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U of L Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony present the Gondoliers this week

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The University of Lethbridge Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra plus special guests Vox Musical collaborate for this year’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera the Gondoliers.
The show runs Jan 31 and Feb. 1 at Southminster United Church.

Kevin Schuwer (Luiz) and Alexandra Morgan (Cassilda) rehearse for the Gondoliers. Photo By Richard Amery
“ It’s one of their funniest,” enthused assistant director Megan Wittig, who was part of  their first full scale collaboration of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in 2012, has been on stage with them before and backstage for several other productions.


“ It’s a full show with costumes and a big set,” Wittig enthused.


“ There’s eight leads in this production where there’s usually only four. But we have so many talented singers, so we’re happy to do this production this year,” Wittig said, noting there is a cast of close to 30 performers, most of whom are veterans of the annual collaborations.


“ And there’s a smaller orchestra, because Gilbert and Sullivan always wrote for a smaller orchestra,” she continued.

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We Will Rock you is a love letter to rock and roll instead of a Queen tribute

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We Will Rock you: The Queen  musical was many things— a lot of ham, a little cheese and a whole lot of hilarity, but was definitely not a Queen tribute in the traditional sense of the word.The Killer Queen and Khashoggi in We Will Rock You. Photo submitted
 So while some  people  at the Enmax Centre, Jan. 19 were asking “ Who’s playing Freddie Mercury” (answer nobody), it was still a great time. Instead of a tribute, it was a spectacle and a love letter to not only Queen, but the spirit of  rock and roll.
 Plus, it was a chance for local performer Kyle Gruninger to strut his stuff on the big stage in the local “stadium” as the villain Khashoggi, right hand man to the Killer Queen. Gruninger had his own cheering section in the audience, who cheered from the moment his grinning, sun-glassed mug appeared on the big screen at the start of the show and almost drowned him out when he was on stage, towering over the set on a massive steel tower (one of several movable set pieces used for the show), belting out a delightfully inimitable evil cackle.


In a nutshell, We Will Rock You takes place in a not so distant dystopian future, where everything is controlled by Globalsoft, the kids dress like digitized oompa loompas,  everything is computerized so live music and musical instruments have been banned, you’re an outsider if you make your own clothes and “the only star out here” is the Killer Queen.”
Flying in the face of a boring , conformist society, as always, are a group of spunky rebels, this time called the bohemians, lead by the dreamer Galileo Figaro or Gal for short, who somehow dreams of old song lyrics and bands, though he has never heard of any of them, with rock and roll and live music being banned. He meets his love interest Scaramouch while running from  Khashoggi and his troops, who look like a troupe of Robocops, whose job is to crack down on these bohemians.
 On the run they meet another group of bohemians who are looking for a leader and living in the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe,  where the scattered remnants of rock and roll culture still remain to capture their imagination. They’ve even named themselves after rock and pop stars, though not what you’d expect—  Britney Spears is a man and Ozzy Osbourne is actually a cute blond girl who almost steals the show, reminding me of a demented P.J. Soles a la the Ramones movie “Rock and Roll High School.”


Though bohemian “Buddy Holly and the Crickets” also sings a lot of highlights.

Along the way, Gal and Scaramouch fall in love and lead the bohemians on a quest to find the “last axe.” During the quest they perform Queen’s biggest hits, drop a lot of band names and song lyrics to to their everyday dialogue and mispronounce things like video cassette for hilarious effect.
 The result is  a spectacle that would do Freddie Mercury proud. And as Queen guitarist Brian May signed off on the production, it’s all right by me. Perhaps as a tribute to May, when they do find the last axe in Graceland, the guitar itself is a copy of Brian May’s renown home build guitar.


 The female characters  the Killer Queen and Scaramouch, are strong, tough and smart, while the male characters are pretty much bird brained idiots, so it makes sense that when they find the guitar, that Scaramouch immediately shreds on it, while Galileo can barely play a chord.


 The live band, who definitely shred throughout the show, are hidden in the rafters, often completely hidden by one of several big moving screens, leaving the cast to run, frolic and mug throughout  without having to trip over  patch chords.
 The Queen classics are present and accounted for including “Killer Queen,” sung, of course, by the Killer Queen, “ I Want it All” and many others.


