Hobson's Choice: Busy holiday season for local theatres

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With openings at Stage West, Fire Exit and the University of Calgary, November is proving to be a busy and varied month for theatre in Calgary.

Step by Step, Stage West’s holiday offering that runs at the dinner theatre from Nov. 17 to Feb. 4, tracks the evolution of boy bands from The Beatles to One Direction.

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These concert tribute shows have become a popular staple at Stage West. Last year at this time, Stage West remounted its One Hit Wonders, created by Howard Pechet and Tim French in 2008, and it proved an even greater success the second time around.

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This year, Pechet has teamed up with Toronto director Liz Gilroy for a look at the boy band phenomenon, one of the most successful musical genres.

Gilroy says “The creation of a boy band is pretty easy. You take a heartthrob, a cutie, a bad boy, and a guy that may be a little too old to be in a boy band, and throw them into some matching outfits, and synchronized dance moves, and all of a sudden, you’ll make the music world swoon.”

Those synchronized moves in Step by Step will be created by Stephen Dickson and Eric Dahlinger, with musical direction by Konrad Pluta and Lisa MacDougall. Gilroy, who has directed more than a dozen shows for Stage West, will be staging Step by Step.

Step by Step will look at Gary Lewis and the Playboys in America and Herman’s Hermits in England. The early tributes will also include The Beatles, the Monkees, The Four Seasons, The Bee Gees, The Bay City Rollers and The Beach Boys.

Also on the musical menu are Back Street Boys, New Kids on the Block, NSYNC, Hanson Brothers, Maroon 5, Jonas Brothers, Coldplay and One Direction.

Bringing these bands to life are Niko Combitsis, Eric Da Costa, Eric Dahlinger, Luciano Decicco, Kory Fulton, Jason Lemmon, Andrew McAllister, Caulin Moore, Luke Opdahl, Adam Sergison, Mayson Sonntag and Jesse Weafer.

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Mackenzie Sutton and Jonathan Top in Fire Exit Theatre’s Last Train to Nibroc. Courtesy,  Stephanie Lanting Photo by Stephanie Lanting /jpg


Last Train to Nibroc, Fire Exit’s second play of its 23rd season, is the 1940s story of a chance encounter between a young Kentucky couple who meet on a train carrying the bodies of writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nathaniel West to their burials. A medical condition has kept the wannabe writer Raleigh from enlisting, and Mary wants to be a missionary. It’s a ride that changes their lives forever. This is the first play of Arlene Hutton’s trilogy of Nibroc plays, and her most successful, having received hundreds of productions since it premiered in 1999.

Fire Exit’s artistic director Val Lieske, who is directing the gentle drama,calls it “a story that matters. It’s about building a life around deeply held convictions that will likely cost you something. At first glance, Nibroc seems so simple. Just a boy meets girl story until you see what they are willing to sacrifice in order to become what they are supposed to be. It’s set during the backdrop of the Second World War, making it all the more timely.”

Jonathan Top, who wrote, directed and starred in Real at the Calgary Fringe this summer, plays Raleigh, with Mackenzie Sutton, a recent graduate of the BFA program at the University of Alberta, as his star-crossed love interest.

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Last Train to Nibroc runs in the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre Nov. 22-26 with performances Nov. 22-25 at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. matinees on Nov. 25 and 26. Advance tickets are available at fireexit.ca/show/last-train-to-nibroc.


The University of Calgary School of Creative and Performing Arts is opening its mainstage season with Lee Hall’s stage adaptation of the hit 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard.

The film won seven Oscars including best picture, and acting awards for Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench, and became one of the highest-grossing films of that year, a rarity for a romantic comedy.

It’s a fictional story of a romance between Viola de Lesseps, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and Shakespeare, who is plagued by writer’s block as he works on his new comedy Romeo & Juliet.

This version of Shakespeare in Love opened in London in 2014 with critics calling it a joyous celebration of theatre.

Christine Brubaker, the head of drama at SCPA, says the play is whip-smart and 40 students in the University’s graduate and undergraduate programs have been working to bring it to life. The production has been designed by Hanne Loosen and Anton Degroot, both alumni of the drama program who are working regularly for Calgary’s professional theatres. MFA candidate Steven Conde is directing a cast of 25 actors with Oli Khubyar as Shakespeare, Amber Billingsley as Viola, Kevin Sandal as Shakespeare’s literary rival Kit Marlowe and Nicci Rvachew as Queen Elizabeth I.

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Shakespeare in Love runs in the University’s Reeve Theatre from Nov. 24 to Dec. 2 with advance tickets available at arts.ucalgary.ca/tickets.

Two Families Meet from Talk to Me, with from left: Rose Bene, Trish Clark, Faye Brown, Ron Kuehne jpg


Calgary has a unique theatre program run through the Family Leisure Centre. The Seniors Acting Lab offers Calgarians over 50 classes in acting, improvisation, playreading, Shakespeare and playwriting.

Original plays which have been workshopped are presented through Being Creative. Emily Katherine’s two-act play Talk to Me is the latest to be showcased. It will run Nov. 21-25 at Theatre 1308, which is at 1308 Edmonton Trail, N.E.

Katherine says her play is a family drama in every sense of the word.

“Talk to Me is a drama about adult child and parent relationships set in a Mount Royal family. A crisis draws the family together, and roles and relationships are explored and untangled,” says Katherine, a retired social worker.

Talk to Me was dramaturged by Trevor Ruegar, the executive director of the Alberta Playwright’s Network, and has been directed by Val Pearson, a local actor and director who most recently directed the premiere of Caroline Russell-King’s Absinthe, Bourbon, Vodka & Sake, and was the musical director for StoryBook Theatre’s concert version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The cast for Talk to Me includes Rose Bene, Marc Motiejunas, Trish Clark, Lori Bachynski, Ron Kuehne, and Faye Brown.

Performances Nov. 21-25 are at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 25.

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Originally posted 2023-11-16 18:00:10.