Snapshots shares life's major milestones

Stephen Schwartz revisits his song catalogue in musical

Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook, Oct. 28 to Nov. 8 at Presentation House Theatre, 333 Chesterfield Ave., North Vancouver. Tickets: $20-$36, available online at phtheatre.org or by calling 604-990-3474.

Fans of Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz will hear some familiar tunes when the curtain lifts on Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook at North Vancouver's Presentation House Theatre next week.

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Presented by WRS Productions, the show features adaptations of some of Schwartz's biggest hits including "Popular" (Wicked), "Corner of the Sky" (Pippin) and "All Good Gifts" (Godspell), some lesser known numbers from his musical theatre catalogue, and new music too. Schwartz has rewritten his original lyrics so the songs now tell the tale of a middle-aged couple whose relationship is on the rocks.

"It's really intriguing to notice how he has taken some old familiar material and changed it to fit the new scenarios," says actor Stephen Aberle, who plays the character Dan.

Snapshots takes place in the attic of Dan and Sue (Annabel Kershaw), whose marriage has fallen apart after 30 years. Sue is preparing to walk out on her husband and has gone to the attic to retrieve a hidden suitcase.

"She's getting ready to leave him and he comes home unexpectedly and they wind up stumbling on a box of old photographs and remembering their relationship and how they came together," Aberle says.

As the pair flip through these photos, they reminisce on their past. Six cast members portray the couple at different stages in their relationship.

"Danny and Susie start out at age 11 or 12 up through college; Daniel and Susan take it from college age through the birth of their child and the maturing of their relationship; and then Dan and Sue are the older couple," Aberle explains.

The story unfolds mainly through song.

"There's very short, very pithy spoken dialogue scenes. Most of the emotional growth and work that this couple actually does on their relationship happens through the lyrics and the music of the songs." Snapshots addresses major milestones in life, from adolescence to middle age, and as such, Aberle says the musical will resonate with just about anybody. "If you've ever been in love, or wanted to be in love, this is the show for you." This is the second time Aberle has taken on the role of Dan. The first time was in last year's Canadian premiere of Snapshots at Studio 1398 on Granville Island, also presented by WRS Productions.

Music director Wendy Bross Stuart happens to be a long-time friend of Schwartz. The two met as teenagers at a summer theatre camp in upstate New York, long before Schwartz made a name for himself in theatre and film.

"In 2005 he was trying out this new show, Snapshots," Bross Stuart recalls. He invited her and her husband and co-producer Ron down to in Issaquah, Wash., where he was debuting the new work he had created in collaboration with script writer David Stern. Bross Stuart was immediately impressed, in part because of the unique way the story is told through three levels of perspective, but also because of how Schwartz reworked his existing music and wove different songs together. She knew the Snapshots show would appeal to a wide audience.

"You've got people who can enjoy it just for the story, enjoy it just for the music, or write a doctoral dissertation on what he's done with this."

The 2014 Canadian premiere was staged "in the round," meaning the audience sat in shallow rows around the perimeter of a central stage. From her seat behind the keyboard in the orchestra, Bross Stuart got a good read on the crowd.

"When I had a second, I could look in people's faces and see what was going on and I couldn't believe how much it was affecting them and how people of different ages reacted to different things in different ways," she says, noting there were many teary eyes in the house. "Personally, I think when the story is told in music it hits you far more directly."

The Presentation House Theatre remount comes with a few changes including a new director, Max Reimer, and two new cast members. It has also been reconfigured for the more traditional proscenium stage.

"This year, it's completely different and it's very exciting," Bross Stuart says.

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