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A Calgary Musicals Movie – Musical Quiz

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In honour of the four musicals opening this week that have been made into musicals (Mamma Mia!, Fiddler on The Roof, Young Frankenstein and Pirates of Penzance)   just for a change of pace, here’s a quiz to test/increase your knowledge of the many musicals playing in Calgary between now and the end of the season which have a movie connection. Just match the Calgary musical (an almost complete list of remaining shows is found in the Schedule tab) with the question below. All answers can be found on this blog (the schedule includes a link to the theatre companies producing these shows), or through an easy web search/Wikipedia.

Send me your answers by email to calderlm@yahoo.ca by midnight Sunday April 20. I will announce the winner on April 21. The winner will be the person with the most correct answers. If there’s a tie, I will put all those names in a hat and draw one at random. The winner will get bragging rights and a chance to join me as my guest (1 ticket) at one of the remaining musicals in the 2013/2014 season – not sure which one, but will try to accommodate your preference – and mine. Good luck and have fun!

calgarymusicals.com April 2014 Movie Musical Quiz 

  1. What musical features a hero who is green?
  2. How many Prince Charmings are there in Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods?
  3. What musical is written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick?
  4. Who played Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in the original Young Frankenstein movie?
  5. What musical is scheduled to be released as a movie in December 2014?
  6. What musical is set in Germany?
  7. How many of Calgary’s remaining musicals in the 2013-2014 season were movies before they were stage productions?
  8. What musical features the song “Feed The Birds”?
  9. What musical, recently released as a movie, is going to be done in Calgary as a children’s version this summer (hint: it’s not on the schedule yet, but it is scheduled in the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group events)
  10. What movie musical stars Kevin Kline?
  11. BONUS QUESTION: Which of Sophie’s potential fathers is the worst singer in the movie version of Mamma Mia! (this is a gimme – all answers are correct :))

A Glimpse Into the World of Bollywood in YYC

Anita Majumdar and Nicco Lorenzo Garcia in Same Same But Different

Anita Majumdar and Nicco Lorenzo Garcia in Same Same But Different. Photo Credit Michael Cooper.

 

It’s the final Blitz Weekend of Alberta Theatre Projects’ Festival of New Canadian Plays, which means there are four plays to take in before ATP turns the lights out on the playRites Festival for good, and instead include new Canadian plays in their regular programming.

There are no less than three chances (to take in Anita’s Majumdar’s Same Same But Different, the only musical on the roster (2 shows today  - including one right now as I write this – and 1 tomorrow afternoon). It’s a take on the Bollywood musical, and in particular its influence on shadism (racism based on skin-tone), due to its promotion of fairer-skinned actors. Anita has been an outspoken opponent of the practice, enough that she’s even referenced in the wiki article on the subject. I was surprised to learn in researching this article, that India is one of the world’s largest markets for skin-lightening creams (particularly targeted at women to improve their romantic/marriage prospects) and that sales of such creams surpass those for tea and Coke.

In honour of Anita’s show, I had every intention of writing a semi-intelligent article about Bollywood musicals. I knew Bollywood is the term used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and that the films are often family-friendly romances and melodramas with extended song-and-dance sequences, but never having seen more than clips of them, that’s about all I knew. Once I started reading up on them, I realized that there’s an awful lot of information available, and that I really have nothing to add to what’s already out there on-line if you care to look. I did pick up a few tidbits along the way, however, that may be interesting to you as well:

  • Unlike Hollywood, from which it gets its name, “Bollywood” does not exist as a physical place. The term came into being in the 1970’s when India overtook the US as the world’s largest film producer. The naming scheme for “Bollywood” was inspired by “Tollywood”, the name that was used as early as 1932 to refer to the cinema of West Bengal, based in Tollygunge, Calcutta.
  • Credit for the revival of the modern western movie musical (e.g. Chicago, The Producers, Hairspray, Sweeney Todd, The Phantom of the Opera, and Mamma Mia!) can be attributed to Bollywood’s influence on 2001’s Moulin Rouge! which included traditional Bollywood elements.
  • Bollywood film music (called filmi music) is generally pre-recorded by professional singers, with the actors lip-synching the words, often while dancing. Unlike early American movie musicals, these singers are prominently featured in the opening credits and even have their own fan-bases (if that had been the case here, Marnie Nixon would be a household name today – see my article entitled “Movies to Musicals – CSI or What Do These Movie-Musical Stars Have in Common? ” for some reason my internal links aren’t working).
  • There is a big market for Bollywood films in South Asian communities around the world, and Americans see more films from India than from any other non-English speaking country
  • Indian audiences are increasingly interested in seeing films depicting foreign places. Many Bollywood films since the 1990’s have been largely or entirely shot in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto.

