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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

The Calgary Fringe Festival – A Theatre Smorgasbord

I wrote this blog article for Calgary2012. In case you’re not on their mailing list, here it is (with a few minor edits). 

For a lot of people the August long weekend signals that’s it’s time to get out of town. For me it means it’s time to head to historic Inglewood for the Calgary Fringe Festival. Many Calgarians are familiar with the more established Edmonton Fringe Festival (the second largest in the world, right after Edinburgh, which started it all in 1947), but aren’t aware we’ve had one for seven years now. Hopefully Calgary2012 will help change that.

What’s unique about Fringe Festivals is that the selection is by lottery, which is great for artists, because they don’t have to be part of the theatre community inner circle to get in. Also, 100% of the set ticket price goes to the artist, so bums in seats = money in their pocket. Fringe Festivals are also great for the audience because in the absence of a jury, just about anything goes – as long as it’s legal. As a result, you get shows that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise, including a number of performers who tour the International Fringe Festival circuit. This also means that there are inevitably going to be a few duds, but that’s part of the adventure. Most performances run about an hour and there are 15-24 shows a day at several theatre venues, so you’re bound to find something to your taste. I like to think of it as a smorgasbord for theatre lovers. And who doesn’t like a good buffet?

I’ve studied this year’s online programme and although I don’t see anything that I would describe as a musical :( I’ve picked a few shows I want to see based on past reputation: The Ballad of Herbie Cox (a new show by a Melbourne duo; 2 to Django by well-known BC guitarist Colin Godbout; The Bro Sho by Florida’s Chase Padgett (he did the popular 6 Guitars last summer) and his brother Ross; and Loon (a new performance by Portland Oregon’s Wonderheads, the winners of the last year’s “Best of Fest”). For a change of pace, I also want to take in one of the nightly Inglewood Ghost Tours, part of the Festival for the first time. I’ll pick the rest once I get my hands on a physical programme – available now at Inglewood merchants and select Second Cup locations.

Michele Gallant, Festival Director and Producer, says there’s an interesting trend this year in that there is a lot of physical theatre that features movement, dance or acrobatic – something to do with the Olympics, perhaps? Also, she tells me The Fringe is going to be the guinea pig for Calgary’s new public performance space, Festival Hall.  It will officially open and be available for rent by the public later this year but we’ll get a chance for a sneak-peek here – definitely worth checking out.

One of the great things about having The Fringe in Inglewood is that all the venues are within a 10-minute walk of each other – even quicker by bike, if, like me, you want to not just “See the Fringe” but “Blitz the Fringe” and take in the most shows in the least amount of time. There are also lots of fine shops, galleries and restaurants to take in between shows, at least on the weekend. Inglewood is known as Calgary’s antique district but there are lots of other neat stores as well. Many of these are listed on the Fringe website and some offer special Fringe discounts. The best way to see it all is to take in the Inglewood Sunfest on Saturday August 4th, when 9th Avenue is closed to car traffic and pedestrians take to the streets for shopping and outdoor food and entertainment. It’s a great family outing, even if you don’t go to the theatre.

A few words of advice for Fringe virgins:

  • Tickets are easiest to get opening weekend before the buzz gets out
  • It’s worth booking online well ahead of time for popular shows. 20% of tickets are held for sale on-site on the day of the show but you may miss out if you don’t get there early enough
  • If you want to take in several shows consider a SuperPass. For me, the Buddy Pass (10 shows for $105) is about right. Passes can be shared so it’s a great way to save money if you have a group.
  • Parking can be tricky on weekends but if you get there early or don’t mind walking a few blocks you can find free street parking nearby (another reason to bike, especially with the Bow River pathway so close)
  • Be aware that none of the theatres are air-conditioned. If it’s a hot day, the heat builds with each show and some can be quite uncomfortable by the end of the day. On days like that, go early, dress light or bring a paper fan.

