Stickboy at Vancouver Opera

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Disclosure: Review — This is not a paid post. Views are my own. I received media tickets for review purposes. Please review the Policy & Disclosure section for further information.

“It was intense,” my niece told me this morning when I asked her about the show last night. I took her to see Stickboy at Vancouver Opera, which was composed by Neil Weisensel and written by Shane Koyczan. Given my general knowledge of the libretto — based on Koyczan’s powerful book about a boy who, after enduring years of bullying from his classmates, finally snaps and becomes a bully himself — intense was expected and delivered.

Photo by Tim Matheson for Vancouver Opera

Stickboy at Vancouver Opera

My first impressions, when I sat down inside the Vancouver Playhouse, was that this really was going to be original. Not just original but a fusion of classically presented opera and contemporary sets, lyrics, and themes. Surtitles in english for an english opera, a set that doesn’t look to change, and costumes that consisted of gumboots and parkas. You didn’t get lost in a fantasy like you might watching a classic opera. It was real, raw, and packed a punch.

“Survival isn’t an instinct, it’s an act of sheer will.”

We follow a “Boy” at school from the age of 10 until high school graduation and throughout that journey we hear administrators say things we’ve heard before when it comes to bullying but under the lights of the Playhouse it really made you think, and made you want to act. It made you want to do more to change the way everyone looks at bullying and the bullied.

Giant Ant Media‘s animations brought the set to life with powerful imagery and striking drawings and Shane Koyczan’s voice cut through the music providing narration at times. Kudos as well to Neil Weisensel for composing music that complimented Koyczan’s poignant words.

Sunny Shams, who played the main character with no name, just “Boy” made you feel his pain and heartache, made you fear him, and made you feel for him. His interactions with “Grandmother” Megan Latham didn’t just pull at your heartstrings, it tugged them as though trying to set something free from a powerful grip.

The tears I held back last night have started to flow as I write this review. Stickboy was beautiful and it was disturbing, and you should experience it for yourself today at 2:00pm because every other evening performance (through November 7th) is entirely sold out — and I know exactly why.

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