It’s a welcome antidote to all the rush of Christmas celebrations.
New West Theatre is set to welcome audiences back to the familiar Yates Centre with a blend of music and comedy selected from shows presented over more than 25 years.
The Lethbridge troupe’s latest production, “Hit Parade” will feature many of its fans’ favourite musical and comedic “hits,” opening Dec. 19. Artistic director Sharon Peat says it’s their way to welcome southern Albertans back to the Yates, after taking productions “on the road” around Lethbridge for a year.
“This building has a lot of history,” says Grahame Renyk, back home in Lethbridge to direct the seasonal attraction.
“It’s nice to be back in the building,” along with a number of artists who are also celebrating the southern Alberta tradition.
Now teaching and studying in Ontario, Renyk remembers attending the very first New West show in the Yates (“All Shook Up!”) back in 1990. Later, he joined the cast on-stage for a decade.
Now as then, he points out, “We have a wealth of performers.”
Peat says the company has a wealth of memorable moments as well — comedy sketches, dynamic solos, choreographed hit routines and more. So it wasn’t easy to trim the list of must-do numbers to fit a two-hour show.
Early on, New West became famous for its comedic streak as well as its powerful music, and Peat says part of the “welcome home” to the Yates is putting a little more emphasis on humour. In reviewing shows over the years, she explains, she learned Renyk wrote many of the sketches.
“He has a sense of humour that connects with our audiences,” so Peat invited him to return for the occasion.
“It was a slam dunk,” she says.
Two of the reasons he’s taking an Alberta break, Renyk says, are Scott Carpenter and Erica Hunt.
“They’re a comedy duo as good as any who have ever existed,” he says.
In addition, show-goers can look for a return of “The Scots” and the red-coated Mounties!
“And a few musical visitors from Las Vegas,” Renyk adds.
Musical direction will come from Kathy Zaborsky and Scott Mezei, while the show’s choreography is by Heather Redekopp. The show’s set design was created by Kathryn Smith, its lighting design by Rob Stanford and its sound design by Jason Eveleigh. Julia Wasilewski designed the quickly changed costumes.
Joining Carpenter, Hunt and Zaborsky on stage are seasoned New West performers Jessica Ens, Kyle Gruninger, Rylan Kunkel and Ashely Thomson.
They’re backed by Mezei and Greg Paskuski on guitar, Bente Hansen on keyboards and Keenan Pezderic on drums.
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. from Dec. 19 to Dec. 22, then Boxing Day to Dec. 29, and Jan. 2 to 5.
A special “champagne” edition, starting at 7 p.m., is planned for New Year’s Eve. And 1 p.m. matinees are set for Dec. 22, 29 and Jan. 5. Seat selection is available at both Ticket Centre locations.