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Theatre Under the Stars readies for 2023 season

The Prom and Roald Dahl’s Matilda to hit Malkin Bowl stage
Malkin Bowl was built in 1934 with a design reminiscent of the then 12-year-old Hollywood Bowl

Outdoor theatre is set to take place this summer at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl thanks to the non-profit Theatre Under the Stars Musical Society (TUTS) producing a 2023 season that includes The Prom and Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Tickets cost between $30 and $65 each, with early-bird ticket buyers getting $10 off for each ticket purchased before June 20.

The two productions are scheduled to run on alternate nights between July 6 through Aug. 26, except for a brief interlude between Aug. 11 and Aug. 13.

TUTS leases Malkin Bowl from the Vancouver Park Board and its sponsorship deal with the Beedie Group allows the real estate developer to use the site for its Aug. 12 corporate party. TUTS also rents Malkin Bowl to event producers outside of its summer theatre performances.

“We pack up both shows, Beedie has its party and then we set it all up again and we keep on going,” TUTS’ board president Patrick Roberge told BIV this afternoon to explain the break in the TUTS summer schedule.

Remax is the arts organization’s season sponsor, while partner sponsors include Beedie, Cast and Crew Canada, Stanley’s Bar & Grill , Internex International Exchange, Church and State Wines and Peak Cellars.

“We don't have a lot of corporate partners, and we would like more because the majority of our [revenue] ­– more than 90 per cent ­– comes from ticket patrons,” Roberge said. 

TUTS launched in 1940 and has put on outdoor theatre performances at Malkin Bowl each summer through to 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to cancel its 2020 and 2021 seasons. 

“We had probably one of our most successful seasons last year, which was fantastic because we were very worried about it,” Roberge said. “Last year wasn't a surplus but we definitely met all our financial targets.”

Corporate sponsors have so far ensured that the organization does not have debt, Roberge added.

TUTS’ annual budget tends to be in the $1.5 million range, with costs including its annual lease for Malkin Bowl, staff and payment to between 30 and 50 professionals who help produce the shows. 

Those paid contractors include set designers, costume providers, musicians and directors. Most actors are amateur although the society pays some actors who are in lead roles, explained Roberge, whose role is unpaid.

“The premise of TUTS is to be an amateur theatre company, and we produce it in a professional environment with professional directors and designers, so the amateur performers have a full professional experience,” he said.

Part of the attraction for theatregoers is the venue. 

Malkin Bowl was built in 1934 with a design inspired by the much larger outdoor Hollywood Bowl amphitheatre in the Hollywood Hills, which was built 12 years earlier.

Roberge said capacity for TUTS shows is about 1,000 including spots for some people to sit on a grassy slope on the western side of the site. 

Theatregoers are encouraged to bring picnic dinners to eat before the show, and there are some benches inside the site. 

“This is part of the Hollywood Bowl tradition where you picnic before the show,” Roberge said. “If you're going to see a concert, maybe Elton John or someone, you have a picnic out in the gardens of the Hollywood Bowl, and then you go in and see the show. That's really how Malkin Bowl was imagined when it was built.”

Mosquito repellant is sold at the site but Roberge urges visitors to lather up before they arrive, and to bring blankets.

Malkin Bowl is licensed, and visitors are not allowed to bring in their own drinks. 

The non-profit society generates royalties from food and beverage sales at on-site food kiosks, Roberge said. 

The two productions this year were chosen in part because of their popularity, with both first having successful theatre runs before being turned into Netflix movies.

The Prom is set at a small-town high school. Four down-on-their-luck Broadway actors are desperate to improve their public image so they search for a high-profile charitable cause to support. They find Emma – a high school senior whose prom has been cancelled because she planned to attend with her girlfriend.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda is set in a small English village, where a precocious five-year-old girl with a lively imagination is ignored at home by her parents and bullied at school by her headmistress. She uses surprising magical powers to help reclaim her life. 

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