How do you decide? After entertaining southern Albertans for 30 years, how can directors at New West Theatre select the best songs and skits for their anniversary celebration, running Dec. 18 to Jan. 4?
“It was difficult to narrow it down,” admits Erica Hunt, one of the originals since the Lethbridge troupe’s first show at the Yates Centre.
And with a cast representing all three decades, “Celebrate” co-director Scott Carpenter says there were so many highlights to consider. Hunt and Carpenter decided to include comedy as well as music from each 10-year period.
Cast members from each of the decades were also involved in the process, he adds.
“It’s such a great collaboration.”
Jessica Ens, Grahame Renyk and Kathy Zaborsky have returned for the special occasion, he points out. Newer favourites include Katie Fellger and Rylan Kunkel.
“They’re all so talented,” says Hunt.
Zaborsky and band leader Scott Mezei are providing musical direction once again. Keyboardist Bente Hansen and drummer Keenan Pezderic are joining guitarists Mezei and Greg Paskuski on the bandstand.
New West’s musical selections typically range from country to jazz, ballads to rock and roll. And many of their arrangements, the director-performers point out, were created over the years by longtime music director Paul Walker.
“He arranged our music for more than 20 years,” Carpenter says — and he anchored the band every summer before stepping away to enjoy some free time.
Comedy is also a key to New West’s success, and Hunt says looking through 30 years of material brought back great memories.
“We laughed and we laughed,” while picking some of the most memorable.
Yes, there will be Mounties! And New West fans will enjoy revisiting many more of the skits, quips and punch lines from the past.
“Celebrate” includes comedic songs as well, she adds. Audiences can check out the attire on a Barenaked Ladies hit, for one. The show’s costumes were designed by Jaime Johnson, while the bright and expansive set was created by Jim Wills.
Adding a new dimension, however, the directors point out the Yates lighting and sound systems are now far superior to what was available 30 years ago. Sound design for this show is by Jason Eveleigh — and lighting designer Robert Stanford is ready to present a “lighting solo” each night, showing the range of visual effects now available.
Opening week performances of “Celebrate” will run Wednesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at the Yates Centre, with further evening shows on Dec. 23 and 27. On Boxing Day and Dec. 28, audiences have the choice between a 1 p.m. matinee and the evening performance. Closing week will see matinees offered on Dec. 29 and Jan. 4, in addition to 7:30 curtain times on Dec. 30 and then Jan. 2 to 4. The festive New Year’s Eve event will begin at 7 p.m.
Reserved-seat tickets are available online at http://www.enmaxcentre.ca or by phone at 403-329-7328 or in person at the Yates and Enmax box offices.