The Calgary Fringe Festival runs from August 3 to August 11. Tickets are $10-$15 per show and most shows are about an hour long. For information and tickets, go to Calgary Fringe Festival.

Lynn Marie Calder is an Alberta-based composer, lyricist and playwright, and the author of the calgarymusicals.com blog. She is the creator of the musical Eve: The True Story (Calgary Fringe Festival 2008) and is currently working on a new musical with award-winning playwright, David Sealy called No Ordinary Tulip. She also runs The Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group and hosts a monthly Strictly Show Tunes Sing-Along at the Auburn. She can be reached on Twitter @CalderLynn.

Review: Omigod, Legally Blonde is Serious Summer Fun

When I first set up this blog with my list of theatre companies and a schedule of upcoming shows, the one omission I got heat for was Summerstock, Calgary’s only outdoor musical theatre company. Summerstock brings youth from age 14 to 20 together from all over Calgary to put on a Broadway show at Olympic Plaza every year. This not-for-profit organization, a programme of the Westmount Charter School Society supports budding young actors, provides scholarships and gives them a venue to showcase their talent by teaming them up with professional design, instruction and technical support. They start rehearsing in September for their summer show, so it’s quite a commitment on the part of all involved, parents included, no doubt. In 2004, Summerstock was awarded the Downtown Calgary Association’s Vitality Award for working to enhance the image of Calgary’s downtown core. In 2012 they got a Calgary2012 Grassroots Inspired Grant.

I went to this year’s performance of Legally Blonde The Musical last Wednesday (opening night) with seven people from The Calgary Musicals Meetup Group – one of our more popular outings. According to Wikipedia, “Legally Blonde is a musical with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach. The story is based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown and the 2001 film of the same name. It tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner. She discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others, and successfully defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial”.

Not having seen the movie (or read the book), I thought this was going to be a show that was both silly and sexist. I was only half-right. Certainly, lightweight fashion-queen Elle’s attempts to show Warner how “serious” she is by getting into and succeeding at Harvard Law School are silly – and rather unbelievable (particularly in the courtroom scene in Act II). However, while Elle’s motives are originally shallow and misplaced, she discovers that she has a brain and she can use her strengths to be successful in a world where she really doesn’t fit in, and in fact she is successful just because she has knowledge and talent the others don’t. OK, so maybe a finely-tuned “gaydar” and strong hair and fashion sense don’t constitute “important” and certainly not “serious” skills, but what the heck, Legally Blonde still sends a positive message that “being true to yourself never goes out of style”.

I thought Summerstock, under the direction of Jim Senft and the musical direction of Merrilie Stonewall, did a great job with the show. It was a good, fun, high-energy choice for a large, young cast, especially one with lots of young women. The show has lots of ensemble numbers and many lead and minor roles for both both sexes. It’s also a great choice for an outdoor summer show, because it doesn’t require too much concentration. If you can’t make out all the words – there were a number of issues with sound the night I was there that hopefully they’ve sorted out by now – you can still follow along, even if you don’t know the story.

The show was well cast with strong acting and singing throughout  – although perhaps some tuning issues due to the sound problems. The night I went had Jessica Scott as Elle, Austin Rosenfeld as Warner, Nick Driscoll as Emmett, Niko Combitsis as Professor Callahan, Taryn Haley as Paulette, Khadija Mbowe as Vivienne and Stuart McDougall as Dewey. RJ Johnson-Brown was hilarious as UPS guy Kyle and gay boyfriend Nikos (he was also the assistant choreographer) and the two dogs were a hoot. The leads are doubled so you might get different people on different nights. I was most impressed with the ensemble numbers and the caliber of the dancing, with choreography by Yoshi Kaga – some of the best I’ve seen on Calgary amateur or professional stages. Lots of talent there behind the scenes and on-stage.