I suppose my one big take-away is how big Bollywood really is. Like most westerners, I forget that a large part of the world does not speak English as a first language and that there’s a whole world of culture out there, including musical theatre culture, that we never – or rarely – get a glimpse of.

Go to ATP PlayRites Festival for more information on what’s playing this weekend.

April Musicals in Calgary

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April and May are usually the busiest months for musicals in Calgary (and probably most cities) and this year is no exception, which a bunch of new shows opening this month. As a result, I’m keeping the descriptions short. For more information and tickets for any of the following shows, go to the links for each company. There are a couple of additional “musicalish” performances in April as well: Elvis, Elvis, Elvis: An American Trilogy at the Jubilee on Monday April 21, and a concert performance of Onalea Gilbertson’s Mata Hari in 8 Bullets, at the National Music Centre on Friday, April 25.

If you’re looking for people with whom to go to shows, check out the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group, that I also run. We go to most musicals as well as a number of other events that interest our members.

Opening in April                                                                                                                                                                            

The Music of Kurt Weill, ”L’Orchestre D’Hommes-Orchestres (Quebec) Presented by Theatre Junction 
April 9-12

Like most shows at Theatre Junction, this one definitely falls into the camp of “And now for something completely different…”

From the website: Having previously performed their enigmatic take on the music of Tom Waits to sold out crowds at Theatre Junction GRAND, L’Orchestre D’Hommes Orchestres are back to take on the music of another outsider genius – Kurt Weill, the great composer who collaborated with Bertolt Brecht on The Threepenny Opera, and fled Germany in 1933 to France then eventually New York. In a Franco-German-English mix, the eight musicians-singers-actors revive the horrors of war, the lights of Broadway and the cozy atmosphere of music halls.

Mamma Mia!, Broadway Across Canada, April 16-20.

A Musical for the ABBA fan in everyone. I have to admit that although I was a huge fan of ABBA in high school, I have avoided this show to date, as I’m generally not a fan of “jukebox” musicals that are just an excuse to string a bunch of songs together with a pretty weak plot. Finally going to take the plunge this year, though. For me the major saving grace of this show is that, unlike in the movie version, you can be pretty sure all the leads can actually sing :)

From the website: MAMMA MIA! is the ultimate feel-good show that has audiences coming back again and again to relive the thrill. Now it’s your turn to have the time of your life at this smash-hit musical that combines ABBA’s greatest hits, including “Dancing Queen,” “S.O.S.,” “Super Trouper,” “Take A Chance on Me” and “The Winner Takes It All,” with an enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship.

Fiddler on the Roof, Stage West (Dinner Theatre), April 17 to late June.

This show probably needs no introduction, but I only saw it on stage for the first time last year at Stratford in Ontario. A classic, with lots of familiar tunes (“If I Were a Rich Man,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker,” “Do You Love Me?” etc). Stage West doesn’t do a lot of conventional musicals, so this is a nice treat, and sure to be popular.

From the website: In the little village of Anatevka, Tevye, a poor dairyman, tries to instill in his five daughters the traditions of his tight-knit Jewish community in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia. The universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness.

Young Frankenstein, Front Row Centre, April 18th – May 3rd, 2014

If you love Mel Brooks’ zany sense of humour, you’ll enjoy the stage version based on the popular movie.

From the website; IT’S ALIVE! With such memorable tunes as “The Transylvania Mania”, “He Vas My Boyfriend” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, Young Frankenstein is scientifically-proven, monstrously good entertainment…and the only place you’ll witness a singing and dancing laboratory experiment in the largest tuxedo ever made!

