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New West supplies the soundtrack to a summer “Heatwave”

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 Kyle Gruninger  rehearses “Sunny Days” with New West Theatre. Photo by Richard AmeryNew West Theatre is heating things up for summer with their new show “Heatwave,” which runs Aug. 2-27 at the Yates Theatre.

“Even if it isn’t a heatwave outside, it will be a heatwave in here,” promised Kyle Gruninger returning to New West Theatre for his  thirteenth season.
“My first New West show was when I was 18 and now I’m 32. I’m the oldest guy in the cast,” he observed.

 The show is designed as a soundtrack to your summer fun, including the usual crop of classic rock and pop plus more contemporary music and brand new comedy.

“Heatwave” also includes some new faces like AJ Baragar, who, in addition to performing with New West’s July production of “Jukebox,” as well as  in the U of L’s November production of Carrie has also performed in Shakespeare in the Park.
“I love all of it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s great to get paid to do what you love to do, said Baragar.

“This has been quite different. In Carrie there was a lot of singing and dancing. But this is different. This is a lot more fun and airy than the other things I‘ve done, he said.

“And I‘ve learned a lot about singing with a band and singing with a handheld microphone,” Baragar enthused, who performs with his own band and has released a few albums with them.
 Kyle Gruninger, who also fronts his own band Incura, just finished  a six month  gig performing on cruise ships.

“I got to see a lot of cool places, but New West is a lot more fun. The people are friendlier, ” he said, adding he prefers playing with  the live band with New West rather with canned music as was often the case on the cruise ships.
“The music is the soundtrack to summer  when you’re going to barbecues and chillaxing with friends,” he said, adding he is enjoying being part of  an April Wine medley, the guys will be performing.

“And I get to jump off of something really high,” Baragar added, indicating a bench on stage which is part of the gazebo themed set which the band performs on.
“There’s a lot of classic rock and some contemporary songs,” Baragar observed, adding  the set also includes Jet’s “Are You Gonna be My Girl” and Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.” It also includes summer classics from Lighthouse (Sunny Days)  and Bryan Adams (Summer of ’69) and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heatwave.”


“The music will appeal to New West’s fans as well as appeal to millennials — the comedy too, ” said general manager Derek Stevenson,  adding he is enjoying having some new faces on board joining Baragar and Gruninger including Calgarian Tenaj Williams, Camille Pavlenko, who has performed in several of New West Theatre’s theatre for young people presentations, Alexa Elser and veterans Erica Hunt and Kathy Zaborsky.

Gruninger is enjoying working with director Sharon Peat, who taught him in high school.
“ It’s great working with someone you know you can trust. All I have to do is sing and she takes care of the rest,” Gruninger said.
Sharon Peat is just as excited to work with Gruninger again (She also taught New West band member Scott Mezei and former New West artistic director and general manager Jeremy Mason).
“I love Kyle. He has such an amazing vocal range for a man. And he brings such positive energy to the stage,” she said.
She is excited about the show on the stage.

New West  Theatre is e excited to heat up August with Heatwave. Photo by Richard Amery
“It’s the playlist for summer activities like barbecues, trips to Park Lake and Henderson Lake. It’s very life affirming,” she said.
“It is a two hour escape whatever else is happening, so come to our barbecue,” she encouraged.
“I always think of theatre as an escape. So no matter what is happening in life, you always come out feeling re-energized and refreshed,” Baragar echoed.

Heatwave runs Aug. 2-27 at 7:30 p.m. each night in the Yates Theatre plus  matinees on Aug. 13 and 20 at 1 p.m.
 A version of this story appears in the Aug. 3, 2016 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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