All in all it was a great night out. I’d go back and see it again if I weren’t fully booked with other musical theatre outings all week (Mary Poppins, The Critter Awards, Fame and The Fringe). I really enjoyed sitting outside with the wind and the weather, which fortunately cooperated for us. It looks like it’s going to be pretty nice for the rest of the run as well, so you might need to book your tickets ahead or line up early to get a seat. They do not provide refunds if the show is cancelled due to rain (or hail or snow, this being Calgary), but will try to get you in for a later show instead, so keep that in mind. Regardless of the forecast, make sure you bring a jacket and rain gear because it gets cool when the sun goes down and there’s always a risk of thundershowers this time of year. Consider bringing your own food if you don’t have time for dinner – there’s a chip/pop stand there but that’s it.

Legally Blonde The Musical runs until this Saturday August 4th at Olympic Plaza at 6:36 PM (!?). Tickets are $12 in the assigned seating area (+$3 for Ticketmaster if you buy through them) and free (donations encouraged) in the grassy amphitheatre to the sides of the stage (or standing up behind the seats). It’s worth paying for a seat, because it’s more comfortable, the sound is better and the sight lines from the side are not great – you miss some of the action from that angle. If you’re going to sit in the free section, bring a low folk-festival-type chair or a blanket for comfort.

For more information and tickets go to: Summerstock.

Review: Oh Canada Eh? – A Cheesy Expedition to Canmore

Last Saturday I led an expedition out to Canmore with the Calgary Musicals Meetup Group to see the Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show at Cornerstone Theatre, now in its 11th season. This is one of those shows I’d heard about for years but I’d always been too lazy to jump in my car to go see.  As a proud Canadian I figured it was time. We decided to make a day of it by checking out the Ammonite Factory (nice showroom but skip the $5 tour), having a nice lunch at a French restaurant, strolling the shopping strip and checking out the lakes above town. 

Oh Canada Eh? is an unashamedly cheesy revue of Canadian music (mostly English-Canadian) set in a casual log-cabin setting, with original script and score by J.Sean Elliot and a revised script this year by Kathy Zaborsky, Jamie Mahn, Joe Morris and Stephen Keppler. The show uses the premise of the Trivial Pursuit game (developed by Canadians, of course) to categorize songs as relating to History, Geography, Entertainment , Sports, Arts and Science and Nature. It includes everything from traditional French folks songs such as “Chevalier de la Table Ronde” and “Alouette” to songs by Steppenwolfe (“Born to be Wild”), The Arrogant Worms (“Canada’s Really Big”) and  Michael Buble (“Just Haven’t Met You Yet”). I particularly liked the “Log Drivers Waltz“, sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle and made famous by the National Film Board. I also enjoyed the whole Science and Nature section. I am a scientist by training, and perhaps by nature, but it probably had more to the music, which included tunes from Bryan Adams, The Guess Who, BTO, Galt McDermot (music from Hair), and Gordon Lightfoot.

The characters include a Pierre, a French-Canadian coureur-de-bois (Joe Morris in his 9th season in the role), Rose Marie (Kathy Zaborsky, who took over from J.P. Thibodeau as director this year, along with Jamie Mahn and Gina Power), a Mountie (Joel Lahaye), Klondike Kitty (Jennifer McLaren), and Anne of Green Gables (Madeleine Suddaby, recently seen in Avenue Q and Guys and Dolls). I never tire of seeing Suddaby on stage and was sufficiently inspired to watch her YouTube videos when I got home, even though it was quite late.  There was also a Fisherman (Kevin Clarke). My companions were excited to recognize him from the current Cineplex “favourite movie moment” advertisement. I apparently need to get out more, or at least out more to movies.

The dinner is a set menu served “family style.” You sit at large tables and they serve platters of food for the main course and you pick what you want and pass it down – kind of a cross between a buffet and table seating. The food was nothing to write home about, but there was plenty of variety so no one went home hungry. There are no intermissions, but there are musical interludes while food is being served to keep the action going while you eat.