The Pirates of Penzance, Morpheus Theatre, April 18 to May 3, 2013

Every spring, Morpheus Theatre does a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Pirates of Penzance is one of their best known and loved shows. Aside from the fact that it includes my favourite G&S song (“A Modern Major General”) I have a soft spot for the show, because I got $50 for playing French Horn in the pit orchestra for community theatre production in Mississauga in the ‘80’s – my first professional gig as a musician :)

From the website: In The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic was as a child apprenticed to a band of ternderhearted, orphaned pirates by his nurse who, being hard of hearing, had mistaken her master’s instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot. Frederic upon completing his 21st year, rejoices that he has fulfilled his indentures and is now free to return to respectable society. But it turns out that he was born on February 29th in leap year, and he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday.

Touch Me: Songs for a (dis)Connected Age, Forte Musical Theatre, April 15-26

Calgary’s only professional musical theatre company is usually a good bet for quality productions – this one being less of a musical and more of a concert. They’re also one of the few theatre companies that still have a pay-what-you-can Tuesday show. 

Technology has the power to bring people together like never before. Is social media a force for good or are our online lives making us more isolated than ever? Touch Me is a one-act musical theatre revue featuring all-new songs composed by writers from across Canada (and a couple of honorary Canadians too!) Funny, tuneful and sometimes poignant, “Touch Me” is bound to get you thinking about the connections in your life.

Bingo Ladies, Lunchbox Theatre

If you’re looking for a bite-sized show during your lunch hour, or on Friday or Saturday evening, consider Canada’s longest running lunchtime theatre.

From the website: Bingo is serious business. Rituals, good luck charms, superstitions. Friday night at the bingo hall is sacred. But are our three intrepid bingo ladies addicts, or just enthusiastic? How far are they willing to go to win? Bingo Ladies explores their lives with rousing musical numbers and shows us the humanity of the bingo hall

Still Playing  (See March Musicals for detailed listing – See February Musicals for Elvis, who’s STILL hanging in there:)

Same Same but Different – ATP (until April 6)

The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, Storybook Theatre (until April 12)

Elvis and the Las Vegas Hangover, Jubilations Dinner Theatre

 

March Musicals in Calgary

March is sure coming in like a lion with some bitter cold temperatures in yyc. You COULD hunker down in front of the tube, but why not get off the couch and out to the theatre instead? We’ve got a few new musicals opening, along with Elvis, who’s still hanging in there, of course :). For information and tickets for any of the following shows, go to the links for each company.

If you’re looking for people with whom to go to shows, check out the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group, that I also run. We go to most musicals as well as a number of other events that interest our members.

Opening in March

Read more…

Why West Side Story is Still On My Top Ten List

The Jets doing one of their trademark dances at Broadway Across Canada

The Jets doing one of their trademark dances at Broadway Across Canada

Broadway Across Canada wraps up its production of West Side Story this weekend. Based on the sell-out crowd at Tuesday’s opening night performance, I’d say there’s still lots of love for this 1957 classic, at least in Calgary. I’m betting a more than a few people gave and received tickets for this show for Valentine’s day, notwithstanding the fact that the tragic story of star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria (aka Romeo and Juliet) set amongst Puerto Rican and Polish American gangs in New York, is more a cautionary tale than an advertisement for romantic love.

I’ve just returned from a trip to Acadia University, where I first got involved in musical theatre with the campus theatre club, MusiCadians in the ’70′s. I remember our choreographer, Barb, was dying to do West Side Story, but we didn’t have the dancers to pull it off, so her dream never came to be, at least not then. If you’ve ever seen West Side Story you’ll know the dancing  - originally choreographed and directed by the great Jerome Robbins – is a huge part of the show, so it’s not a musical a lot of amateur companies can pull off well  - one of the reasons we don’t see it performed that often.  Although sometimes it’s a bit off-putting to see a bunch of somewhat-too-clean-cut gangsters expressing their violent energy through stylized ballet (what a male friend of mine calls a “dance-off”) it’s pretty impressive to watch.

