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L.A. Beat

New West Theatre rocks the rodeo

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New West Theatre has gone country for their latest production,  ‘Rockin’ the Rodeo,’ which  runs July 2-24.Jessica Ens and Ife Abiola are helping rocking the rodeo, July 2-24. Photo by Richard Amery
“We did a country show a few years ago. This one came about due to audience interest,” artistic director Hanson said adding New West Theatre receives a lot of audience feedback and does their best to accommodate their requests.

“We had requests to do another country music show, so we thought it would be great to do something to appeal to hard core country music fans,” he continued adding the music runs from Buck Owens to Taylor Swift.

“We wanted to keep it accessible to mainstream audiences. We’re fortunate country music is at the roots of a lot of pop and rock  music today. There’s lots of crossover. Like the Eagles, who have one of  the top selling album of all time, had country roots.”

Like most New West shows, comedy is  a big part of the production.
“Comedy and country music have always coexisted on shows like Hee Haw and the Grand Old Opry,” Hanson observed adding both  relate to ordinary people and ordinary experiences.
“So there should be lots of laughter. I think the audience will really enjoy themselves.”
 Performer Fred Hillyer is glad to be back with New West  after taking a break for a couple years. He is especially looking forward to the comedic aspect of the show.

“I always look forward to the comedy and I helped write some of it. Plus we have some of the original comedy veterans working together in the sketches. Kelly Roberts is there and he’s definitely one of the funniest people   I know. And Erica (Hunt) is  always great and Scott (Carpenter) is always funny,” he continued adding the cast is what he missed the most about being away from New West.

“They are all very kind and giving people. I guess it was the pull of the artist. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are. I couldn’t stay away,” he said of returning to the group.
A new face to New West, though not new to Lethbridge’s drama and music community is Ife Abiola, who has been seen in the University of Lethbridge’s production of ‘Hair,’ among other things.


“They do a wide array of things, so it is definitely a privilege to be involved with them,” Abiola said adding while he doesn’t listen to a lot of country  music, it has been a learning experience learning to not only sing country, but to dance to it.
New West is Rocking the Rodeo this month. Photo by Richard Amery“ I don’t listen to a lot of country though I listen to Conway Twitty and Patsy Cline because they are great songwriters,” he said.
“I’m enjoying learning more about country music,” he said.

“It’s a good mix. We’ve got everything from Gene Autry to Taylor Swift,” enthused vocal director Kathy Zaborsky who is delighted to be back  with New West this summer.

She is excited to see  how the audience will respond to  this particular country show, especially considering the number of Albertan artists represented in the show.

“I’m hoping the audience enjoys our selections this time. We have a wonderful a cappella  song by Alberta’s own Ian Tyson. We also have some Terri Clark and Paul Brandt’s ‘Alberta Bound.  And we have a killer band,” she said.

Having the country show scheduled right in the middle of Stampede was nothing more than a happy coincidence.
“In the summer people are not only going to Stampede, they are also going to rodeos and fairs in their own backyards,” Hanson said adding  that was a happy coincidence for scheduling the production.  He has enjoyed working with the cast.
The show runs July 2-24, Tuesdays through Saturdays. at 8 p.m. each night, plus a 1 p.m. matinee, July 10. Go to for ticket prices.

—By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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