While Oh Canada Eh? wouldn’t fall into the class of high theatre, it was a fun night out and performances were strong across the board. The format is much like you’d find at a place like Jubilations dinner theatre with lots of audience participation (if you can’t say “eh” by the time you arrive, you will by the time you leave) and corny jokes – pretty much what you’d expect from the image below. If you like that style, you’ll probably like Oh Canada Eh? too. It’s a show worth considering when you have out-of-town guests or just want an excuse to get out of town yourself.

Joel Layahe and Kathy Zaborsky in Oh Canada Eh?

Oh Canada Eh? plays every year from April to October. This year, it runs nightly except Thursdays until October 20th. For more information go to Cornerstone Theatre. If you happen to be in Ontario, it also plays every year in Niagara Falls (Canada, of course, eh?), where it’s in its 19th season – same concept, different cast and presumably some different songs.

Calgary Critics’ Awards Nominees Announced

Lynn Marie Calder:

Lynn’s comments: Lots of nominees in the musical theatre categories, although musicals didn’t do so well in other categories. Bear in mind that these critics did not attend very many community theatre productions (perhaps just Avenue Q?), even though they say any performance other than the big Dancap or Broadway Across Canada touring productions at the Jubilee are eligible (as long as they don’t perform only in July, I guess – sorry, Summerstock, maybe next year). Lots of worthy candidates, many of which are also on the Betty Awards nominees list.

The Awards will be announced on Wednesday August 1st at the Auburn. For more information and to book your spot, see the original Applause! Meter blog post.

Originally posted on Applause! Meter:

2012 Critter Nominations Announced

Calgary Critics’ Awardshonour 60 nominees in 14 categories

We saw, we reviewed, we discussed as a group, we argued, we negotiated, we horse-traded and we drunk a lot of wine – but eventually we all agreed and were pleased with the choices. Calgary Theatre Critics, Stephen Hunt and Bob Clark of the Calgary Herald, Louis B. Hobson of the Calgary Sun and yours truly are pleased to announce the nominees for the first annual Calgary Critics’ Awards.

Nominees were chosen from any production performed in Calgary between August, 2011 and June, 2012, with the exception of Broadway Across Canada or Dancap performances. The winners will be announced at a free public award ceremony at 8pm on August 1st at the Auburn Saloon.

So, drum roll please……

The 2012 Critter nominees are:

Best Production of a Play

Penny Plain – Alberta Theatre Projects

Playing with Fire:…

View original 685 more words

Q&A with … Morris Ertman (Rosebud Theatre)

Morris Ertman

This is one of a series of interviews with some of the movers and shakers in the Calgary area musical theatre scene. Morris Ertman is the Artistic Director of  Rosebud Theatre. He also co-wrote the award-winning musical Tent Meeting, which he is currently turning into a screenplay.

How did you get involved in theatre and make your way to Rosebud?

I grew up in Millet, Alberta, a small town near Edmonton. I was smitten by theatre as a teenager. I was involved in high school productions and even had a subscription to the Citadel Theatre, which performed out of the old Salvation Army Hall in those days. I studied theatre directing and design, as well as religion, in University and then went on to be a freelance director and theatrical designer across the country for about twenty years, including involvement with The Stratford Festival, The National Arts Centre in Ottawa, The Canadian Opera Company, and Pacific Theatre in Vancouver. About thirteen or fourteen years ago, Rosebud Theatre asked me to come direct Cotton Patch Gospel, and after directing a few other shows for them, they asked me to be Artistic Director.  I’ve been here ever since.

How is Rosebud Theatre different from other theatre companies?

As soon as you enter the Rosebud Valley, you know you’re in for something special  – there’s an ethos here of storytelling, artistic expression, beauty and intimacy that you can’t find elsewhere.  We’re about an hour northeast of Calgary. Because most people need to travel to get here, it’s almost like a pilgrimage. By the time they arrive, they are primed to open their hearts to experience and receive our productions.  They tell us they are often astonished at the quality and clarity of the storytelling.

