Calgary Musicals

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Joe Slabe Musical Theatre Writing Workshop starts March 9

If you’ve always wanted to write a musical yourself, or just hone your songwriting in general, Alberta Playwrights’ Network and Forte have teamed up to present a course in Musical Theatre writing and composition with Joe Slabe starting on March 9th! There are still a few spots left as of this writing.

Each class will focus on a musical theatre topic, starting with some general history and then delving into specific forms, song types,  adaptations and characteristics of the musical book. Each class will also have  an assignment at the end and there will be time built into  each subsequent  class to share what you’ve worked on and get feedback on your work.

The course runs Monday nights at the APN space off Centre Street North starting on March 9th, with the last class on May 11th. Since there are holidays in there and some longer writing assignments, there are no classes on March 23rd, April 6th or May 4th.

Cost is $300 and people on the course also need to belong to the APN, so you’d need to join if you’re not already a member.  You can get a little more info and sign up for the course on the APN webpage here:

Joe says he’s very pumped about this course and thinks it could be the start of an exciting new musical theatre group in Calgary!

Joe Slabe is an internationally recognized writer, composer and musical director with a Masters Degree in musical theatre composition from the University of London. Winner of numerous awards for both his writing and musical direction, he is the founding artistic director of Forte Musical Theatre Guild and received the 2004 Greg Bond Award for outstanding contributions to musical theatre in Calgary.

Sing-Along with Mary Poppins This Weekend


Hey folks, not much musical theatre happening at the moment, but if you’re looking for something to chase the winter blues away, consider joining me and the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group at  Cowtown Opera Company’s Sing-Along With Mary at Festival Hall in Inglewood. Still tickets available for tonight’s performance at 2014 in review

For the statistically minded among you, here’s the 2014 annual report prepared for this blog.   As reflected in the stats, i didn’t have as much time to put into the blog (or go to musicals) this year as I did at the outset, but I am planning to get back on it in 2015 – likely with shorter, more frequent articles, which will be more manageable for me.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What Musicals Are You Looking Forward to Seeing in 2015?

One of a few of my favourite things is the twice annual refresh of the Calgary musical theatre calendar. I’ve just posted listings for the remainder of the 2014-2015 season. Lots to look forward to. I am particularly keen on original musicals (with a soft spot for Canadians) and shows that I’ve never seen before, so the big attractions coming up for me are Dear Johnny Deere: The Fred Eaglesmith Musical, at ATP (I seem to recall I was an Eaglesmith fan at one time), The Great American Trailer Park Musical at Cappuccino and Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story, at Lunchbox (part of the High Performance Rodeo). I am also excited to see Jesus Christ Superstar at Front Row Centre (still my favourite musical of all time) and Willy Wonka at Storybook (never seen on stage, but a sentimental favourite for me, since the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was the first movie I went to without my parents (love those Oompah-Loompahs!).

I’ve seen The Book of Mormon (Broadway Across Canada), Urinetown (Front Row Centre), West Side Story (UCalgary Operetta Company) and Beauty and the Beast (Broadway Across Canada), or those would be on my list too. I also enjoy anything by Forte Musical Theatre Guild, but don’t know what Joe Slabe has up his sleeve for the spring.

What musicals are you looking forward to in 2015?

Good luck getting tickets to any musicals this week

The holiday (musical) theatre scene is winding down with SOLD OUT performances of the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at Rosebud, Peter Pan at Storybook (saw them both last week, as well as Annie at Central Memorial and Morpheus’ Christmas panto – liked them all) and With Bells On at Lunchbox (taking my whole work team there tomorrow for our year-end celebration, so yes, it’s my fault you can’t get tickets).

Just got back from Lunchbox theatre where I saw a fun Christmas musical revue put on by Forte Musical Theatre Guild called Naughty… but Nice! It’s described as “A hilarious and slightly risque look at everyone’s favourite holiday season,” and lives up to its billing. Directed by JP Thibodeau, it features Calgary favourites Joe Slabe (Forte’s artistic and musical director and creative force), Jeremy Carver-James, Katherine Fadum and Adam Sanders.

I’d have missed it altogether if someone from the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group hadn’t told me about it. Either I was asleep at the switch (likely) or Forte needs to improve its marketing (wouldn’t hurt – I’ll bet they could have done a good business with the Christmas Party crowd). Tickets are $25/$20 and available through Lunchbox Theatre.

That makes 6 shows in 9 days, possibly a new record for me. Definitely time for a rest. Next up – the new Into The Woods movie, which opens on Christmas Day. I’m a big Stephen Sondheim fan, and I love the score, so I am really looking forward to this one.


