals, comedies, and classics at three venues: the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, Granville Island Stage, and Revue Stage.

1972 hit show "Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris"

The glittering benefit evening centred on a gala concert featuring stars from the Club’s five decades. They included Jane Mortifee (Cabaret), Sibel Thrasher (Ain't Misbehavin'), Warren Kimmel (Les Misérables), Ann Mortifee, Ruth Nichol, and Pat Rose from the original cast of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, and Zachary Stevenson from the soon-to-open Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, all accompanied by long-time Music Director, Bruce Kellet and his orchestra.

Hosts Jackson Davies, Gabrielle Rose, Todd Talbot, and Deborah Williams kept the evening moving along smartly and introduced the pre-recorded video birthday wishes from Arts Club alumni, which included luminaries Michael J. Fox and Michael Bublé.

Michael Bublé in 1999 production of "Swing"

What really brought the audience to its feet was the appearance of Artistic Managing Director Bill Millerd who shared a few of his own memories before optimistically pointing the way forward. Even Millerd admitted that the evening was put together on one rehearsal, but even so, there were many reasons to celebrate.

The Arts Club is a child of an exciting and dynamic period in Canada’s history. During the two decades after World War Two, artistic pioneers birthed many of the arts companies we now take for granted as venerable institutions (Theatre du Nouveau Monde, The Charlottetown Festival, The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival to name a few). Many of those initial founders have now left us and their artistic progeny are getting older too, so Cue the Memories was an opportunity to celebrate the works of the past and welcome the next generation onto the stage. 

Set maquettes on display at Bravo!

As we headed down to the Back Stage Lounge for some youthful revelry, the sweetest memories of the gala event remain those moments when the theatre’s veteran performers took to the stage for a glittering evening of song. Success takes generations. Here’s to the next 50 years Arts Club!

View the Arts Club archives

This summer at the Arts Club:

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