Rosebud Theatre is one of few Canadian theatre companies with a resident company, which means the same actors work together on a number of different plays, along with our guest artists. This gives them a shorthand language that makes it easy to work the details – kind of like a band that’s used to playing together over the years. There’s also a synergy with the Rosebud School of The Arts and the town itself. Many of the people in the company work at the school, and many of the school’s students apprentice at the theatre and eventually become part of the resident company. Also most of the one hundred or so people who live in Rosebud work for the theatre, the school or both. It’s not uncommon to walk by someone’s house and see people playing music or reading scripts on the front porch. As a result, our audiences, many of whom are long-time patrons, get to know us well, and almost feel like we’re family.

It’s amazing to me that a town this small can manage to pull off something this big. How did it get started?

The Rosebud School of the Arts started about thirty years ago, as the vision of Laverne Erikson, a teacher of music and visual arts. She felt that artistic expression could be an economic driver for a dying town. The summer programme for Calgary youth she founded expanded to become the Rosebud School of the Arts and in 1983 the school decided to put on a play, Where The Sun Meets the Earth, as a fundraiser. It was so successful, they put on a show every summer and it kept growing and growing. Within ten years they were putting on three shows a year, attracting over 25,000 people a year. Now we have a fully professional dinner theatre putting on five shows year-round – including two musicals – and bringing in over 35,000 people a year from all over Alberta and beyond. [For more on the history of the school and theatre, go to Rosebud School of The Arts - History - LMC].

What do you look for when selecting a musical?

Our current show is a good example of what we’re looking for. Anne of Green Gables is a story that’s well known and loved – in fact, many people say it’s the single most important book they’ve ever read.  We’re looking for a story that’s bigger than our own humanity, one that shows the values of goodness, grace, inclusiveness and the power of redemption. We think there’s enough hardness in the world, so we choose shows with an optimistic viewpoint. While Rosebud Theatre has its roots in the Christian faith (Laverne was a youth pastor), and our shows often have a spiritual or moral lesson, you’d be hard-pressed to say the shows we do are more overtly religious than those of other theatre companies.

I also have to consider the cast I have available, particularly the leads. In this case, I knew I had a great “Anne” in Cassia Schramm in the School, and that was one of the reasons I selected it for our summer show this year.

Why should people come to see Anne of Green Gables?

We tell the story very well. People who love the story have told us that the show we have delivered to them is true to the original spirit of the book and the 1965 musical. The show is inventively staged and we have great performers.  Also, there are lots of parallels between Rosebud today and the town of Avonlea 100 years ago, where the story is set, so it’s a wonderful environment in which to see this show. It’s also a nice outing for people from the city. Many people make a weekend of it by staying at one of Rosebud’s quaint inns, B&B’s or campgrounds, doing some shopping in town or taking in the attractions of nearby Drumheller, including the Badlands and the world-famous Royal Tyrell (dinosaur) Museum.

Anne of Green Gables runs until August 25. For more information go to: Rosebud Theatre

Calgary’s Betty Mitchell Award Musical Theatre Nominees

The Betty Mitchell Award Nominees have just been announced. “The Bettys”, as they are colloquially known,  are named for a pioneer of Calgary’s theatrical community, Dr. Betty Mitchell, and were started in 1998 to celebrate and honour outstanding achievement in Calgary’s professional theatre  community. Most of the 2012 nominees related to musical theatre are in one of the five shows nominated for Outstanding Production of a Musical. Musicals are also, not surprisingly, well-represented in the costume and sound categories.