Mixed Reviews for Flashdance at Broadway Across Canada

4089-1[1]Broadway Across Canada’s Flashdance wraps up at the Jubilee today with a matinée and an evening show. I saw it on Tuesday with 6 other members of the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup group. While my companion and I in the orchestra quite liked it, my colleagues in the front of the second balcony were less enthusiastic – with views ranging from “ok” to “blah”.

Sure, the story of a female welder who aspires to be a ballerina and falls in love with the steel plant’s new boss is fairly predictable (girl-meets-boy, girl-hates-boy, girl-changes-her-mind-when-she discovers-the-boy-has-a-heart-of-gold) – essentially the same story as Billy Elliott without the romance – and they did have issues with sound on opening night, but I thought the score and singing were solid (including hit songs from the 1983 movie, “What A Feeling”, “Maniac” and “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”) and I really enjoyed the dancing, which is really the heart of the show. My mother always said you should support dancers, because their careers are so short and would always see A Chorus Line when she went to New York. My peers upstairs were not convinced. It would appear that our views echo those of the critics who also had mixed opinions. Here are a couple:

Calgary Herald (Stephen Hunt) – Flashdance the Musical Fizzles

Calgary Sun (Louis Hobson) – Plenty of Flash, Some Tedium

If you want to go, there are still tickets available, either online or at the door.

For more information go to:

Musicals I’m Keen to See in YYC this Fall

So, with the summer season over, it’s my favourite time of year – the start of the Fall theatre season.  I am always up for something new, and I am pleased to see that although there aren’t an awful lot of musicals playing between now and the end of the year, there isn’t a single one that I’ve ever seen.  That always makes theatre-going more of an adventure.

The ones I’m most keen to see are Storybook’s Peter Pan The Musical, Front Row Centre’s 9 to 5 The Musical, and Lunchbox Theatre’s remount of With Bells On, the latter of which I missed when it was here before because it sold out. Lunchbox is doing a a number of remakes of its hits as part of a big anniversary celebration this year, so there are lots of non-musicals I’m taking the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group to see as well. Check the link to that site to see some of those.

Check out the schedule tab for the Fall Musical Theatre Schedule – this is updated as new shows are announced or discovered. I also include it below: 

Richard Scary’s Busytown STORYBOOK THEATRE C Beddington Heights Community Arts Centre 3-Oct 25-Oct
9 to 5 The Musical FRONT ROW CENTRE C Beddington Heights Community Arts Centre 31-Oct 15-Nov
Flashdance Broadway Across Canada P Jubilee 18-Nov 23-Nov
Peter Pan The Musical STORYBOOK THEATRE C Beddington Heights Community Arts Centre 28-Nov 22-Dec
WITH BELLS ON Lunchbox Theatre P Lunchbox 1-Dec 24-Dec
Young Shirlock Holmes and the Case of Dick Whittington’s Cat(Christmas Panto) Morpheus Theatre C Pumphouse 4-Dec 14-Dec
80’s Solid Gold – a Musical Revue STAGE WEST P, D, JB Stage West 13-Nov 1-Feb
1. SHOWS IN CAPS are original productions, written by Canadians
2. COMPANIES IN CAPS major in musicals
3. P = Professional, C = Community/School, D = Dinner, S=Short (< 1hr), JB = “jukebox” musical – show built around previously written popular songs, often also called a revue
4. Announced opening date. May be previews on or prior to this date
Shows sorted by opening date     TBA = To be announced

Catching up – 2014 CAT Awards

And now for the annual community theatre awards  – a copy of an article that was posted by Theatre Alberta (see blogroll). I’m totally in agreement with this year’s choices. Most of the musical theatre awards went to Storybook Theatre’s Shrek (loved it!) and Front Row Centre’s Young Frankenstein (missed it but my buddies in the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup group said it was fantastic), with Storybook’s Big The Musical and Cappuccino Musical Theatre’s Into The Woods getting one nod each.

From Theatre Alberta website:

Saturday, August 23, 2014, marked the 11th Annual CAT Awards, a celebration of Calgary’s Community Theatre at the University of Calgary’s Rozsa Centre.

The annual CAT Awards is an event that celebrates the quality of work that Calgarians can expect to see from Community Theatre in Calgary and surrounding areas. The CAT Awards is produced by Calgary-ACTS (Calgary’s Alliance of Community Theatres) which focuses on promoting community theatre in Calgary, by informing its members and the public of events related to the arts, and providing a communication and support network for its members. Recipients of the CAT Awards are determined by a combined process of public nomination and adjudication. We encourage you all to attend community theatre productions and nominate your favorites throughout the upcoming 2014-2015 season. Please visit to nominate anyone (starting September 1), or if you have any questions about the CAT Awards or Calgary-ACTS.

