I was very fortunate last year (2013) to see Chelsea Hotel at the Firehall. Anyone familiar with Leonard Cohen’s songs know they tell stories. With a little imagination, you can think of a musical with a narrative inspired and held together by a selection of these songs, and that’s what the play is about. The lead character wants to write a novel, so he checks into the fabled Chelsea Hotel for inspiration.
For background, Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel song is about an affair with him and Janis Joplin. The Chelsea Hotel is also where Kris Kristofferson (another lover of Janis Joplin) wrote “Me and Bobby McGee”, and where Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe lived for some time, among the many artists who passed through there.
The play includes an emcee-like character who was reminiscent of Cabaret. And through it all were the words and music of Leonard Cohen, sung by evocative singers (accompanied by superb instrumentalists) .
So I am glad to hear that Chelsea Hotel is returning to the Firehall, as one of the theatre stops that it is making around Greater Vancouver. (If you can’t get to the Firehall, check the other locations.) The lead this year is Kayvon Kelly, who I have seen perform well in other works at Pacific Theatre, and I am really looking forward to seeing him in this role.
Here’s the press release:
Firehall Arts Centre Production CHELSEA HOTEL’s triumphant return with new star
Vancouver, BC – Leonard Cohen’s powerful and inspirational music will once again fill the Firehall Arts Centre as the cast of the Jessie-nominated smash hit Chelsea Hotel – The Songs of Leonard Cohen returns home to the theatre where it all began. Following a sold out tour of Western Canada, Chelsea Hotel will be back at the Firehall for an encore March 18 – 29.
This run features rising theatre star Kayvon Kelly in the key role of the Writer, replacing Adrian Glynn McMorran. The Vancouver-based actor and three-time Jessie Award nominee has recently featured in The Taming Of The Shrew (Bard On The Beach), The Graduate (Arts Club) and Home Is A Beautiful Word (Belfry Theatre). His new play, My Rabbi, co-created with Joel Bernbaum, is touring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next year. Funnily enough, this is the first musical production for Kelly since graduating from Victoria’s Canadian College of the Performing Arts.
Chelsea Hotel is one of the most popular productions the Firehall has produced in its history. Its recent tour of Western Canada attracted praise from critics and sold-out audiences at Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange and Saskatoon’s Persephone Theatre.This is the fourth time in the theatre’s 31-year history that a Firehall in-house production has toured around Canada.
With extraordinary arrangements, six performers play seventeen instruments in this concert, a tribute to the remarkable writer. Through Cohen’s transcendent songs and the honesty of his lyrics, you will be transfixed by this eclectic cabaret of loves won and lost. Check into New York’s infamous hotel—a place full of music and enchantment, desire and passion.
THE CAST: Rachel Aberle (Sister of Mercy), Lauren Bowler (Sister of Mercy), Steve Charles (Sideman), Ben Elliott (Bellhop), Marlene Ginader (Jane), Kayvon Kelly (The Writer).
THE ARTISTIC TEAM: Donna Spencer (Artistic Producer, Firehall Arts Centre), Tracey Power (Director, Creator), Steve Charles (Musical Director), Marshal McMahen (Set Designer), Jaimie Tait (Stage Manager), Barbara Clayden (Costume Designer), Ted Roberts (Lighting Designer), James MacDonald (Dramaturge).
Chelsea Hotel runs March 18 – 29 at the Firehall Arts Centre. It previews March 18 & opens March 19, with talkbacks March 20 &27. Tickets are $15 – 30. Available from firehallartscentre.ca | 604-689-0926.