Although I gave the musical “extra points” for choreography in my list of “A Few of My Favourite Shows“, to my mind, it’s Leonard Bernstein’s score that really drives West Side Story, with its exciting rhythms and syncopation in songs like “Something’s Coming,” “America” and “A Boy Like That/I Have A Love.”  Bernstein had already penned successful scores for On The Town, Wonderful Town and Candide, but he reached the pinnacle with West Side Story and he might have gone on to write many more great musicals, if he hadn’t left musical theatre to focus on directing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and a successful career writing symphonic and other more “serious” (although no doubt less lucrative) musical works.

West Side Story was also the Broadway debut of a young lyricist named Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim considered himself a composer first and foremost and might have turned down the assignment if not for the encouragement of family friend and mentor, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (talk about connections!), who said he could learn a lot from greats like Bernstein, Robbins and book-writer Arthur Laurents. Fortunately for Sondheim and the rest of the musical theatre world, he took that advice – although, as Martin Gottfield explains in his 1993 book, “Sondheim” (Enlarged and Updated), Sondheim did make the rookie mistake of letting Bernstein keep his share of the lyric writing royalties, when Bernstein offered to remove his name as co-lyricist – if only he’d known how big these songs would become, both on-stage and off!

In his 2010 book “Finishing the Hat, ” Sondheim also explains how he had been hoping to use the first F-bomb in musical theatre history in the humourous Jets song “Gee, Officer Krupke,” but his collaborators wouldn’t go for it, so they ended the song with “Krup You!” instead, which he admits probably works better anyway.  Much to his chagrin, he also had to “clean up” some of the lyrics for the popular 1961 movie version to please the studio. For example, he turned Anita’s line about looking forward to a visit from her lover Bernardo after the rumble from “He’ll come in hot and tired, so what? Don’t matter if he’s tired, as long as he’s hot” to “He’ll come in hot and tired, oh dear. Don’t matter if he’s tired , as long as he’s near.” (He considers this one of his most cringe-worthy lyrics – which says a lot, as he’s pretty critical of many of his early works).

You don’t get to hear some of Sondheim’s clever lyrics in Broadway Across Canada’s version, because it’s based the most recent Broadway revival in which some of the lyrics and dialogue are replaced with Spanish (As in “I Feel Pretty/Me Siento  Hermosa”). While it feels more authentic and adds a little spice, it loses something   – and certainly the humour – if you don’t know the original.

While some musicals written 50 years ago seem dated, West Side Story  and its universal themes of love, friendship, prejudice and revenge still works today. But the reason it will always be on my top 10 list, to paraphrase a jingle from a grocery store chain from my youth, is that “It’s mainly because of the music.”

West Side Story runs until tomorrow (Sunday). Tickets are still available at  http://calgary.broadway.com/

February Musicals in Calgary

 

It’s looking like Feburary is a little light on the yyc musical theatre front. With the exception of FRC’s Footloose, which just opened yesterday, and Dirty Laundry’s annual special, there are only 2 new musicals opening (and a bunch wrapping up). For information and tickets for any of the following shows, go to the links for each company.

If you’re looking for people with whom to go to shows, check out the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group, that I also run. We go to most musicals as well as a number of other events that interest our members.

Opening in February

All Musical Valentine’s Day Episode, Dirty Laundry - Monday February 10 only

new_main_03Every year at this time, Dirty Laundry (Calgary’s weekly improvisational soap opera) does an all-musical  episode that is very popular – one of my personal faves. If you think improv is hard, try it to music!

From their website: Welcome to the offices of Downy, Downy, Maytag, and Ward, a powerful, and pricy law firm that specializes in defending the richest and sleaziest of clients. For the partners at this firm the terms restraining ordercross examination and binding agreement mean something entirely different. Big business, mafiosos, celebrity murders—it’s all billable hours to these legal eagles. They handle all cases… and they do it all in chambers. There’s nothing this legal team won’t do to get their clients off!

West Side Story, Broadway Across Canada February 11-16

600_279057802[1]Definitely on my top 10 list

From their website: Pulled directly from the pages of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the musical takes place on New York’s West Side in the mid-1950s amidst widespread racial and social tension. The show begins as a war is building between two rival gangs fighting over the same piece of turf: born and bred New York boys, The Jets, and Puerto Rican immigrants The Sharks. In the midst of the battlefield are two young romantics, good-boy Tony, a Jet ready to leave the gang life behind, and wide-eyed Maria, the sister of Sharks leader, Bernardo. When Tony and Maria unexpectedly meet and fall for one another, tension between the rival groups only escalates, leading to a bloody and senseless rumble that costs both sides young lives. In spite of the violence, the true story at the core of the show is two lovers trying to find a way to be together—and whether either can survive when hate and ignorance are unwilling to yield.

event_281355722[1]Elvis & The Las Vegas Hangover!  Jubilations Dinner Theatre, Feb 21 — April 27

There’s always something playing at Jubilations – usually a spoof on a TV show or movie, featuring popular songs. This one is a little different.

