A standing ovation for CapU’s ‘Grand Hotel’

CapU’s Grand Hotel gets recognized by Lower Mainland musical theatre community


Despite its relatively modest space and neatly tucked away location on Capilano University, Arbutus Studio has managed to draw a steady audience attendance and even steadier critical acclaim for its host of productions throughout any given school year. The 2017 production of Grand Hotel was no exception, as evidenced by its nomination for Ovation Awards’ Audience Choice Outstanding Musical Event.

Set in 1920s Berlin, Germany, the story follows the intertwining lives of a host and workers at the lavish Grand Hotel. In a booming era that was sandwiched by two great wars, Grand Hotel features an eclectic group of characters trying to find their way in a momentary blip of peace.

One such character is the ambitious Flaemmchen, portrayed by Sarah Cantuba, a second-year musical theatre student. Cantuba found out about her casting through the most unconventional of means. Some time after partaking in the general audition call for Grand Hotel, she received a congratulatory Snapchat from a friend after she unknowingly landed the co-lead role of Flaemmchen. “I didn’t even check my email yet,” she recalled.

For Cantuba, her performance in the production not only marked her first major part in a CapU-based production, but her casting in the particular role was also a point of surprise. “She [Flaemmchen] is typically blonde, blue-eyes, doe-eyes kind of look,” Cantuba said. “So, that’s why I was pretty surprised at me getting the role.” Born in Canada, Cantuba is of Filipino descent, playing a role often written for a white actress. “It really shocked me because, the description was she was blonde, she had lighter skin,” she said. “I felt very honoured.”

Character-wise, Flaemmchen exhibits an independent, strong-willed personality, as well as an ability that Cantuba described as “knowing how to get what she wants through her looks.” Research was an integral part of Cantuba’s preparation for the role of Flaemmchen. Much of her studies were dedicated to understanding the political and economical state that Germany was in during the 1920s. Moreover, Cantuba was also highly invested in the culture that thrived in that era. “I was really interested in the fashion, the architectural buildings that they had,” she said. “I like to pretend that I’m actually in Berlin at that time, so a lot of research on buildings, the fashion, what type of hair and makeup styles they had.”

Performed in four days towards the end of the fall semester, Cantuba attested that it took until the third night for her to really shake off the jitters and excitement surrounding the show. And although a four-day run appears to be short, it did not seem to matter, as the show was able to nab an Audience Choice nomination from Ovation Awards. “It was a surprise for sure, people actually saw the show,” Cantuba said.

In the current, tumultuous entertainment climate that can often be marred by controversies regarding diversity and whitewashing, seeing productions that strive to make change can be a breath of fresh air. While CapU’s Arbutus Studio is certainly asmaller space in a smaller community, its work towards providing a spotlight for an incredibly diverse group of student-actors on campus cannot simply be overlooked.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *