New West Theatre has been forced to shift the timing of their season due to the delays in renovating the local semi-professional theatre company’s home of the Yates and Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
But in addition to rethinking venues, they also decided to refocus their image of being best known for their always popular musical comedy revues.
“‘Rockers Gone Country’ was going to be our first show in July. It was already cast but we had to move it to February. So we gave the actors cast in it first right of refusal. Some of them were only available for the summer. Some of them are available for this show. But the show also falls on Valentine’s Day, which is a great date night,” said New West artistic director Sharon Peat.
“It’s all about songs which were number one on both the country and pop charts,” she said.
They are trying something completely different, by putting on the Tony Award-winning musical “Million Dollar Quartet” for their first show of the season, Sept. 12 at the Yates Theatre.
“It’s the first time in years New West has done a musical. It’s about Sun Studios musicians Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. It’s based on an actual recording session they did in 1956. It’s like being a fly on the wall of Sun Studios, so you learn all about these characters, and of course there’s the music,” Peat enthused.
She is also excited to bring back “Night Life,” a cabaret in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre. Nightlife 2.0. runs Nov. 16 and 17.
“We’re super excited about the second show. It’s adult-based, so it’s not for families. It’s New West after dark,” Peat described.
The first musical comedy revue of the season is their Christmas show, “Hit Parade,” running Dec. 18-Jan. 5 in The Yates Theatre. It will combine comedy with plenty of favourite hits.
Their beloved Munsch Theatre for young people show returns for Christmas as well as Munsch-O-Rama explores Munsch favourites “50 Below Zero,” “The Paper Bag Princess,” “Thomas’s Snowsuit,” “PIGS” and “Something Good.” It will be running at Casa, Dec. 26 -Jan. 5.
Peat is especially pleased to present Evan Placey’s play “Girls Like That,” which explores teens in the age of the internet and social media, May 1-11, 2019 in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre.
It will be a collaboration between New West and the University of Lethbridge.
“It can have up to 19 cast members. We’re doing it as a university apprenticeship program so student actors can work with professional actors to learn what it is like to work in a professional theatre company,” she said.
While it might seem like without the summer shows, New West Theatre is idle during the summer, it is definitely not the case.
“We’re spending August working on ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ and we had to redo a lot of the work we did on ‘Rockers Gone Country.’ But we also have summer theatre camps,” said New West Theatre general manager Derek Stevenson.
Several camps begin in July including a special Triple Threat Theatre camp, Aug. 7-11, featuring some familiar faces including Claire Lint teaching dance, Kathy Zaborsky teaching vocals and Alex Long focusing on monologues and singing.
“It’s for high school kids who want to get a little more experience than they get in high school,” Stevenson said.
New West has also started a unique collaboration with Fort Whoop-Up and the Galt Museum — storytelling nights on Thursday nights, June 28, July 5 and 26 and Aug. 2, 9 and 23.
“Andrew Legg will be telling stories around the campfire about the characters of Fort Whoop-Up. It’s really a family-friendly night at 7:30 p.m.,” Stevenson said.
“It is rain and shine. If it rains, they will be in one of the bunkhouses. So it will be just like it was for the men of Fort Whoop-Up when it rained,” Peat said.
“It doesn’t replace the summer show, but it will be a lot of fun,” she said, adding Kathy Zaborsky and DJ Gellatly, who is also directing Shakespeare in the Park’s summer production of “The Tempest,” will also be hosting.
Peat looks at the Yates renovations as a challenge, but also an opportunity to expand New West’s possibilities.
“We have actors who are really good at he musical/comedy reviews and others who are really good at plays and others who are really good at musicals, so we get to do all of them,” Peat said.
“So while it has been challenging being without the Yates, it has opened the door to a lot of other opportunities and show our audiences the diverse types of theatre experiences we can offer,” she said.