From their website; Welcome to the annual Elvis festival in sunny Las Vegas! Ah Vegas… sin city… world famous for its entertainment, its casino’s and of course… its parties!! Tonight, the final night of the Elvis festival, is sure to be a party for the ages. Elvis fans and tribute performers from all over the world are here… including those familiar Vegas party animals Phil, Stu, and Alan. If you party with them you’re sure to have a blast… but the HANGOVER will kill ya! From B. Cunningham the creator of “Night at the Museum of Rock and Roll” and “Ghost Busted,” Celebrations Dinner Theatre proudly presents – Elvis and the Las Vegas Hangover. Featuring hit songs by Elvis Presley, and many, many more!

Still Playing (in some cases, barely – See January Musicals for detailed listings)

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Do You Want What I Have Got?  A Craigslist Cantata  - Alberta Theatre Projects  (part of  the High Performance Rodeo) – LAST SHOW February 1 (I saw this last week and loved it!)

Love Train: The Soul of Motown, Stage West – LAST SHOW February 2 (Sequel to Stage West’s Motown Gold)

Footloose, Front Row Centre -  to February 15 (based on the movie of the same name). The Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group is going to the final matinee on Saturday Feb 15th, if you’d care to join us. All tickets only $15.

Best of Friends Reunion, Jubilations Dinner Theatre – to February 16 (a spoof of the TV show – sequel to Jubilations’ Best of Friends)

January Musicals in Calgary

It’s a New Year and time for a new format for the calgarymusicals.com blog. I am pleased to announce that I have been successful in getting my new musical, Amy and the Magic Tulip (working title) into the 2014 Calgary Fringe Festival this August. My first musical, Eve: The True Story, premiered there in 2008, so I decided it was time to light a fire under my own writing and enter into the fray again.

As much as I like writing for this blog and running the Calgary Musicals+ Meetup Group that I started two years ago, I have found that they (not to mention my darned day job) take too much time away from my own writing , so I’m simplifying the format again this year. I’ll continue to list all the upcoming musicals (I need to add Storybook’s Shrek in there, but the schedule should be pretty much complete now), and instead of doing reviews or previews with interviews, I’ll just do a monthly article summarizing the month’s musicals based primarily on public information (go to the website links indicated for more information and tickets), interspersed with articles on musical theatre in general or my own process working through “Amy.”

I hope this new format still gives you the information you need to know what’s going on in the Calgary Musical Theatre scene and inspires you to check out a show or two you might have missed otherwise. And so with that introduction, here goes…

Opening in January

600_317898332[1]The Music Man, UCalgary Operetta Company – LAST SHOW Friday January 17  

An affectionate tribute to smalltown, USA of a bygone era, MeredithWillson’s THE MUSIC MAN follows fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band he vows to organize – this despite the fact he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip town with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by curtain’s fall.  This multiple Tony award-winning, critically acclaimed Broadway classic is an all-American institution, thanks to is quirky characters, charmingly predictable dramatic situations, and one-of-a-kind, nostalgic score of rousing marches, barbershop quartets and sentimental ballads which have become popular standards.

UCalgary Operetta Company always kicks off the New Year with a big Broadway-style musical on campus. This is a community theatre that is a blend of university students and community members. If you’re looking for big cast, lots of dancing and a big (I mean, big) band, this is the company/show for you. I saw it last night and really enjoyed it.

event_210346052[1]Do You Want What I Have Got?  A Craigslist Cantata  - Acting Up Theatre/ One Yellow Rabbit/Alberta Theatre Projects as part of  the 28th Annual High Performance Rodeo
January 22 – February 1, 2014

“… a most unique and entertaining theatrical concoction” – Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Province

Are you looking for a bus boyfriend, 300 stuffed penguins or a chili-eating buddy? The sometimes quirky, sometimes poignant ads from Craigslist, the pop culture phenomenon, give voice to the hopes and dreams of a generation. CBC’s Bill Richardson and Award winning singer/songwriter Veda Hille bring to life the characters behind the trash and treasures, in this heartfelt and hilarious musical that has charmed audiences in Vancouver and Toronto. Sold out in Vancouver!

600_279048432[1]Footloose, Front Row Centre – January 31st – February 15th, 2014

One kid. One town. One chance.

When city boy Ren McCormack is forced to leave school, work, and the night clubs of the big city and move to small town Bomont, he’s ready for a new high school. But he’s not ready for the local laws, which include a ban on dancing. Will this toe-tapping bad boy be able to win the hearts of the people and bring back dance to a town trying to overcome the memory of a tragedy? Based on the hit 80s movie, Footloose explodes onto the stage with such memorable anthems as “Almost Paradise”, “Holding Out For A Hero”, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” and, of course, “Footloose”.

Still Playing

event_256029782[1]Love Train: The Soul of Motown, Stage West – to Feb 2

2011’s Motown Gold brought you the music that was specifically recorded under the Motown label and its stable of artists. This time around we bring you Love Train – a journey through the music of Soul and R&B. It celebrates the songs recorded under such influential labels as Staxx, Phil Specter’s “Wall of Sound”, Atlantic Records and even more from Motown.  Featuring the incomparable genius of stars such as Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, The Drifters, Etta James, James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner and Percy Sledge just to name a few. The Soul and R&B legacy of these great artists has been passed on to a new generation which include singers such as Prince, Beyonce, Boyz2Men, Mariah Carey, Bruno Mars and Whitney Houston.

BOFR_-_Jubs_Cal_-_Show_Poster[1]Best of Friends Reunion, Jubilations Dinner Theatre – to February 16

In 1994, TV viewers were introduced to 6 young friends living in Manhattan; Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross. The rest, as they say, is history! “Friends” is one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. The series consistently ranked in the top ten in the primetime ratings and won many, many awards. The series finale (the 236th episode), airing on May 6, 2004, was watched by 51.1 million American viewers.

It was also in 2004, that we presented our spoof of this great sit- com with our very popular, attendance record breaking show – “Best of Friends!” It is my pleasure to announce our sequel – “Best of Friends Reunion!” What has the gang been up to? Who is still together? Who isn’t? Are they all still the best of friends?? Set to hits from the 1990′s, along with a few timeless classics, Best of Friends Reunion is your chance to catch up with these lovable characters!

calgarymusicals.com 2013 in review

 

 

In case you’re interested, here’s the second annual report for the calgarymusicals.com blog. Another good (albeit) lighter year.

All the best to all of you in 2014.

 

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

 

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interview: Storybook’s going BIG (the musical) this Christmas

Sending this post from holiday in London, England. Surprisingly, perhaps, I haven’t seen any West End musicals yet. Maybe next weekend. Could it be I’m finally getting my fill with all that Calgary has to offer? Dashing this off on a friend’s computer before catching a plane to Denmark, so if there are errors and typos, I apologize in advance.

As we wind up the Fall season, you might be looking for a Christmas musical. As it turns out (unless someone corrects me), the Calgary theatre offerings this year include only one musical, Storybook Theatre’s production of Big The Musical, which opened this weekend. This is a Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) version of the well-loved (at least by me) Tom Hanks movie of the same name. It’s the story of a Josh, a young boy, who gets tired of being treated like a child and wishes to be “Big.” He gets his wish and wakes up the next morning as an adult, and heads off to New York, where he gets a job designing toys – which of course he is “brilliant” at (a word Brits like to use, I’ve noticed), being a toy user himself. I’d forgotten that the show has a holiday theme (they are looking for the next big Christmas toy), until I was reminded of this by Storybook’s artistic director, and the director of this show, JP Thibodeau, when I interviewed him last week.