Brian Holiday, a well known recreational actor, musical director, committee member and adjudicator received the prestigious Sandy Singer Award for his dedication and outstanding contribution to our community. We are so proud to recognize his deep commitment

Every year, theatre companies are given the opportunity to honor any of their exceptional volunteers. These volunteers are people who have gone above and beyond the normal to ensure that the show, project, or event they are working on is a success.

Recipients of the 2014 Volunteer Awards:

Dewdney Players – Annette Kavalinas and her Family

Front Row Centre Players – Alexandra May

Liffey Players Drama Society – Marise Kelly

Morpheus Theatre – Byron Hynes

Scorpio Theatre – Ian Pond; Darren Moore; Matt Pickering

Storybook Theatre – Kathy Bauer; Lorie Masur; Rich Davis; Jolene Anderson;

Congratulations to all recipients, and to all nominees, for a wonderful 2013/14 season! We will see you next year!

~ 2014 CAT Awards Committee


Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Musical
• Donna Barnfield as Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein – (Front Row Centre Players)

Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Musical
• Tenaj Wiliams as Donkey in Shrek, the Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding SFX (Sound for a Musical)
• Étienne St. Jacques for Shrek, The Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Soundscape (for Play)
• Jevon Hills for That Championship Season – (TimeQuake Productions)

Outstanding Stagecraft (all aspects of set design)
• JP Thibodeau, Set Design (Lorie Masur, Rich Davis, Lilja Gareau Smith, Deb Miall, Bill Brown, Kristine Astop: construction support) for Shrek, The Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Play
• Jerry Callaghan as Bill Fordham in August: Osage Country – (Liffey Players)

Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play
• Faith Amantea as Gretchen in Boeing Boeing – (Morpheus Theatre)

Outstanding Costume Design
• Magz Ross (Katelyn Morishita & Cat Bentley – Hair, Kirstie Gallant – Make-Up/Prosthetics) for Shrek the Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Lighting Design
• JP Thibodeau for Shrek the Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by a Chorus (Musical)
• Shrek the Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble (Play)
• That Championship Season – (TimeQuake Productions)

Outstanding Choreography
• Laura Solilo for Big The Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Stage Fight
• Aaron Conrad for August: Osage Country – (Liffey Players)

Outstanding Musical Direction
• Patrice Barnes for Shrek the Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Original Script or Adaptation
• Jeff Carter for Pastoral Paranoia – (Scorpio Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Tanis Laatsch as Inga in Young Frankenstein – (Front Row Centre Players)
Shandra McQueen as the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods – (Cappuccino Musical Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
• Jeremy Walker as Shrek in Shrek the Musical – (StoryBook Theatre)

Outstanding Direction of a Musical
• Graeme Humphrey/Matthew McDonald for Young Frankenstein – (Front Row Centre Players)

Outstanding Direction of a Play
• Bill Torrie for August: Osage Country – (Liffey Players)

Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
• Jerod Blake as Jake (et al) in Stones in his Pockets – (Liffey Players)

Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
• Tanya Wolff as Barbara in August: Osage Country – (Liffey Players)

Outstanding Production of a Play
That Championship Season – TimeQuake Productions
Producer: Greg Spielman
Director: Bill Torrie
Stage Manager: Daisy Pond

Outstanding Production of a Musical
Shrek the Musical – Storybook Theatre
Producers: Ainsley Ohler, Maria Bernardin, Lorie Masur, Jacqueline Bourque
Director: * Mark Bellamy
Musical Director: Patrice Barnes
Choreographer: Angela Woodard
Stage Manager: Jody Low

To see a full list of nominees, please visit

A * means professional status. The CAT Awards Committee wishes to honour those professionals who contribute to our community theatre productions while being exempt from receiving our awards. Special thank you’s to Mark Bellamy (Director), JP Thibodeau (Director) and Tory Doctor (Director).

Congratulations to all the award receipients and nominees from Theatre Alberta!

Catching up – 2014 Betty Awards

Ok, so I guess I really have been taking it easy on the musical theatre front this summer. Not only have I missed ALL the awards events, but I forgot to write about them. I already posted the Critter awards. Now here are the musicals that won Betty Awards (professional theatre) on August 18th. On the whole, musicals didn’t fare so well compared to the competition in 2013-2014, with only Theatre Calgary’s Mary Poppins and Forte Musical Theatre Guild’s Touch Me winning awards (good choices – loved them both!). For more information go to

2014 Bettys

(Recipients are in bold)

Joel Crichton – Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Sage Theatre
Tom Doyle – Bingo Ladies – Lunchbox Theatre
Veda Hille – Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata – Alberta Theatre Projects
Don Horsburgh Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins – Theatre Calgary
Joe Slabe – Touch Me: Songs for a (dis)Connected Age – Forte Musical Theatre Guild

