Dig your flapper dresses and tailcoats out of the closet, and get ready to celebrate the Orpheum’s 90th anniversary with a Roaring ’20s-themed night.
Since 1927, the elegant Orpheum has showcased everything from opera to rock for theatre-goers in the Granville Street entertainment district. On November 24, the Orpheum will host a blow-out bash with vaudeville, silent movies, and vintage costumes to celebrate its 90th anniversary. We caught up with Vancouver music journalist Lucas Aykroyd, who has written for the Georgia Straight, Classic Rock, and Revolver Magazine, to get his insights on the venue.
What’s the crowd like at the Orpheum?
We’re talking about a National Historic Site that’s home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), so the core crowd is older, decorous, and dressed up – at least relative to casual West Coast standards. But the Orpheum attracts really diverse acts, so that can change on any given night.
What are some of the most memorable Orpheum concerts in recent years?
Indie pop fans will point to Feist headlining on February 14, 2008 with the VSO and getting a rapturous reception. That was the sold-out kick-off concert for the two-year countdown to the Winter Olympics. Personally, I look back fondly on singing along to “Don’t Dream It’s Over” with my sister at a wonderfully intimate Neil Finn gig, and seeing the expressions of amusement and awe on the faces of metal guitarists Joe Satriani and Steve Vai when fellow shredder Yngwie Malmsteen pulled out his craziest neo-classical licks on the G3 Tour.
Have you witnessed anything unusual there?
In 2003, I saw Van Halen singer David Lee Roth doing a solo show at the Orpheum. Part of his standard schtick involved spraying a bottle of Jack Daniel’s over the people up front. But the Orpheum management wouldn’t let him do that – they wanted to save their fancy seats. So instead, “Diamond Dave” just splashed whiskey all over the stage. And immediately a stagehand rushed out from the wings to clean it up with a mop, because the floor had to be kept nice too.
Who or what defines the Orpheum today?
I’d say Bramwell Tovey. He’s been the music director of the VSO since 2000. He’s won Grammy and Juno Awards. Certainly, he’s been a huge force in keeping symphonic music vibrant in this city, striking the right balance between the old favourites and the contemporary stuff.
What are some of the touches that make it a special place?
The Orpheum is a classic theatre, part of the great North American show biz tradition, but it’s not generic. Inside, you’ve got crystal chandeliers from Czechoslovakia and a huge gilt dome. Outside on Granville Street, there’s a neon sign donated by entrepreneur Jim Pattison, who put Vancouver on the map by organizing EXPO 86, the 1986 World’s Fair. As a cultural landmark, the Orpheum is as integral to this city’s fabric as Stanley Park or the Vancouver Canucks.
On November 24, theatre-goers and partiers will doll up in their finest flapper dresses and tailcoats for a Roaring ’20s-themed night featuring live vaudeville, silent film favourites like Steamboat Willie with musical accompaniments, era-appropriate cocktails and dancing, and more. The glitzy evening will be hosted by Maestro Bramwell Tovey and former CBC host Bill Richardson, who will help to bring alive the Orpheum’s storied history.
Orpheum Theatre’s 90th Anniversary
Friday, November 24, 2017
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