JP says this TYA version, which only came out last year,  places a bigger focus on the relationship between Josh and his best friend, rather than the romance, so parents who might be worried about the sexual elements in the movie, need not do so.  “We are excited to be the first company licensed to do it anywhere in the world,” says JP, “It fits well with our new mandate to do family shows that appeal to both adults and children, rather than having different shows for different age groups”.  He says that for kids the key message is about not growing up to fast. For adults, they may resonate more with the idea of remembering what it’s like to be a kid, and not to take life so seriously.

JP says Storybook’s new model has been a bit of an adjustment for its audiences, although people are surprised to learn they are actually doing more shows this year, rather than less (7 vs. 6). “We’ve got a good mix of shows, some of which are one hour-long and some two,” explains JP. “We want to challenge the notion and short shows are just for little kids, and produce shows that have something for everyone in the family, with a focus on professional quality.” .

To address the perception that they’ve lost their programming for 3 to 6 year-olds, Storybook is piloting a new “introduction to theatre” offering in 2014, which involves live story readings with audience participation. “I have two kids in that age range,” says JP, “and I can tell you there’s a big spectrum between age 3 and 6 in terms of what they like and how long they can sit still”.

Now back to Big, JP says people will enjoy the large cast, with 8 children and 23 adults. “We’ve got two great Josh’s and there are plenty of funny moments. The famous keyboard scene in the toy store will not disappoint. It’s the kind of show where the whole family can have a good time together. It’s everything the movie is – with music.”

Big The Musical runs at Storybook Theatre until Dec 22. For more information and tickets, go to http://www.storybooktheatre.org.

Previews: Last Chance to Head to the Tower to See Flying Men and Hedwig

There are two very different shows playing under the Calgary Tower, and they both close this week: That Men May Fly at Lunchbox and Hedwig and the Angry Inch by Sage Theatre (in the Vertigo Studio):

Justine Westeby and Eric Wigston in That Men May Fly, Photo Courtesy of Lunchbox Theatre

Justine Westby and Eric Wigston in That Men May Fly, Photo Courtesy of Lunchbox Theatre.

Lunchbox typically does a military-themed play in November and this year is no exception. That Men May Fly is a Remembrance Day tribute written by Alberta playwright Winn Bray, featuring music from the 1940’s. It’s the story of  two bomber pilots, one Canadian and one British, and their female flight mechanic, as they prepare to enter combat in World War II.  See the Calgary Herald for Stephen Hunt’s 3 ½ star review and Lunchbox Theatre for a video interview with Winn Bray on how she came to write the show.

That Men May Fly finishes its one-month run at Lunchbox Theatre this Saturday November 16. There are Friday and Saturday evening shows, in addition to the usual lunchtime show. Tickets are $22 regular, $19 for seniors and students. Note that this Friday’s lunchtime show is sold out. Lunchbox is offering free admission to military personnel and war veterans and donations can be made to the Calgary Poppy Fund and the Veterans Food Bank during the run of the show. For tickets or more information go to Lunchbox Theatre.

The Calgary Musicals+Meetup Group is going on Friday evening, if you’d care to join us.

Geoffrey Ewart as Hedwig in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. Photo courtesy of Sage Theatre. Photo Credit James May.

Geoffrey Ewart as Hedwig fronting The Angry Inch. Photo Credit James May.

If you’re looking for something a little  - ok, maybe a lot – less conservative, then you might want to check out Sage Theatre’s production of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the 1999 off-Broadway rock musical that was turned into a 2001 cult hit film. Sage originally produced the musical’s Calgary premiere in 2008 and have brought it back for a limited engagement.

The show tells the story of the former Hansel Schmidt, forced to give up his gender and identity in order to flee communist East Germany. Hansel becomes Hedwig, has her heart broken and forms a rock n’ roll band (The Angry Inch) to tell her story of the search for identity, love and belonging. It’s described by Sage as “a wild night of Rock ‘n’ Roll Theatre” which will rock the foundation of our city… at the base of the Calgary Tower.”

Sage Theatre’s Hedwig And The Angry Inch opened this past weekend and runs until Sunday November 17 at Vertigo’s Studio Theatre.  Tickets are $30 regular, $25 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information go to Sage TheatreThe Calgary Musicals+Meetup Group is going Thursday night if you’d care to join us.

Go to Fast Forward for a more detailed description and preview and to Applause Meter for Jessica Goldman’s enthusiastic review.

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