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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

BEAUTIFUL: The Carole King Musical (Broadway Across Canada) at the Jubilee Auditorium: It will move you with it's heart and iconic music!

I'm always a little nervous about Jukebox shows, but Beautiful, currently playing until November 11th with Broadway Across Canada, manages to weave the iconic music of Carole King wonderfully with the first part of her life and career. Sarah Bockel, as King, is terrific. She embodies the sound and look of King without caricature, and manages to convincingly shift through the stages of her life from a 16 year-old aspiring songwriter, to young mother, to the vocal powerhouse who creates and performs Tapestry. Although the entire cast is great, it's Bockel that the audience rose to their feet for. The role is bigger than life, much like King herself.

The music is all recognizable, although you may not have been aware that King wrote them (mostly with her ex-husband Gerry Goffin), and the show cleverly creates tension by showing the competition between rival songwriters (and friends) Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (played with great humour and intelligence by Jacob Heimer and Alison Whitehurst). The result is a score with dimension and a very cool peek inside the hit-maker factory world of the 1950s-60s. You can see how the competitive environment produced all those iconic songs.

The music and songwriting world is fun, but it's King's personal life that gives the show its heart. Bockel and Dylan S. Wallach (who plays Goffin) have real chemistry as songwriting partners and as a romantic couple, which makes their eventual break-up even more sad. It's how King grows out of that break-up to write and perform some of her most well-known songs and embrace her place on the stage that makes the show a real journey. She was an unconventional superstar, but her talent is undeniable.  Bockel's rendition of (You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman clearly demonstrates she's up to the challenge.


See the show - it's funny, and the music will make you laugh and cry and smile. I wanted to sing along and to be honest I've been singing the songs since I left the theatre!

Beautiful runs until November 11th.
Click here for more information or for tickets.

p.s. Gilmore Girls fans will appreciate the musical Easter Egg in the score...


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Spooky and Scary #yegtheatre Options for Halloween 2018!

If you like to embrace all things scary and spooky this time of year, there are a few options in the #yegtheatre scene that you can check out...


The Bone House by Marty Chan is being presented at the Varscona Hotel. Here's the description: For the past 19 years, a shadowy figure has been drifting about, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Nobody has seen his face, and some believe he is only an urban myth. Self proclaimed mind-hunter, Eugene Crowley disagrees. He is going to find him but he needs your help to expose the Midnight Cowboy before he strikes again. He could be anywhere...or anyone.

It's an immersive piece of theatre that explores the nature of fear and imagination. Starring Lew Wetherell, Jason Hardwick, Nicole Grainger, and Murray Farnell, and directed by Jennifer Krezlewicz. I saw The Bone House a few years ago and I remember being terrified. Although the details in my memory are a bit hazy, I often reference the experience as the most scared I have ever been as an audience member. The immersive elements were what really did it for me. So, with great apprehension, I will be taking in this new incarnation, but bringing my husband along... It's definitely a show for those of you who are fans of horror and psychological thrillers.

The Bone House has a pay-what-you-can matinee today (Saturday, October 27th at 2 p.m.) and you can click here for tickets for other nights. It runs until Wednesday, October 31st.


Dead Centre of Town, in it's 11th incarnation, returns to Fort Edmonton Park, this time in the Blatchford Field Air Hanger. It's also an immersive theatre experience that brings to life creepy stories from Edmonton's past. It's tagline for this year is: Who are we to think we can conquer flight? Produced by Catch the Keys Productions it's Edmonton’s only live-action horror show inspired by true history. Dead Centre of Town runs until October 31, 2018 with shows at 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm (no shows on Mondays) at the Blatchford Field Air Hangar at Fort Edmonton Park.

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets. I believe that several performances have Sold Out, so act fast!

Tonight is also your last chance to catch Blood: A Scientific Romance produced by the Maggie Tree at Fringe Theatre Adventures. Here's the description: Twin sisters Poubelle and Angelique are bonded in both biology and shared tragedy after a car accident leaves them orphaned along a prairie highway in a pool of blood. But the young twins are brought home with Dr. Glass after their remarkable recovery, and quickly find themselves the subject of endless experiments.

Today's the last day to catch it, with a matinee and an evening performance. Click here for tickets.




