Calgary Musicals

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What’s on The Menu @ Stage West in 2012-2013

When it comes to dinner theatre in Calgary (or Toronto) most people immediately think of Stage West. It runs year-round, so it’s hard to say what constitutes a “season”, but they just did a 2012-2013 season launch and as usual, three of their five shows are musicals. Two are revues or “jukebox” musicals that are typical of the Stage West line-up – a fast-paced show with a string of mostly familiar song and dance numbers based on a theme, with commentary in between: Two Hit Wonders and Uptown Country Girls. Both of these are co-written by Stage West’s Howard Pechet, who also co-wrote the script for Summer in the City, currently playing there. If you like(d) that, or his previous One Hit Wonders, you’ll probably like these too. For me, the country one holds some promise, as that looks to be a little different from the usual retrospective and we might learn a little something about sexism in the country music industry.

Stage West is also doing a “conventional” show, Chicago – one of their more risqué musicals in recent years. It’s likely to be a popular choice, as evidenced by how often it gets produced. It was done in Calgary by Front Row Centre in 2007 and by Broadway Across Canada in 2008, and probably elsewhere. It was also produced this past Feburary in Fort MacMurray by Keyano College. I came this close to being the musical director. It’s just as well that I turned the job down, or I wouldn’t be doing this now. Chicago is on my list of favourite shows, although I do think condoning murder is morally dubious, even if it’s meant to be satirical – “He Had It Comin” has got to be one of the funniest songs in musical comedy history, but you know that if it were men in prison singing about killing the women they love for ANY reason, it just wouldn’t fly. Here’s what Stage West has to say about these shows. For more information, go to: Stage West.

Two Hit Wonders (Opening November 8)

It is said that everyone gets 15 minutes of Fame. Some in the history of pop music were just lucky enough to double down for 30 minutes of stardom with two hits. This follow-up to the record-breaking “One Hit Wonders” explores the artists who struck gold twice before fading into the background. “Two Hit Wonders” pays tribute to pop hits such as ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’, ‘What The World Needs Now is Love’, ‘Hooked On A Feeling’, ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Take Me On’, and ‘Give Me One Reason’, as well as the rock pioneers of their era who gave us ‘Walk Away Renee’, ‘Somebody to Love’, ‘Burnin For You’, ‘Radar Love’, ‘I’ll be There For You’ and many, many more!

Chicago (Opening April 18)

“CHICAGO” is one of the most noted and longest running musicals on Broadway. Loosely based on a murder case in the 1920s that grabbed the attention of the media, it is a satirical look at the way society turns criminals into celebrities. Those criminals are Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart who stand accused of murdering their respective lovers. They are immediately vaulted into the spotlight by the media aided by their somewhat less than ethical lawyer and PR machine, Billy Flynn. When they are eventually acquitted of the crimes the press ends their love affair with the girls leaving them alone and penniless.

Uptown Country Girls (Opening June 27)

This musical revue delves into the evolution of women in country music and their struggles in a male dominated industry. Patsy Cline was the first of her kind to earn genuine respect as a country artist. She paved the way for the Queens of Country, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Reba McEntire, all of whom had their share of adversity and controversy, but ultimately led to enormously successful careers. While these artists would take inspiration from other genres such as gospel, blues, R&B and pop to diversify their country sound it would be the next generation who would explode country onto the mainstream pop charts. Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are among those who continue to take country music and the empowerment of women in the music industry to new levels.

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