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New West Theatre’s Honour Beat explores family, after life and cultural identity

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New West Theatre  explores family dynamics, assisted death and First Nations issues in their presentation of Tara Beagan’s dark comedy “Honour Beat,” which runs in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Oct. 5-14.

 

Director Valarie Planche is no stranger to Tara  Beagan’s 2019 play about two very different and estranged sisters who try to mend their fences over their mother’s deathbed in Vancouver.

“ I directed it in 2019  in London, Ontario just before the pandemic. This is a completely new cast, and a completely new set design,” she said.

 

Michaela Washburn, Sandra Lamouche and  Brianne Tucker  perform in Honour Beat. Photo By Richard Amery

 When you enter the Sterndale Bennett theatre you enter the middle of a forest set designed by Julia Wasilewski

Planche noted  the mother is in a coma so the play takes place in her head.

 

“ Mom is in a coma, so a lot of it takes place in the magical realm. It’s been very fun because I got to go back to it,” enthused Planche, who is a Metis and did a lot of research the first time she did the play, which she  expanded in for this production.

 

“It takes the audience to that place. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the afterlife,” she said, adding “Honour Beat ”allows her too imagine what that’s like.

 The play explores issues of cultural identity and after life care.

 

“It‘s very funny. It’s relatable. There’s a lot of cry laughter because it’s got that hospital humour,” she said.

“ These  two daughters couldn’t be more different and the mom wants them to reconcile as her deathbed wish,” she summarized.

 There are a few nods to Blackfoot culture though the play takes place in B.C.

“Blackfoot culture is very different,” said Planche.

The play stars Brianne Tucker, Jeremy Proulx, Michaela Washburn and Sandra Lamouche.

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New West Theatre brings one last shot of sunshine to the stage with Wonderstruck

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Today is the last day to be “wonderstruck” by New West Theatre  latest music/ comedy revue. whichhas a 1 -.m. matinee, today, Aug. 26 a1 1p.m. and closes with the last show at 7:30 p.m.

 

 As always New West Theatre has a multi-talented cast guaranteed to brings smiles  to your faces.  And who couldn't use the dose of positivity the long standing  theatre company brings with their music comedy  revues.

Erica Hunt performs in New West Theatre’s production of Wonderstruck, which closes Aug. 26. Photo by Richard Amery

 This show focuses on some of the happiest  pop music from the ’70s and ’80s.

 

 The show opens with the cast performing ELO’s   “Mr. Blue Sky,” so you know happiness will abound.

 

 The newer members of the cast shine.

  Ethan Bintu- Watt takes centre stage on a beautiful cover of Michael Bublé’s “ It’s a Beautiful Day.” He joins Katie Fellger on ukuleles for a really  cool, understated, folk version of A -Ha’s “ Take On Me.”

 

 Madisan Cowan  shows her impressive dance moves throughout as well as  sings lead vocals on a couple songs but shines in a few comedic bits like pairing with  Katie Fellger for New West News, and providing sound effects for a mimed airplane sketch featuring  Katie Fellger, Eric Hunt and Scott Carpenter as the most obnoxious   seat-mate ever.

 

 Fellger has some of the best comedic bits. She and Cowan perform an inspired sketch about dating, incorporating the names of a plethora of Alberta towns.

 

She  leads the cast in some impressive improv on the game “Click” Where  she was  showing the audience slideshows of her family trip to Antarctica, a destination provided by the audience, as the cast  acted them out.

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Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society ends run of Taming of the Shrew at casa

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The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society wound up a successful run of “Taming of the Shrew,” in casa rather than Galt Gardens as planned due to unpredictable weather, Friday, Aug. 18.

Jeff Graham and Trevor Loman performing the last night of Taming of the Shrew at casa, Aug. 18. photo by Richard Amery

 

They have had to relocate shows several times this season due to weather and smoke. I haven’t been able to catch any other performances other than opening night and closing night.


 

The idea of  doers and  fathers having so much power of  their daughter’s marriage was pretty much an antiquated notion even in the ’60s, when they set this production, so director Jesse Thibert emphasized bringing out the humour of the misunderstandings, costumes, anachronisms and language.