Hope you all find something spooky and scary to see this weekend to get you ready for Halloween!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

More October #yegtheatre adventures - Lenin's Embalmers (Studio Theatre) and Origin of the Species (Northern Light Theatre)

When I was in university, one of my part-time jobs was working front of house and bar-tending at the University of Alberta Studio Theatre shows. As a result, I think I saw pretty much every show there from my second year on. I have always loved the atmosphere and aesthetic of the Studio Theatre shows. The plays chosen are always smart and sharp (and unpredictable) and the design concepts are always complete and specific and imaginative. This is certainly the case for Lenin's Embalmers, currently onstage at the Timms. First of all, I was pleased to see not only a Canadian playwright, but an Edmonton playwright being produced. Vern Thiessen is not only the playwright, but he's also onstage as Lenin in this production, and that gives a little more meta to the whole thing (Lenin observes the world after his death; playwright observes his play from within after he's written it). Directed by MFA Candidate Alexander Donovan, the show is darkly funny and intelligent. The cast is excellent, embracing the stylistic choices effortlessly and managing to convey the danger of Soviet Russia while still creating a very fun show. I particularly enjoyed Chris Pereira as the science driven embalmer Vlad, and Doug Mertz in a menacing but buffoonish performance as Stalin. There're a lot of great things to this show. It's also one of those that kept me in the world while I watched it, but sent me to wikipedia when I got home to look up more about Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky and all of that. I was also weirdly reminded of Eva Peron because of the whole embalming thing, but that's another story...

Lenin's Embalmers runs until October 20th at the Timms Centre for the Arts with shows at 7:30 p.m. Show is dark on Sunday, bit there's a Monday night performance and a Thursday matinee.  Click here for tickets.

This afternoon I took in Origin of the Species presented by Northern Light Theatre. I got there early (because I am always early) and lucked out catching the Director's Circle pre-show chat. Director Trevor Schmidt talked about several of his choices in costumes and casting and in play selection. There were also questions from the group and it made for a nice introduction to the work before seeing the play. I really enjoyed the piece. It tells the story of archaeologist Molly (Holly Turner), who finds a pre-historic woman (Kristin Johnston) on a dig, and decides to bring her home to educate her. It's very funny, with a lot of the humour coming from the elastic faced Johnston, who plays wonderfully with the idea of her character discovering the modern world from the perspective of her past. Johnston's ability to play makes her fiercer and sadder moments believable. Turner's take on Molly is an interesting journey, as she begins with the gentle arrogance of the 'one who thinks she knows best' but grows to understand that eventually as the student learns they must be released to the world, and there's a lot of wistfulness and a touch of sadness in that goodbye. The show made me think of the idea that all the cultural rules of the world are made-up, and that it's not always easy to definitively say which are best or right. As we live in a world with many conflicting cultures, it is often only courtesy and a willingness to be open that allows for civility and exchange of ideas.

Origin of the Species runs to October 27th at the Studio Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns with shows at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Click here for tickets.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

October is a Very Busy Month for #yegtheatre - We begin the marathon with Billy at L'Uni Theatre and The Triangle Factory Fire Project at Walterdale Theatre

I guess I truly began the marathon with Once at the Citadel. You still have a chance to catch it tonight or tomorrow. If you are looking for a little romance and music, this kitchen-party show will fit the bill!

On Wednesday, I took in The Triangle Factory Fire Project at Walterdale Theatre. A nearly sold-out house witnessed the events of March 25, 1911 as the Triangle Waist Factory Fire took the lives of 146 workers and the subsequent trial of the owners of the factory. The first act was incredibly engaging and compelling as the story of the day was pieced together from testimony of survivors and speculation of events based on the evidence. The second act focuses on the trial, and it made me reflect on the voicelessness of those without power. In light of recent history, it felt incredibly relevant.

The Triangle Factory Fire Project runs to October 20th with shows at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tuesday, October 16 is their Pay-What-You-Can Night. Click here for tickets.

Last night, I took in Billy (Le Jours de Hurlement) at L’UniTh√©√Ętre. It's a very strong, well-acted and well-directed piece of theatre. In today's world of social media shaming, it felt incrediblty relevant as a comment on judging others. I certainly had flashbacks to my early years of parenting when I felt everyone was quick to tell me what to do and I myself had so many strong feelings about the 'right way' to do things. The play showed the ugly side of people's judgement, when evidence is incomplete and minding our own business might be a better choice. I took Mark, who commented afterwards, "It's a play a lot of people should see, but sadly I think they would miss the point." It takes a lot to recognize yourself in the three characters, but I think we are all a little quick to judge in today's day and age.

Billy (Le Jours de Hurlement) runs to October 20th with shows at 7:30 p.m. at 1:30 p.m. Saturday matinees. For those who are not French speakers, there are English surtitles (sit on the right side of the house for the best view). Click here for tickets.

Tonight I am off to Lenin's Embalmers at the University of Alberta Timm's Centre for the Arts.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Kicking off Walterdale's 60th Anniversary Season!

In less than a week, Walterdale Theatre's 60th Anniversary Season officially begins with the opening of The Triangle Factory Fire Project. It's a hot start to a sizzling season! The production features a cast of 20 (both new and returning to Walterdale's stage) and underscores the need for safe working conditions for all.