Alas, I did not see Peril in ParisThe Wizard of Oz or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (since they were mounted before I launched this blog and made my commitment to try to see every musical opening in Calgary in 2012) or Moby Dick (which I didn’t  - and most people wouldn’t – consider a musical), but I saw all the others and consider them, for the most part, worthy nominees. Here’s the list of  musical theatre nominations (with links to my previous reviews and interviews):

Outstanding Production Of A Musical

Ash Rizin – Alberta Theatre Projects

Jeremy de Bergerac – Forte Musical Theatre Guild

Peril in Paris – Lunchbox Theatre

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Vertigo Theatre

The Wizard of Oz – Alberta Theatre Projects

Outstanding Musical Direction

Ethan Cole (Peril in Paris – Lunchbox Theatre)

Kyprios (Ash Rizin  - Alberta Theatre Projects)

Joe Slabe (Jeremy de Bergerac – Forte Musical Theatre Guild)

Joe Slabe (The Wizard of Oz – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Stephen Woodjetts  (Sweeney Todd – Vertigo Theatre)

Outstanding Performance By An Actor In A Comedy Or Musical

Kevin Aichele  (Sweeney Todd – Vertigo Theatre)

Tory Doctor (Jeremy de Bergerac – Forte Musical Theatre Guild)

Bruce Horak (The Wizard of Oz – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Scott Shpeley (Peril in Paris – Lunchbox Theatre)

Outstanding Performance By An Actress In A Comedy Or Musical

Jamie Konchak (Peril in Paris – Lunchbox Theatre)

Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhran (Sweeney Todd – Vertigo Theatre)

Outstanding Performance by An Actress In A Supporting Role

Allison Lynch (Ash Rizin – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Outstanding Lighting Design

Harry Frehner (Moby Dick – Calgary Opera)

Narda McCarroll (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Vertigo Theatre)

Outstanding Set Design

Robert Brill (Moby Dick – Calgary Opera)

Narda McCarroll (Sweeney Todd – Vertigo Theatre)

Outstanding Performance By An Actor In a Supporting Role

Kyle Jespersen (Ash Rizin – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Daniel Mallett (Peril in Paris – Lunchbox Theatre)

Outstanding Costume Design 

Brian Craik (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Stage West)

Deitra Kalyn (Sweeney Todd – Vertigo Theatre)

John Pennoyer (The Wizard of Oz – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Tyler Sainsbury (Peril In Paris – Lunchbox Theatre)

Outstanding Sound Design Or Composition

Ethan Cole (Peril in Paris – Lunchbox Theatre)

Kyprios (Ash Rizin – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Joe Slabe (Jeremy de Bergerac – Forte Musical Theatre Guild)

Outstanding Choreography Or Fight Direction

Tara Blue (The Wizard of Oz – Alberta Theatre Projects)

Lisa Stevens (Cats – Theatre Calgary)

Outstanding New Play

Ethan Cole and Eric Rose (Peril in Paris)

Joe Slabe (Jeremy de Bergerac)

Outstanding Direction

Mark Bellamy (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Vertigo Theatre)


The recipients of the 2012 Betty Mitchell Awards will be announced at the gala ceremony on Monday, August 27, 2012 at Stage West Theatre (727 42 Avenue S.E.). Tickets are on sale now at the Stage West Theatre Box Office. Early bird tickets (first 150 purchases) are $60.00, and regular price tickets are $65. Tickets include a buffet dinner, the Betty Mitchell Awards Show and entrance to the Official After Party at the Auburn Saloon.  Doors open for dinner at 6:00pm.  The Betty Mitchell Awards Show starts at 7:30pm. Tickets may be purchased by phone with a credit card at 403.243.6642 or in person at Stage West.

For further information and a complete listing, please visit the website at www.bettymitchellawards.com.

Guest Review: Anne of Green Gables – The Musical @ Rosebud

I am pleased to introduce guest blogger Susan Orr, with whom I attended Anne of Green Gables at Rosebud Theatre last weekend. She graciously agreed to write this week’s review, which pretty much reflects my observations as well:

The quaint, artsy hamlet of Rosebud, AB provides the perfect backdrop for the family-oriented Canadian musical Anne of Green Gables. I attended the dinner theatre with another member of the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group on Friday night and was pleasantly surprised with the creative atmosphere of the village, quality of the included meal…and the price of the beer!