Christian Goutsis – Touch Me: Songs for a (dis)Connected Age – Forte Musical Theatre Guild
Stephen Hair – Travels With My Aunt – Vertigo Theatre
Paul Sun Hyung Lee – Kim’s Convenience – Theatre Calgary
Andrew MacDonald Smith – Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins – Theatre Calgary
Michael Tan – Travels With My Aunt – Vertigo Theatre

Bingo Ladies – Lunchbox Theatre
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins – Theatre Calgary
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata – Alberta Theatre Projects
Madame Butterfly – Calgary Opera
Touuch Me: Songs for a (dis)Connected Age – Forte Musical Theatre Guild

Calgary Dinner Theatres Wind Down for the Summer

I was walking through Prince’s Island park last week on the first of our chilly mornings and came across a couple of pre-schoolers with their Mom on the way to the Y. They were having fun chasing gulls in the park (“you don’t chase geese, because they bite”).  One of them turned to me and said “My nose is cold.”  I suggested that maybe it was because she wasn’t dressed for the suddenly cool weather. She responded matter-of-factly, “It’s still summer, you know”. I assured her that indeed it still was.

So, while theatre companies are in the throes of getting their Fall seasons ready and parents are in the throes of getting their children ready for school, several musicals are winding up for the summer. With the exception of Les Miserables at Storybook (school edition), which opened this week – the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup group is going closing night Sept 6 if you’d care to join us – the rest are dinner theatre shows that have been on all summer.

Closing this week are Chickens at Rosebud Theatre and Avenue Q at Stage West. Jubilations Dinner Theatre ‘s The Big Boom Theory 2: Time Travelling Geeks closes next weekend.

I haven’t seen Chickens – like a lot of people, I was probably put off by the title, but I’m told by people who’ve seen it that this story of a bankrupt farmer who has one last chance to save the farm by investing in exotic chickens, is hilarious. If the idea of singing, dancing chickens appeals to you, you might want to give it a try.  For more information, tickets and a sample of the music, go to

I can recommend both of the other two, however, particularly Avenue Q, which I saw last week. I first saw the show when Storybook Theatre did it a couple of years ago and was blown away by it. I wouldn’t have thought a musical with people walking around on stage holding Muppet-like characters and singing songs like “It Sucks to Be Me” and “The Internet is for Porn” would appeal to me, but I was really impressed. I’m sure that the secret of its success has to do with the dichotomy of having childlike puppets saying (and doing) “dirty” things. Certainly there are things puppets can get away with, that conventional actors can’t, which is some of the charm and fun of the show. Stage West’s version, directed by Calgary favourite Mark Bellamy is top-notch – and includes many well-known and emerging Calgary actors (Katherine Fadum, Christian Goutsis, Madeleine Suddaby and Selina Wong).  I particularly enjoyed the “Bad Idea Bears” modelled on the Care Bears, who would suggest to the protagonist, Princeton (played by Jeremy Crittenden) that since he was depressed, unemployed and broke he should use his rent money to buy beer – “it’s cheaper by the case”  -and then cheer whenever he did whatever they suggested (and he usually did, to his detriment). I love it when Stage West does “real” musicals, rather than revues, and I have to admit I was surprised they put  this R rated show in their programme, as it’s more risqué than their usual fare. I know there was pretty much a full house when I went, so hopefully we’ll see more of that kind of offering there in future.  For information and tickets go to  (Did you know Thursday is Ladies night and they have discounts for tables of 4? I didn’t).

Big Boom Theory 2: Time Travelling Geeks (written by Matt Falk, directed by Randy Apostle) at Jubilations Dinner Theatre, is a sequel to last year’s successful Big Boom Theory, both of which are jukebox musical spoofs of the popular TV series (Jubilations’ bread and butter as it were). I’ve only seen Big Bang Theory a few times, and although I like it, I’m not a big follower, so I’m sure some of the humour was lost on me.  This was not the best offering I’ve seen at Jubilations (my personal favourite in recent years is still Ghostbusted) – but I expect this would appeal very much to fans of the TV show, and there are plenty of them. I was particularly impressed with the dancing talents of Jeff Rivet (Howard) and Aimee Beaudoin (Penny) and Andrea Bailey (Amy) ‘s geeky strip-tease. For information and tickets go to

If that’s not enough, Cornerstone Theatre’s annual Oh Canada Eh? show runs through to October. For more information and tickets, go to


I’ll be posting the Fall musical theatre schedule shortly so check back soon to see what’s coming up in September. As usual, lots to choose from.


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