In the Triangle Waist Factory off downtown Manhattan's Washington Square—where 500 immigrant workers from Poland, Russia, and Italy toil fourteen-hour days making lady's dresses—a cigarette is tossed into a bin of fabric scraps. Despite desperate efforts, flames sweep through the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. Panic-stricken workers run in all directions. Dozens leap from the windows to their deaths, shocking the crowd of onlookers gathered below. And some through bravery or sheer luck make it out alive. In the space of twenty-eight minutes, the fire is under control, but 146 people, mainly young immigrant girls, have died. The Triangle Factory Fire Project uses eyewitness accounts, court transcripts and other archival material to paint a heartbreaking picture of a disastrous day in American history and explores the human toll such a tragedy takes on us all.

The Triangle Factory Fire Project runs from October 10-20. Click here for tickets.

There are a few other great things happening soon at Walterdale Theatre:

Dance for Non-Dancers Workshop!

Walterdale Theatre is thrilled to present a dance and choreography workshop focusing on the Charleston! It's the perfect way to get ready for music and dance infused The Great Gatsby!  Free for members, $25 for non-members.

DATE: Saturday November 3rd
TIME: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (with a 1 1/2 hour lunch)
LOCATION: Walterdale Theatre, 10322 83 Ave. in the Glenfield Rehearsal Hall
Arrive 15 to 30 minutes early for registration and bring dancing shoes if you have them!

Presented with sponsorship from Theatre Alberta.

Contact actord@telus.net and register early, limited spaces available.

Auditions for Leave of Absence by Lucia Frangione
Show dates: February 6- 16, 2019
Director: Alix Reynolds

Audition Location: Walterdale Theatre
Audition Dates: October 14 & 15, 2018, 6 – 10 pm
Callbacks:  October 20, 2018, 1 – 4 pm

A teenage girl suspected of being gay is bullied by her classmates. This play explores and challenges the fall out of the response to the same sex marriage rulings in Canada and how it affects youth and the programs and supports available to them. It also asks the greater community about the ethics of being absent and our role in the LGBTQ+ community. Are we turning a blind eye? What does love and acceptance look like?

Casting Requirements:

All genders and ethnicities welcome.

Ryan: Late fifties, a Roman Catholic priest, cerebral.
Greta: Late thirties, single mom, counselor at a women’s shelter, sloppy beautiful.
Leap (Filipp):  Forty, a former Russian boxer, does construction, physically immaculate.  (Russian accent is an asset)
Martha (Miss Woods): Early fifties, school principal and church worship leader, a velvet hammer. (preference given to Person of Colour; this character sings live on stage)
Blake: Fourteen, Greta’s daughter, awkward. (preference given to young performers)

Click here for more information and deatils on booking your audition today!

From Cradle to Stage 2018-19 Submissions Request

Edmonton’s foremost community theatre company is now accepting submissions for its annual new work event, From Cradle to Stage. For over a decade, Walterdale Theatre has been producing original plays by local playwrights as a part of its main stage season. In celebration of our 60th Anniversary Season we are doing something a little different.

This Day, which was submitted for last year’s competition was selected in advance for development this year. It’s a musical by Matt Graham and Sue Goberdhan and will receive dramaturgy from Anne Marie Szucs over the fall and winter to be ready for audition by the end of January 2019.

Collaboration Project: For the second piece to be developed, in honour of the 60th Season, we are looking for monologues and scenes about your Walterdale (and other community theatre) experiences. Selected playwrights will work with Facilitator Kristen M. Finlay (yes, that's right - me!) to construct a collective piece celebrating Walterdale.

Click here for more details about submissions for the Collaboration Project. Deadline to submit is October 30th, 2018.

Once at the Citadel Theatre - Music to fix a broken heart...

It was lovely to return to the Citadel Theatre last night to take in Once, their season opener. I brought Gibson along to celebrate his 14th birthday as I knew the show would appeal to his musician's heart, and I was not wrong. To confirm this, after the bows, he turned to me and said, "Well... that was quite good." For me, it was the third time seeing the show, so I was curious about how the Citadel would approach it.

There were some significant differences, primarily in design choices. The other two productions I saw (Mirvish - Toronto, and Broadway Across Canada - Edmonton) made the base location an Irish Pub. Here, designer Cory Sincennes has given us a kitchen party amidst the rolling green hills of Dublin. I think the production owns the space, and director Ann Hodges along with choreographer Julie Tomaino, have made lovely choices to move from scene to scene and location to location. There are a few moments when the background action distracted me from the main action, but only a few. For the most part they've done a wonderful job of creating the world in both action and sound. 