The songs move the story forward. The Killer Queen signs “I Want It All” as she and Khashoggi try to crush the bohemians. She sings “Another One Bites the Dust” as Khashoggi is killed for failing to do just that.

And “ I Want to Ride my Bicycle,” is performed while the bohemians decide how to get to Nashville from Las Vegas, instead choosing a Harley Davidson, mispronounced as Harleee Daveedson” for comic effect.


Both the Killer Queen and Scaramouch had big, beautiful, soulful voices. Gruninger, playing to his hometown crowd,  showed off a magnificent mid range rather than the high tenor he he usually sings in.
 He stole his scenes as a comedian, but also belting out “Seven Seas of Rhye.” as well as a beautiful duet with the Killer Queen on “It‘s a Kind of Magic.”
 The show ends with most of the cast performing “ We Will Rock You,” but that isn’t it. A big screen beckons “ Do You Want to Hear “Bohemian Rhapsody.””
 Of course everybody  does, so the entire cast returned for Queen’s best known hit, dancing through the audience along with the band.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor

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Kyle Gruninger enjoying Canada and U.S. tour with We Will Rock You: The Queen Musical

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Touring the United States and Canada with “We Will Rock You: The Queen Musical” has been “A Kind of Magic” for Lethbridge born musician/ actor Kyle Gruninger, who plays the villain Khashoggi .Kyle Gruninger in We Will Rock You. Photo submitted
 We Will Rock You: The Queen musical is at the Enmax Centre, Sunday, Jan.19.
Gruninger is excited about the show.


“ Most of the shows have been sold out. It’s been great. You have little kids who are about 10 -years excited wearing Queen shirts and raising their hands they’re next to their parents who are doing the same thing,” Gruninger enthused from Vancouver.


“ A lot of people really have no idea what to expect. People will ask me  ‘who’s playing Freddie Mercury,” he said, adding that is tough to answer as We Will Rock You isn’t a Queen tribute show.


“ It’s a spectacle with non-stop action and great costumes and choreography. It takes place in a dystopian world, where there is no music. Everything is digital. Everything is owned by Global Soft Corporation. It’s strange and exciting how true it has become because it was originally written in 2003 and there was no iPhone,” he said, adding his character Khashoggi and his boss the Killer Queen fight the Bohemians.


“We Will Rock You tells the story of a globalized future without musical instruments. A handful of rock rebels, the Bohemians, fight against the all-powerful Globalsoft company and its boss, the Killer Queen; they fight for freedom, individuality and the rebirth of the age of rock. Scaramouche and Galileo, two young outsiders, cannot come to terms with the bleak conformist reality. They join the Bohemians and embark on the search to find the unlimited power of freedom, love and Rock,” according to the We Will Rock You: The Queen musical website.


Gruninger has enjoyed seeing a lot of new places.

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Plenty of plays and auditions coming up in 2020

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Several big plays are on the horizon.
 Auditions are happening Jan. 14 and 15 at casa for  a new thriller Hatrix will be putting on at McNally School in May.
 Karolyn Harker is excited about Frederick Knott’s  “Wait until Dark, a newly revised play that was first put on in 1966 and turned into a hit 1967 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin.


 It is about sinister con man  Roat and ex convicts Mike and Carlino who are seeking a mysterious doll, which a strange woman has persuaded a blind woman Susy’s husband to transport across the border into Canada. Jeffrey Hatcher revised the play for Broadway in 2013.


 The men have convinced Susy that her husband Sam Hendrix has been implicated in the mystery woman’s murder and that the doll is evidence. She figures out the charade with her young neighbour’s help. The thriller takes place at McNally school at the end of May. Rehearsals will begin  in January after the play is cast.


Auditions for The Lethbridge Shakespeare Performance Society‘s production of the comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor have also been announced. They will be Jan. 30 at the University of Lethbridge and at Casa, Jan. 31. Callbacks will be  Feb. 1 at Casa. Auditions will be held in groups, so sign up for a time slot at https://doodle.com/poll/vy49id8ard9b8dqt.
Prepare a 1-2 minute monologue from any genre and be prepared to move. Playgoers of Lethbridge brings another Broadway hit to the Sterndale Bennett Theatre, Feb. 19-22 with Sean Devine’s drama “Daisy.” Rita Peterson is directing this play about the infamous 1964 election ad which launched the era of negative advertising.

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