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Theatre Outré explores inter-generational relationships in Whale Riding Weather

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 Theatre Outré is excited about their new collaboration with Calgary’s Sage Theatre for Bryden MacDonald’s Whale Riding Weather. It is the generation spanning story of a  love triangle between three gay men in their 60s, 40s and 20s.


“ It fits right in with this year’s Theatre Outré theme of intergenerational relationships,” said Theatre Outré artistic director Jay Whitehead.

The play features Marek CzumJay Whitehead perfoms in Whale Riding Weather. Photo by Richard Amerya, Allister MacDonald and Theatre Outré artistic director Jay Whitehead.
 It runs in Calgary, Feb. 18-22, then in Lethbridge at Didi’s Playhaus, Feb. 24-28.


“It’s about a couple who have been together for 15 years. The older man is starting to decline mentally and his partner is  being a caregiver, but he’s starting to check out until a younger man comes into his life who is excited and full of life,” summarized Whitehead, who plays the man in his 40s. 

Gail Hanrahan is directing the production.


“’I’ve formed a relationship with Sage Theatre artistic director  Jason Mehmel and wanted to work with them because they create a more experimental style of theatre,” Whitehead said.

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U of L explores twins and science in Blood: A Scientific Romance

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Kelly Reay is excited to revisit Blood: A Scientific Romance running, Feb. 12-15 in University Theatre.Daylin Chase and Jessica Syratt are in Blood: A Scientific Romance this week at the University of Lethbridge. Photo Submitted
“ It’s a modern Canadian play by Meg Braem. Meg has a connection to Lethbridge because she was a professor at the University of Lethbridge around 2010,” Reay, said, adding he also has a personal connection to the play as he worked with Braem to put on the play in Calgary several years ago.

“ Filled with visceral imagery and haunting dialogue, Blood: A Scientific Romance is a captivating play featuring a rich cast of characters,”  according to a press release on the play. Guest director, Kelly Reay is doing double duty, as he is also directing New West Theatre’s March production of Dear Johnny Deere which runs March 4-14.

“Twin sisters Poubelle and Angelique are bonded in both biology and shared tragedy after a car accident leaves them orphaned along a prairie highway in a pool of blood. But the young twins are brought home with Dr. Glass after their remarkable recovery, and quickly find themselves the subject of endless experiments. In a quest to study Poubelle and Angelique’s undeniable bond, Dr Glass’ questionable practices are soon scrutinized by a young doctor who might be the twins’ only hope for a normal life,” according to the press release.


The small cast features Daylin Chase, Jessica Syratt as the twins Poubelle and  Angelique Patrick Lynn as the young doctor Dr.Max and Paul Vanhoutteghem as Dr. Glass.
Reay was drawn to the play because  of the writing.

“It explores a lot of ethical issues about research,” he said.
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Playgoers of Lethbridge get serious with “Daisy” at Sterndale Bennett

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Once upon a time, surprisingly, election ads were honest, dare we say positive. The infamous Daisy ad changed all that in 1964.Megan Fennell, Trevor Loman and Cole Fetting rehearse Daisy. Photo by Richard Amery
 So it is all the more relevant as  the U.S. kicks election season into gear.


Playgoers of Lethbridge explore  the effects of media and negative advertising in their production of Sean Devine’s 2017 play “Daisy,” running  Feb. 19-22 in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
 “Daisy” is departure from Playgoers of Lethbridge’s usual fare of light, bright comedies and dinner theatres  in that is explores more subject matter and is a lot more tech intensive.
“The Daisy ad changed political ads. The Daisy ad was like a hard punch to the gut versus blah, blah , blah, political speech, blah blah blah,” noted Playgoers of Lethbridge veteran Allen Gibson, who plays Bernbach ad agency boss Bill Bernbach.


“I’ve spent most of my life in advertising, so it was an ideal part for me,” Gibson continued, describing his character as ambitious and confident.
“ The agency DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) was struggling  and neededto  improve their reputation in 1964 and that all changed with the Daisy ad. Today they’re worth over $3 billion. I didn’t study the character, but I did study their ads because you can see them on the internet,” he said, noting the parallels between 1964 and today.
“ Back then, if you didn’t understand the power of television, you weren’t going to win election. Today if you don’t understand the power of social media, you’re not going to win,” he observed, adding he is glad to be back on stage with Playgoers.


“It’s an interesting change from the Odd Couple (in which he played Manolo, in Playgoers’ 2013 production of the show).


 The cast includes a lot of new faces to Playgoers of Lethbridge, though familiar for fans of Shakespeare in the Park and The University of Lethbridge Drama program.
Cole Fetting, Megan Fennell and Trevor Loman were all part of Shakespeare in the park’s previous production of McBeth. Fetting and Loman was also part of the University of Lethbridge’s fall production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.
 Loman  is excited to play a different character in Sid Myers, Doyle Dane Bernbach’s art director.
“I’ve really enjoyed researching the ’60s– a decade long before i was born,” Loman said.
“Sid is very sensitive, He knows getting to work for the president is a really big deal,” he said.

