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L.A. Beat

New West relives Lethbridge memories in “Jukebox”

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New West theatre opened a long run of Jukebox, June 27 at The Yates Theatre. They didn’t have a great crowd for opening night, but it was respectable.Alexa Elser, Erica Hunt and Shelby Wilson perform in Jukebox. Photo by Richard Amery
 “Jukebox” really embraces the theme. In addition to having a ’50s style jukebox and soda fountain on stage left, the stage is set up to look like a jukebox, with a simple slightly upraised stage dead centre which looks like a turntable, another smaller stage looks like the volume knob. The talented band of music director Paul Walker, Greg Paskuski, Kelly Roberts, Scott Mezei and keyboardist Bente Hansen provide the backdrop to the performers, veterans Erica Hunt and Scott Carpenter, plus Tom Delbello, Alexa  Elser and newcomers Shelby Wilson and AJ Baragar.

 A new, subtle multi-media display enhances the experience, by not only featuring a jukebox graphic listing the name of the song and original performer as the performers put their own twist on them but a strong strong local  twist  as well as the screen flashes  pictures of historical Lethbridge locales and other images which enhance the songs like old graphics of Mustang cars during the Scott Carpenter powered Mustang Sally and the cast having fun playing in the park during “Theme From a Summer Place.”
 Jukebox runs chronologically featuring songs from the ’50s through the ’80s which were actually played on different Lethbridge Jukeboxes, the the  selections include ’50s pop, ’70s trucker songs and ’80s new wave hits.

The show begins with a nice medley of ’50s pop with the girls and guys taking turns singing a selection of ’50s pop and slowly move on to feature individual members including the band as the other cast sing harmonies. Carpenter does a beautiful rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely.”
Alexa Elser sings a pretty version of “My Guy” after a hilarious comedy bit  featuring Elser, Scott Carpenter and Erica Hunt about Carpenter taking Elser to Kresge’s diner for a serious talk only to be distracted by a barrage of questions about meal time choices from Hunt.
 Tom Delbello gets some of the best comedic bits, especially his creepy imitation of popular hypnotist Reveen.


Hunt and Carpenter have a recurring bit called “They Say” in which they have fun with the Lethbridge rumour mill.
The new performers also perform some of the funniest comedy, especially Wilson and her exaggerated facial expressions, though they were difficult to hear.


Scott Carpenter, Tom Delbello and AJ baragar perform in Jukebox. Photo by Richard Amery
 Kelly Roberts shines by not only showing off his guitar playing skills, but comedic chops as a scientist exploring the differences between Lethbridge and other major centres which are acted out by various cast members throughout the show.

The band shows their prowess on a variety of different musical instruments.

 Mezei steps forward on dobro (Or  ‘a hubcap thing,’  as Hunt described while introducing the band members ) to accompany Hunt on a dark yet sassy version of “Harper Valley PTA.”
Guitarists Paskuski and  Roberts and Mezei on banjo tackle the fiendishly difficult trucker classic “East Bound and Down,” to wind down the set.” In the second set they return with acoustic guitars for a gorgeous version of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.”
 But they wind down the first set with the cast performing “Hippy Hippy Shake.”
 The second set begins with Carpenter acting nervous about finally convincing Paul Walker to add the Knack’s “My Sharona” to the show after 25 years and the cast performing it as one by one, the band members quit, to be replaced by the cast.

AJ Baragar kicks off the second half officially on a high note by performing Tommy Tutone’s ’80s hit 867-5309 in a phone booth.
 But the second set is marked by a stunning a capella medley of Blood, Sweat and Tears’ hits.
 And you couldn’t have a New West show without a guy dancing in a dress, so Scott Carpenter saunters on stage in dress and afro as Erica Hunt and the cast perform the Commodores’ disco hit “Brick House.”
 Shelby Wilson’s harmonies shine through in this, which make me with there was more of her featured.

“Jukebox” really is a good time, especially for life long Lethbians who will appreciate all of the Lethbridge jokes and historical footage.
 I was actually surprised they didn’t do a version of Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” in the show.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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