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Comedy a highlight of All Fired Up

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New West Theatre’s new production is already getting audiences  “all feared up,” all “Fred up,”  but mostly “all fired up.”Kathy Zaborsky sings  during “All Fired Up.” Photo by Richard Amery
An almost sold out opening night crowd, Aug. 5 including people from Washington D.C., Columbus, Ohio and even New Brunswick got into the spirit as the cast, dressed in gold lamée, opened their latest show by delivering a spirited rendition of Kiss’  “Shout It Out Loud.”

I was actually surprised they didn’t include Pat Benetar’s “All Fired Up,”  that being the title of the show.

But “Shout It Out Loud” and a cool version of ‘Jessie’s Girl’ was the closest thing to rock and roll this show included as the musical numbers focused on more disco and ’70s AM radio soft rock.

An early highlight of the show took on the ’80s fitness craze as the cast took the stage in an array of exercise outfits, and bearing a variety of exercise equipment performed to Olivia Newoton John’s “Let’s Get Physical.

It was an extremely physical show as per usual, with the energetic cast bounding all over the stage, which was compunded by the new dancers who made their feats of athletic and artistic prowess look easy.

But for the most part it was disco music all the way. And even though I’d rather be dead then listen to disco music, the cast sure can sing it. So I appreciated it for what it is and how they deliver it.

 Ife Abiola does a mean James Brown impression, right down to doing the splits. He was obviously “Feeling Good,” as he and the rest of the cast beamed ear to ear during their performances.

He also shone on an early Michael Jackson number “Don’t Stop ’til You get Enough,” which showcased some fabulous dance moves from “ bendy, flippy dancers  (as MCs Erica Hunt and  Grahame Renyk introduced them at the beginning of the show)” Claire Lint, Carlynn Antoniuk, Evan Cowan and Josh Malcolm, who were highlights of  the show.

Who needs “So You Think You Can Dance” reality TV rubbish, when you have talent like this in our own little city.

Kathy Zaborsky delivered a stunningly beautiful performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, but the dancers’ impressive ballet dance moves during were a bit of a distraction from her performance.

So there was something for everyone for that number, and indeed  the entire show.

 For me, the comedy segments totally made “All Fired Up.”

Anytime Fred Hillyer took the stage, be it wearing a sombrero, a Scottish cap, dressed as an oldster or holding a notebook to deliver “serious pieces,” he had the crowd howling with laughter. And you couldn’t stop him when paired up with the always brash and hilarious Erica Hunt. Unfortunately I still couldn’t hear some of his punch lines, being drowned out by the audience’s laughter.

New West ‘All Fired Up’ about new dancers and lots of energy

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New West Theatre is “all fired up” by an injection of new talent for their latest show  which opens  at the Yates Theatre, Aug. 5.
“All Fired Up is a mixture of pop and rock hits which spans a few generations. It’s really a high energy  family friendly way to Mark Nivet is All Fired Up for New West Theatre’s next performance. Photo by Richard Amerycelebrate summer,” said director Nicholas Hanson promising more “razzle dazzle” in the form of new lighting and laser effects.

“It’s been really invigorating to add four new dancers. We have four people in the band and eight people as vocalists. It’s the most  bodies we’ve had on stage  for a while. Then there’s the comedy, so as a result  there’s quite an explosion of energy,” he added, noting he is especially excited about the new dancers.

“With TV shows like ‘So, You Think You Can Dance,’  there is a lot more interest in dancing. So we think audiences will really appreciate the high energy and intensity  the dancers bring to this show,” he added.

“There’s a lot of variety and a lot of upbeat numbers which let everyone show off their vocals,” described Jessica Ens, enjoying her tenth summer performing with New West Theatre. She is enjoying working with Mark Nivet again for this production. It has been a challenge  for the cast to be performing  the country show (Rockin’ The Rodeo) at night while rehearsing for this one during the day.

Erica Hunt and some of the cast from New West Theatre’s  production of ‘All Fired Up.’ Photo by Richard Amery
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been  nice to have these different genres. The  last one was  a lot of country music, this one is a completely rock and roll,” she said adding ‘Rockin’ The Rodeo’ was well received by the audiences. This time, the cast explore  a variety of rock pop, R and B and disco hits hits from ‘Africa’ to ‘ I Feel the Earth Move.’”

 They even  perform Kiss’ ‘Shout It Out Loud.’ and some other ’80s hits like ‘Jessie’s Girl’ and ’I Want to Know What Love Is.’