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U of L Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony present the Gondoliers this week

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The University of Lethbridge Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra plus special guests Vox Musical collaborate for this year’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera the Gondoliers.
The show runs Jan 31 and Feb. 1 at Southminster United Church.

Kevin Schuwer (Luiz) and Alexandra Morgan (Cassilda) rehearse for the Gondoliers. Photo By Richard Amery
“ It’s one of their funniest,” enthused assistant director Megan Wittig, who was part of  their first full scale collaboration of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in 2012, has been on stage with them before and backstage for several other productions.


“ It’s a full show with costumes and a big set,” Wittig enthused.


“ There’s eight leads in this production where there’s usually only four. But we have so many talented singers, so we’re happy to do this production this year,” Wittig said, noting there is a cast of close to 30 performers, most of whom are veterans of the annual collaborations.


“ And there’s a smaller orchestra, because Gilbert and Sullivan always wrote for a smaller orchestra,” she continued.

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We Will Rock you is a love letter to rock and roll instead of a Queen tribute

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We Will Rock you: The Queen  musical was many things— a lot of ham, a little cheese and a whole lot of hilarity, but was definitely not a Queen tribute in the traditional sense of the word.The Killer Queen and Khashoggi in We Will Rock You. Photo submitted
 So while some  people  at the Enmax Centre, Jan. 19 were asking “ Who’s playing Freddie Mercury” (answer nobody), it was still a great time. Instead of a tribute, it was a spectacle and a love letter to not only Queen, but the spirit of  rock and roll.
 Plus, it was a chance for local performer Kyle Gruninger to strut his stuff on the big stage in the local “stadium” as the villain Khashoggi, right hand man to the Killer Queen. Gruninger had his own cheering section in the audience, who cheered from the moment his grinning, sun-glassed mug appeared on the big screen at the start of the show and almost drowned him out when he was on stage, towering over the set on a massive steel tower (one of several movable set pieces used for the show), belting out a delightfully inimitable evil cackle.


In a nutshell, We Will Rock You takes place in a not so distant dystopian future, where everything is controlled by Globalsoft, the kids dress like digitized oompa loompas,  everything is computerized so live music and musical instruments have been banned, you’re an outsider if you make your own clothes and “the only star out here” is the Killer Queen.”
Flying in the face of a boring , conformist society, as always, are a group of spunky rebels, this time called the bohemians, lead by the dreamer Galileo Figaro or Gal for short, who somehow dreams of old song lyrics and bands, though he has never heard of any of them, with rock and roll and live music being banned. He meets his love interest Scaramouch while running from  Khashoggi and his troops, who look like a troupe of Robocops, whose job is to crack down on these bohemians.
 On the run they meet another group of bohemians who are looking for a leader and living in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe,  where the scattered remnants of rock and roll culture still remain to capture their imagination. They’ve even named themselves after rock and pop stars, though not what you’d expect—  Britney Spears is a man and Ozzy Osbourne is actually a cute blond girl who almost steals the show, reminding me of a demented P.J. Soles a la the Ramones movie “Rock and Roll High School.”


Though bohemian “Buddy Holly and the Crickets” also sings a lot of highlights.

Along the way, Gal and Scaramouch fall in love and lead the bohemians on a quest to find the “last axe.” During the quest they perform Queen’s biggest hits, drop a lot of band names and song lyrics to to their everyday dialogue and mispronounce things like video cassette for hilarious effect.
 The result is  a spectacle that would do Freddie Mercury proud. And as Queen guitarist Brian May signed off on the production, it’s all right by me. Perhaps as a tribute to May, when they do find the last axe in Graceland, the guitar itself is a copy of Brian May’s renown home build guitar.


 The female characters  the Killer Queen and Scaramouch, are strong, tough and smart, while the male characters are pretty much bird brained idiots, so it makes sense that when they find the guitar, that Scaramouch immediately shreds on it, while Galileo can barely play a chord.


 The live band, who definitely shred throughout the show, are hidden in the rafters, often completely hidden by one of several big moving screens, leaving the cast to run, frolic and mug throughout  without having to trip over  patch chords.
 The Queen classics are present and accounted for including “Killer Queen,” sung, of course, by the Killer Queen, “ I Want it All” and many others.


The songs move the story forward. The Killer Queen signs “I Want It All” as she and Khashoggi try to crush the bohemians. She sings “Another One Bites the Dust” as Khashoggi is killed for failing to do just that.

And “ I Want to Ride my Bicycle,” is performed while the bohemians decide how to get to Nashville from Las Vegas, instead choosing a Harley Davidson, mispronounced as Harleee Daveedson” for comic effect.


Both the Killer Queen and Scaramouch had big, beautiful, soulful voices. Gruninger, playing to his hometown crowd,  showed off a magnificent mid range rather than the high tenor he he usually sings in.
 He stole his scenes as a comedian, but also belting out “Seven Seas of Rhye.” as well as a beautiful duet with the Killer Queen on “It‘s a Kind of Magic.”
 The show ends with most of the cast performing “ We Will Rock You,” but that isn’t it. A big screen beckons “ Do You Want to Hear “Bohemian Rhapsody.””
 Of course everybody  does, so the entire cast returned for Queen’s best known hit, dancing through the audience along with the band.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

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