New West Theatre makes summer hot with Heatwave


Even on a rainy night, New West Theatre heats things up with their latest summer production of “Heatwave,” which runs at the Yates Theatre until Aug. 27.AJ Baragar and Erica Hunt  in Heatwave. Photo by Richard Amery
As expected, it is a sunny, happy show, well suited for the summer season, so the majority of the music and humour have a summer theme.

 So they open with a hot version of  Lighthouse’s 1972 hit Sunny Days,” and follow it up with the show‘s namesake.
It is also is a step in a slightly different, more youthful direction, which not only showcases some of the newer and younger members of the cast including AJ Baragar and Alex Elser and Tenaj Williams and  the comedic chops of natural clown Camille Pavlenko as well as veterans Erica Hunt, Kathy Zaborsky and Kyle Gruninger.

Camille Pavlenko in New West’s production of Heatwave. Photo by Richard Amery
The comedy and some of the musical choices are targeted at a younger audience as well. So the cast play a lot with computer themed comedy including a bit about making a computer password, online dating, Pokemon Go and hipsters.
  Erica Hunt and AJ Baragar play a hilarious recurring bit, playing grandparents calling grand-daughter Camille Pavlenko about the definition of hipster and what, exactly Pokemon Go is.

 The newcomers also take centre stage in the music numbers, with Alexa Elser and Tenaj  Williams singing most of the solo numbers. Surprisingly vocal director Kathy Zaborsky doesn’t sing lead in many of the numbers. She stars in a pun filled comedy bit about going through a box of childhood treasures with Erica Hunt, which culminates on the “Hawaii 5-0” theme.


Camille Pavlenko also sings one solo song.


Erica Hunt shows off her powerful voice on  “ Crazy On You.”
 The guys sing a great April Wine medley, with each of them tackling a handful of April Wine’s Can con hits “Roller,” “Just Between You and Me,” “Bad Side of the Moon,” “You Could Have Been a Lady,” “Tonight Is A Wonderful Time To Fall in Love” and “Sign of the Gypsy Queen,” featuring AJ Baragar leaping off the edge of the gazebo set centre stage. The April Wine medley  is one of several spots showcasing guitarist/ banjo player Scott Mezei, who jumps onto centre-stage with the cast.

 The band, featuring keyboardist Bente Hansen, Scott Paskuski and musical director Paul Walker on drums, are solid as usual.

 And New West has added a pretty cool audience participation bit called stump the band, where audience members are asked to submit music trivia questions during the  intermission for the band to answer. One question was drawn out of a vase for them to answer, but they didn’t stand a chance as one of several younger members in the audience on Tuesday, Aug. 9, asked them the age of one of the members of pop band One Direction.

I wanted to stump the band with the question who originally wrote “Sign of the Gypsy Queen,” what album it was on and what year it was released (Lorence Hud off his self titled 1972 album)Tenaj Williams sings with New West Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery
The music encompasses a variety of different genres includes sultry jazz like “ Dream  Little Dream,” and  a hilarious version of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” featuring Erica Hunt playing a kid going to camp, as well as plenty of classic rock and pop as well as modern numbers like Jet’s “ Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” Vampire Weekend’s “ Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and Lianne la Havas’s “What You Don’t Do.”


—by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor