Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Comedy Tonight!

Everyone, it seems, loves Stephen Sondheim: even lawyers.

Here in Vancouver, the legal profession gathers once a year to stage a charity event show for two local non-profit arts groups, the Carousel Theatre for Young People and the Touchstone Theatre. This is the annual Lawyer Show. While productions in the past had a legal slant, such as Witness for the Prosecution and Inherit the Wind, the lawyers have expanded their repertoire in the last few years: in fact, they performed Shakespeare for the last two years and by all accounts, the lawyers have a good deal of fun staging it, whether they were reciting soliloquies or merely carrying spears. 

This year’s play will prove to be the most high-risk yet, as the lawyer are staging their first musical. Based on Sondheim’s musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum shall continue to satisfy every lawyer’s need to unshackle the more stringent conventions attached to the profession and give them a chance to burst into song. There’s an old joke that all lawyers are at some level really failed actors with a need to command a stage, so the leap for litigators to tread the boards has somehow always been natural and organic.

The illustrious cast includes a number of leading practitioners and up-and-coming legal superstars. It also includes at least two trained theatre professionals. The feisty redhead in the picture above is the writer’s good friend Amanda Kemshaw, a litigator and former dancer trained in the style of Martha Graham. Also look out for Danielle Lemon, a sole practitioner in intellectual property law whose vocal stylistics can be heard on her MySpace page.

The show opens with the now-immortal “Comedy Tonight”, and indeed comedy is what one will get in this show. Forum boasts all the elements of classic force including mistaken identity, improbably situations, and a good deal of door-slamming. Since farce actively encourages transgressive behaviour, it may be one of the few times when the lawyers let loose with a few double entendres in mixed company and get away with it. Needless to say, from the writer has heard from former cast members of previous shows, everyone has a grand time performing, even if the lawyers are opposing counsel who have faced off in court before! There’s also the required elaborate chase scene at the end, where everyone is somehow resolved through bizarre plot machinations, deus ex machine, or as Shakespeare himself once wrote, “I don’t know; it’s a mystery”.

This year’s Lawyer Show plays nightly from May 4 to May 7 at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island. Click here for ticket information. Take note that the $75 ticket also includes a $45 tax receipt, since it’s a charity event. Thursday's performance even has an oyster bar after the show!

Bring everyone to the Forum, including and especially opposing counsel and actors who may one day wonder if they too could suffer the fate of leaving the theatre to become lawyers.