Fort Whoop Up under siege by Drama Nutz

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If you hear gunshots  and cannon fire echoing over the coulees,  every Friday and Saturday beginning this Friday, don’t worry, it’s just Fort Whoop -Up under attack by Fred Kanouse and his whiskey trading band of scoundrels.

Don’t call the police though, Cst. Tabor (Terry Edwards) apprehends Fred Kanouse  (Jon MacBurnie). Photo by Richard Amerybecause Northwest Mounted Police officer Cst.  Arthur C Tabor, Fort Whoop Up manager David Akers and his friends already  have things under control. Because in the world of theatre, the good guys almost always win.

Siege at Fort Whoop-Up is a production of local improv group Drama Nutz in conjunction with  Fort Whoop -Up which runs every Friday and Saturday from July 24 to Aug. 28.

 It features some familiar faces and several newcomers.
“I’ll say it again and again, never let history get in the way of a good story,” said Drama Nutz director David Gabert , who also plays Dave Akers in the production, adding all of the characters are based on real historical characters, though the events transpiring are fictional.

 The play takes place in 1877 at the wedding of  Marcella Sheran (played by Bev Stadelman) , older sister of Fort Whoop Up coal mining mogul  David Sheran (played by David Adie), and Fort Macleod area rancher Joseph MacFarland (played  by Richard Amery). The wedding is unfortunately timed as Cpl. Tabor ( Terry  Edwards) has just apprehended murderer Fred Kanouse (Jon MacBurnie) and Kamouse’s men are planning a jailbreak.

 The actors are using real rifles and pistols, filled with real black powder ammunition (firing blanks of course). All of the actors completed and passed a government  gun safety training course.
 Calgary’s Guns of the Golden West add extra firepower.
 To make each show unique, all of the dialogue is completely improvised.Fred Kanouse (Jon MacBurnie) holds Marcella (Bev  Stadelmann) hostage. Photo by Richard Amery

“Rather than writing a script, we wrote detailed character descriptions. Fortunately I’ve  had the honour of working with four or five members of the cast before. We found when you add extra elements, like guns, you don’t know what is going to happen, guns jam and safety becomes paramount ,” Gabert said adding a written script can quickly go by the wayside.

“We’re interested in  portraying interesting events rather than  the characters, which we admittedly don’t know a lot about. We’re bringing the Fort to life , so to speak, and using theatre is a great way to do that,” he said adding the Siege evolved from previous activities at Fort Whoop -Up including  the ‘Wild West Weekend.”


Country comedy a highlight of New West Theatre’s ‘Rockin’ the Rodeo’

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Grahame Renyk is a personable MC for ‘Rockin’ The Country.’ Photo by Richard  AmeryNew West Theatre has a trimmed down cast and energy to spare as they rock the rodeo this month at the Yates Theatre.

The nine member cast performs one of their typically entertaining  variety show ranging from spine tinglingly beautiful to campy upbeat dance numbers, superb vocal harmonies and a lot of quirky comedy.
 The show  opens with an upbeat dance version of Alabama’s “Mountain Music,”  which gives the whole cast a chance to shine.

There are many highlights of the show, not the least of which is Ife Abiola — a new face to New West, though not new to Lethbridge’s drama and music community. He adds a lot of soul to traditional country music.

He was not only a highlight as the straight man in a couple of sketches but added a lot of soul to Conway Twitty as well as  did a credible job of Paul Brandt’s “Alberta Bound.”

He also sings  a pretty mean Toby Keith, singing a superb version of “How Do You Like Me Now.”
Abiola has been seen in the University of Lethbridge’s production of ‘Hair,’ among other things.
Jessica Ens and Jocelyn Haub  sang a beautifully sassy version of Terri Clark’s ‘Girls Lie Too.’ Haub’s solo performance of Taylor Swift’s ‘White Horse,’ was a highlight as well. She was backed only by guitarists Kelly Roberts and Scott Mezei.

 Haub also played well off of Grahame Renyk, who was an affable and personable host  during the farm themed news portion of the show.

 In honour of the Eagles,  a highlight of the first half of the show is a  superb medley of Eagles’ more country hits including ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling,’ and ‘Take It Easy,’ which is spearheaded by  New West veteran Scott Carpenter, who changes  the lyrics to reflect the four women in the cast, dancing and singing backup vocals. Carpenter was hilariously as always, he was having some fun laughing maniacally while rigging the 50 50 draw much to the crowd’s amusement.

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