Unfortunately, I was slightly underwhelmed with the performance itself.
Being a fan of both the iconic book and the excellent TV mini-series, I found it a bit difficult to dispel the images in my head for the main characters, in particular Anne Shirley and Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. After deciding to broaden my horizons, I was able to embrace the show for what it was, a delightful tribute to one of Canada’s favourite heroines and a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit.
For those who are unfamiliar with the international classic, L.M. Montgomery tells the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan from Nova Scotia who is adopted by P.E.I. natives Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. The brother and sister believed they had adopted a boy to help with chores around their farm, Green Gables, but plucky Anne shows up instead, with carrot red hair and full of vim and vinegar. Just as the book does, the musical follows Anne’s escapades around Avonlea with her bosom friend and kindred spirit, Diana Barry.

Anne of Green Gables – The Musical has an interesting collaborator, which I was truly astounded to learn. Canadian Don Harron, known most notably for his Hee Haw/The Red Green Show character Charlie Farquharson, wrote the lyrics for the show and it was his original idea to have the book translated into a musical.

Although the show has been performed for over 48 seasons at the Charlottetown Festival and has appeared on stages across the world, I didn’t recognize any of the songs. I wasn’t immediately captivated with it as the storyline was a little plodding and the music a touch syrupy for my taste. I also didn’t find the songs contributed to the plot and they appeared, to me anyway, random in placement and subject, but that is no fault of the performing company. As the show continued, I definitely warmed up to it and even shed a few tears at Matthew’s passing.

There are a number of good performances including Cassia Schramm as Anne Shirley, although I wish she had conveyed more of the impish essence that I feel embodies Anne. Judith Buchan was a stand-out as Marilla Cuthbert and Marie Russell provided great comic relief as Rachel Lynde. Deanne Bertsch, who did double-duty as Miss Stacy and also choreographed the show, was my particular favourite. The entire score was performed by a solo pianist which I really enjoyed as she was also integrated into the storyline (the piano became the buggy in which Anne and Matthew rode in to Green Gables). A full orchestra would have overpowered the small venue and the unaccompanied pianist added to the intimate feeling.

Most of the songs weren’t extremely memorable, but I did find a few really endearing tunes. Cassia Schramm’s performance of “Gee, I’m Glad I’m No One Else But Me” was brilliant , and Deanne Bertsch’s rendering of “Open The Window” was sweet and inspirational. Her choreography of the program was excellent as well as energetic and made full use of the simplistic, but effective stage setting.

All in all, if you’re looking for an entertaining, family outing, Anne of Green Gables at Rosebud Theatre more than fits the bill. The combined attraction of the pronounced community feel of Rosebud, the excellent buffet and the fun musical makes for great value. I’d suggest arriving earlier than the show starts so you can have a look around the town’s shops and art galleries and see how the residents all fit together with the theatre…really quite unique and lovely.
Anne of Green Gables runs at Rosebud Theatre in Rosebud, AB until August 25, 2012. Matinees are available on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Lunch is served from 11:00AM – 12:00PM with the show beginning at 1:30PM. Evening performances are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with dinner being offered from 6:00PM – 7:00PM and the musical gets underway at 8:30PM. Tickets can be purchased at Rosebud Theatre or by calling toll-free at 1-800-267-7553. Adult/senior tickets range in price from $58-$70 plus GST. Many of the B & B’s in the area extend a package deal for accommodation plus show tickets, so check out the theatre website for more information on that. Rosebud is located 100 kilometres NE of the Calgary airport (approximately a one hour drive [or faster if Susan is driving - LC :)].