Once, as a show, is a mix of concert and traditional musical. The songs are primarily those of Guy (Lawrence Libor) an Irish musician, who's broken heart has him contemplating giving up his music. A chance meeting with Girl (Emily Dallas), a Czech woman who is remarkably persuasive, leads him to revisit his music. It is this music that creates the score for the show. Libor and Dallas provide an authentic emotional heart for the show. Both are compelling and charismatic, with excellent musical skills both vocally and with their instruments. This is a show that only works if you believe and care about Guy and Girl, and we definitely believe and care about Libor and Dallas.

The whole cast is quite good. They are not only actors, singers and dancers, but they are all also musicians who create an atmospheric palette of sound. Having so many musicians onstage, as part of the action, layering in the instruments and voices leads to some terrific sound. That being said, one of my favourite musical moments of the show was an A Capella version of Gold.  I was particularly impressed with Larissa Pohoreski as Reza, Stephen Guy-McGrath as Billy and Oscar Derkx as Andrej. This production also makes an interesting choice of casting Karen Lizotte as the Bank Manager. Written originally for a man, having the role played by a woman shifts some of the dynamics which, aside from one joke that doesn't quite make sense, allows for some lovely subtext between Lizotte and Guy-McGrath that wasn't evident in the other productions I saw. 

Overall, it's a great evening of music with a simple story of music and love. You'll feel like you are at a kitchen party with amazingly gifted musicians. 

Once runs to October 14 at the Citadel Theatre. Click here for tickets. 

Photo Credit: Ian Jackson, EPIC Photography

Monday, September 24, 2018

PLAY THE FOOL FESTIVAL - A Little Clowning around in Edmonton!

Play the Fool Festival, Edmonton’s Theatre Festival for Clown & Physical Comedy, returns this week on Sept 27th – 30th at The Backstage Theatre and ATB Financial Arts Barns. It's the third year for the theatre festival and there are so many different shows you can check out.

I had a stroll through their website (click here) and here are a few shows that jumped out at me (please check out the age recommendations as most of the shows are aimed at adult audiences):

Shipwrecked - Calgary
Created and Performed By: Chad Bryant and Chris Gamble

Shipwrecked on a desert island, Swill and Lavy find a mysterious treasure map. Will the map lead to their salvation or doom? Calgary-based comedy theatre artists Chad Bryant (Swill) and Chris Gamble (Lavy) team up with Jacqueline Russell from Sizzle & Spark (The Sama Kutra & Hushabye) to bring a new Pochinko-style clown duo to the stage.

The Daily Deal with Lady - Edmonton
Created and Performed By: Lindsay Ruth Hunt

Lady launches her career as a home-shopping network celebrity! Join her live in-studio audience and prepare to be wowed. And to buy her much-sought-after product. Lindsay Ruth Hunt has a background in improvisational theatre and sketch comedy, including being a founding member of both The General Fools and Uberkill.

The Performance - Edmonton
Created and Performed By: Candace Berlinguette and Michael Kennard

A down and out pianist and singer attempt to regain their former glory. Candace Berlinguette is a theatre creator, actor, producer and teacher. Michael Kennard is an award winning theatre creator and one half of the clown duo Mump and Smoot.

Lady Be Good - Edmonton
Created and Performed By: Erin Pettifor and Gabby Bernard

Equality is here! Sit back and relax with your diverse friend group and enjoy Lady Be Good, darkly satirical pageant that celebrates us all. Erin Pettifor and Gabby Bernard are recent graduates from the BFA acting program at the University of Alberta.

These are just a few of the shows on the docket - I recommend a trip to the website (click here) to check out what else is on the docket. There is also a Cabaret Series that you should check out for a great variety of acts.

The Play the Fool Festival is curated by Christine Lesiak, creator and performer of the 2018 Fringe holdover hit For Science!, and it features over 30 physical comedy artists from across Canada and from Edmonton, including: Michael Kennard of Mump & Smoot with Candace Berlinguette in The Performance; Vancouver-based award-winning character artist Candice Roberts’ gender-bending Larry show; Cabaret Calgary Productions’ cheeky, produce-inspired burlesque act, Fruitbowl; and an All-Ages Spectacular with local favorites.

I encourage you all to check out a sneak peek of festival acts at the FREE Opening Night Gala Teaser Cabaret on Thursday, September 27th at 7 p.m., with live music from the Mary Lee Bird Band. Admission for the Opening night gala is first-come-first-served at the door, with front-of-the-line guaranteed seating for Festival Pass Holders arriving by 6:45 pm.

Tickets & Passes
Passes: $100.00 adults, $85.00 seniors & students
Passes include access to all shows + Priority Seating | LIMITED SUPPLY
Tickets: $10-$20.00 general admission | $10-$116.00 senior/student
Passes and tickets available at https://playthefool.ca
Please note, most festival shows are rated 13+ or 18+