 

As always, the cast did a great job, abounding with energy and really letting the jokes fly. 

 

  The talented cast have really gelled  over the run, and it all came together to make a play basically about how to gaslight a woman into a slightly campy and entertainingly absurd show set in more intimate venue of the casa community room.

 

There was a lot of crowd participation including director Jesse Thibert getting the audience to boo Petruccio (Ben McCluskey)  in his attempts to tame and woo the “shrew” Kate  (Maddie McKee) by calling him a “garbage person” from the back of the room.

 

 Sound effects like lion roars added to the show’s absurdity.

 

 Trevor Loman stole the show, fighting with an array of fake moustaches as Hortensio who vainly attempts to woo Kate’s kinder sister Bianca ( Mataya Britton), paying Petruccio to woo Kate, which is the condition their father Father Baptista ( Ginny Little -Bergsma) sets before letting anybody court Kate.

 

 A couple of  cast members are double cast. Jess Nguen plays a minor role as Petruccio’s out-upon tailor but she shines as Vincentio,  Lucentio’s real father who comes to “Nanaimo” into the middle  a scene fraught with chaos, misunderstandings and odd doings and tries to sort out the confusion out.

 

 Kaylee Johnson shines as  not only a merchant asked to pose as Lucentio’s real father to back up  Lucentio’s claims he can provide a better dowery than fellow suitor Gremio played by the always wonderful Jeff Graham.

Emily Laidlaw, who played the more serious role of Hamlet’s mother in last summer’s production lets loose her comedic side in Taming of the Shrew as  Lucentio’s ukulele strumming servant  Biondello.

 

 Taming of the Shrew ends with a disturbing speech about how a woman is expected to  treat, and serve  nay worship her husband, which could be seen as problematic in today’s world, but McKee did an outstanding job making the audience think about the issue by delivering the speech dripping in sarcasm, which is the only way it works today.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. beat editor

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New West Theatre bursting with optimism for Wonderstruck

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New West Theatre is always up for  giving audiences  a much needed shot of optimism. This summer’s  music revue show Wonderstruck, running Aug. 9-26 in the Yates Theatre is designed to do that through the music of the ’70s and ’80s.

 

Madisan Cowan performs ‘September” in New West Theatre]s new show Wonderstruck. Photo by Richard Amery

“We didn't originally decide to focus on an era, but we wanted to have a theme of dreaming and imagination. And music from the ’70s and ’80s just fit. There’s less focus on ’50s and ’60s music,” said artistic Director Kelly Reay, who  is excited to work with familiar faces musical director Kelly Zaborsky, Erica Hunt, Scott Carpenter and Kyle Gruninger plus relative newcomers like Alinafe Lupiway and Katie Fellger and newcomers MadisanCowan and  Ethan  Bintu-Watt, who are excited to spread their creative wings  for  Wonderstruck. Not to mention the talented band, drummer Keenan Pezderic, Guitarist Scott Mezei and bassist  Greg Paskuski.

 

“The past few years have been a little rocky, so we’re just excited to be able to dream again and be optimistic about the future,” Reay enthused, adding the set is designed to look like a starry night sky, to reinforce the optimistic feel.

 

He noted it is exciting to be getting back to normal after the pandemic.

 

“People were apprehensive abut getting together in large groups,” he observed, adding it has been a few years since the  had two music comedy revues in the summer.

“We’ve juggled the schedule a little bit. There will be another music comedy revue in February this year, “ The Legends of Rock and Country”

 

For now New West is focusing on Wonderstruck, which followed the tried and true formula of mixing comedy, dance and music.

 

“It‘s a mix of music, comedy and dance. It‘s a formula that works, but we don’t want to do the same thing every year,” he said, noting most of the show is completely new, so though the title “Wonderstruck”  may lead to memories of the TV show “ the Wonder Years,” there will be no “With A Little Help From my Friends.”

 

“We did that a couple years ago,” he continued.

 

Reay is excited to work with the cast, especially newer faces Madisan Cowan and Ethan Bintu-Watt, who get to take a more prominent role in this show.

 

“They were a really pleasant discoveries. They  are really capable, so they get to take somel features roles, so we’re excited about that,” he continued.

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