Review: Jersey Boys – Floored or Bored? That Depends on You

Expectations always run high for the mega-musical touring shows that come through Calgary every year (especially if you’re paying upwards of $100 a ticket), and Dancap Productions’ Jersey Boys is no exception. Jersey Boys has lots of credentials behind it: it won the 2006 Tony Award® for Best Musical, the 2006 Grammy® Award for Best Musical Show Album and most recently, the 2009 Olivier Award for Best New Musical,  it’s still running on Broadway, and it’s touring across the globe, including having just completed a successful two-year run in Toronto. From the spontaneous cheers and enthusiastic standing ovation delivered by the official opening night audience at the Jubilee on Saturday night I’d say most people left satisfied. I can’t say that I was one of them.

Jersey Boys is the story of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, The Four Seasons (Frankie Valli (played by Joseph Leo Bwarie), Bob Gaudio (Preston Truman Boyd), Tommy DeVito (John Gardiner) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and how these four blue-collar kids from New Jersey worked their way up (with a little help from their friends in the mob) to become pop/rock music icons. The show is jam-packed with music, including all their hit songs like “Silhouettes”, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “My Eyes Adored You”, “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” and “Who Loves You?” In between songs there are short vignettes where each character breaks the “fourth wall” and explains their trials and tribulations from his perspective.

The music (mostly by Bob Gaudio and producer/lyricist Bob Crewe) was great – if you like that sort of thing  - and the musical performances outstanding. Bwarie captured Frankie Valli’s high-pitched falsetto brilliantly and was, of course, the big star of the show. If you love the music of the Four Seasons (by whatever name they were calling themselves at the time, and there have been a lot), that will probably be enough to carry the show for you.

As for the rest of it, I thought the story was thin and there wasn’t really enough character development for me to understand or care about any of the men, even in what were supposed to be the dramatic moments. As for the “Jersey girls,” they were all whores, shrews or both, and mostly just eye-candy. I’m sure there was a more interesting story here, but book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elise chose not to tell it. At least they didn’t go overboard trying to link the songs to the plot, something that is commonly done in jukebox musicals like this (not my favourite genre in any event), and which can feel overly forced. I also found Klara Zieglerova’s austere catwalk set and Canadian-American director Des McAnuff’s use of it rather bland – which is surprising, considering they, along with choreographer Canadian Sergio Trujillo, also led the creative team that launched the original California and Broadway productions.

I had a chance to see the Broadway production a few Decembers ago when my mother-in-law, who used to run arts and culture tours from Ottawa to New York, invited me to come along. Jersey Boys was their pick for the optional night out.  I chose to wait in line to get stand-by tickets for Wicked instead. Even though my travelling companions all raved about Jersey Boys afterwards, I’m now more than satisfied that I made the better choice. In fact, I think I might even add Jersey Boys to my little list of shows that would not be missed, which includes Cats and many other big shows that lots of people like. It doesn’t mean you won’t like it, just that it didn’t do much for me. This is one of those musicals that I’d put in the category of: “if you’re inclined to go, go, and if you’re inclined not to go, don’t go.” Alternatively, you can wait for the film version that is apparently in the works and then decide if you want to shell out the big bucks to see it on stage next time it comes to a city near you.

The highlight of the evening for me was the “surprise” appearance by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi (no, he didn’t sing) and the white hat ceremony for the Jersey Boys cast, topped off with their singing of the Calgary 2012 Cultural Capital of Canada theme song, “Sweet City Woman”. Oh, and after going to see The Marvelous Wonderettes at Stage West (it must be 50′s/60′s month on the Calgary theatre scene), I got a second chance in the space of a couple of weeks to wear one of my new crinoline-dresses, and hang out with other theatre-loving friends from the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group, which is never a bad thing.

Jersey Boys, presented by Dancap Productions runs until July 15 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium For tickets call 1-855-985-ARTS (2787) or go to www.DancapTickets.com. Bear in mind that if you attend the less expensive Tuesday evening, Wednesday matinée or Sunday evening performances, you’ll be seeing Nick Cosgrove in the role of Frankie Valli, instead of Joseph Leo Bwarie.

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