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New West Theatre pumped to perform ‘Ode To Joy’ in front of live audience again

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New West Theatre has always had a positively uplifting Up With People vibe, but they are pumping up the positivity for their new show Ode to Joy, running at the Yates Theatre, Dec.15- Dec. 31.


“Everyone needs some joy. It really is an ode to joy, an ode to music, an ode to laughter and an ode to being back on stage again after 18 months,” enthused Erica Hunt, who is co-directing  the show with Scott Carpenter.

 They are joined by familiar faces Katie Fellger and Kyle Gruninger and welcome back old friends Ashley Thomson and Alinafe Lupiway.


Erica Hunt, Ashley Thomson, Scott Carpenter and Alinafe Lupiway rehearse for Ode To Joy. Photo by Richard Amery

 Kathy Zaborsky, Greg Paskuski, Keenan Pezderic and Scott Mezei are the crack band, who also add a few extra voices. Pezderic gets to sing lead on a song too.

 While New West Theatre’s holiday season shows usually are a greatest hits show, “Ode To Joy” is mostly new songs and comedy.

“We’re still putting it together. We have a lot of material. There’s still a few holes to be filled,” Hunt said.


“Scott and I chose songs with a positive and uplifting feel. It’s mostly new material, but we’re also bringing back some crowd pleasers,” Hunt said.


“It’s just so exciting to be back performing in the theatre in front of an audience, so we wanted to make sure this show looked fresh,” she continued.


 Ashley Thomson is pleased to be performing with New West Theatre again. She was last in New West Theatre’s 2018  production of Hit Parade.


“It’s fabulous to be invited back. It is such a gift to be with a group of people who are so kind, compassionate and talented. They set such a high bar for professionalism,” Thomson enthused, adding she is excited to be performing in front of a live audience again.


“It’s just such a wonderful gift to be performing in front of an audience again,” she continued, adding it has been a long 18 months without live performances.

Erica Hunt also can’t wait to be in front of an audience again.


Theatre Outré to give Didi d’Edada Christmas spirit with a drag interpretation of “A Christmas Carol’

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Even Didi d’Edada need a boost of Christmas spirit.

 Theatre Outré puts their own twist on Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic “A Christmas Carol” as they welcome the family home for the holidays to perform two shows of “ A Very Didi Christmas Carol,” Friday, Nov. 26 and Saturday, Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Didi’s Playhaus.


David Gabert, Tiny Tim and Jay Whitehead are excited to celebrate A Very Didi Christmas Carol. Photo by Richard Amery

“We have a lot of our favourite local actors,” said Theatre Outré  Artistic director Jay Whitehead, who penned the original musical comedy with Kathy Zaborsky, featuring beloved drag performers Didi d’Edada (Jay Whitehead) and Castrati (Kathy Zaborsky) and a lot of Lethbridge drag favourites. Aaron Collier and Richie Wilcox also make an appearance through sound cues.


“It’s the whole Club Didi family. We’re workshopping this script with a staged reading for the world premiere,” Whitehead said.


“The whole family stops by to give Scrooge character Didi d’Edada the Christmas spirit. Didi’s heart is opened by a Tiny Tim puppet, ” Whitehead said.


The 12 member cast includes familiar faces from numerous local theatre groups including New West Theatre, Shakespeare In the Park, Impromptu and Theatre Outré.


 Whitehead and Zaborsky will be joined by Cole Olson, Erica Barr, Katie Fellger,  Ashley Thomson,  Deonie Hudson, Jordan Payne, Erica Hunt, David Gabert, Stephanie Wickham and Katrina Violet.

“But there’s costumes and music and decorations,” added Theatre Outré General Manager, David Gabert.


Playgoers of Lethbridge on the way to 100 uninterrupted years with An Evening of Three-ater

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Playgoers of Lethbridge doesn’t want to break the streak of being Canada’s longest running Theatre Company. They’ll break 100 years in 2023, so to m ensure they reach that goal, they are putting an evening of Three-atre, Nov. 18-20.

 The evening features Elaine Jagielski”s “Loves Best by, Artistic director Rita Peterson directs  a reader’s theatre of “The Best  Christmas Pageant Eve,” and Rob Berezay brings John Carroll’s “ Oh What  A Tangled Web.

“ Because of Covid, it has been extremely difficult to  put on theatre, but we wanted to put on something,” said Peterson.


“Covid has made it  challenging to cast a full production, so we thought we’d put on three smaller productions.” she continued. 


There are a lot of familiar faces involved with the evening. Rob Berezay directed and starred in “ Where’s Oscar” in 2018.


Elaine Jagielski and Shelley David are involved in “Love’s Best By” and  “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” They are involved with most Playgoers of Lethbridge presentations.


 Jagielski debuted  “ Love’s Best By” in the 2018 One Act Play Festival.”

“We want to reach 100 years as Canada’s longest running theatre company,” Peterson said.


 The last Playgoers of Lethbridge production was “Daisy,” which closed last March, right before the pandemic hit.


All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 returns to help LSCO

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All is Calm:The Christmas Truce of 1914 blends the sentiments of Christmas with the memorial of Remembrance Day, so director Fran Rude is  excited to bring the show back to the Yates Theatre, Nov. 19-21.


Stephen Graham prepares for a tech rehearsal for  A Christmas Truce, this weekend in the Yates Theatre. Photo by Richard Amery

“It’s been on the books since 2020, but because of Covid, we couldn’t do it, so I’m excited to  finally get a chance to bring it back to stage,” said Rude, choking up with the emotion of finally being able to do live theatre again.


“ Artists were hit so hard by Covid. we couldn’t do anything,” she said.


 This production will be a fundraiser for the Lethbridge Seniors Organization (LSCO) as was the last production in 2019.

 She recruited a top notch cast of actors and singers including John Conlon, Dan Hall, Tyler Leavitt, Jonathan Northcott, Ken Rogers who is also musical director for the show, Don Robb, Josh Sherwood, Brenton Taylor, Tony Zappone, Stephen Graham, Devin Law and Jeff Steed, who play 39 different characters performing 34 a capella songs in four different languages. They have been rehearsing since mid-September.


“These are all classically trained singers,” Rude enthused.

“Three days is enough because all of the actors have jobs,” she said.


  The Peter Rothstein penned  “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce on 1914” (Erick Lichte and Timothy C Takach composed the musical arrangements) is inspired by an actual event which happened on Christmas Eve, 1914 in the middle of the First World War.


“It’s a miracle. A German soldier waving a white flag proceeded to walk across No Mans Land abut 50 miles outside of Ypres, Belgium, singing ‘Silent Night.’  It’s a miracle he wasn’t killed. A British officer met him and shook his hand. They soldiers ended up singing  Christmas carols and exchanging gifts. But the truce only lasted until the end of Christmas Day,” Rude summarized, noting all of the dialogue in the production comes from the journals, letters and poetry written by the soldiers, which makes the story all the more poignant.

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