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Optimism explored in Candide with Lethbridge Opera Workshop and Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra

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You may remember  Hunter Semrau for his spirited portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.
in New West Theatre’s production of the Million Dollar Quartet in September. But expect  to see a completely different character this weekend, Feb. 8 and 9 at Southminster United Church as he plays the title role of Candide in The University of Lethbridge Opera Workshop Hunter Semrau plays the title character in Candide. Photo by Richard Ameryand Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra’s annual collaboration.

“They’re two completely different characters. Jerry Lee Lewis was a bit of a jerk and really full of himself. Candide is a caricature of the most honest self, purity and niceness,” Semrau described, noting  playing Jerry Lee Lewis was a departure for him as his major is opera performance.
“I love musical theatre too, but this is what I’m studying,” he said adding Candide is an interesting, relentlessly optimistic character.
“He (Voltaire) was making fun of  the way other philosophers looked at how mankind viewed how everything works out for the best,” he said.

“ He remains optimistic no matter what happens to him,” he continued adding a lot happens to Candide, who is flogged, gets kidnapped by the Spanish Inquisition and gets shipwrecked after being taken in by a con man who sells him a leaky boat. On top of that, he is in love with a woman who is not only a thief, but a selfish grifter.

“He’s in love with Cunegonde but while they’re separated she ends up being greedy, graspy and selfish. She gets close to men in order to separate them from their money,” he continued.

He is excited to be part of the  production and backed by the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra.


New West breaks out the rock side of country music

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New West Theatre goes country for an unusually timed February musical-revue show.Devon Brayne brings back Johnny Cash in Rockers Gone Country. Photo by Richard Amery
 Director Jeremy Mason is excited to return to New West Theatre to direct Rockers Gone Country, Feb. 6-23 at the Yates Theatre.

“ It’s definitely a country show, but it’s country with a rock influence. Everybody will find something  to enjoy about this, even of they don”t classify themselves as a country fan,” Mason said.

 “Each of the artists have had some crossover success,” Mason continued.
“ A lot of country has a rock influence,” he continued, adding musicians featured include Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, The Dixie Chicks and even Roy Orbison. Plus much more.

“ We ’re also doing things like “Blue Moon of Kentucky, but  John Fogerty’s version of it. And We’re doing Jon Bon Jovi’s  “Blaze of Glory,” which was the theme of  the western  ‘Young Guns,”mason said.

 New West welcomes back some familiar faces including Kyle Gruninger, Scott Carpenter, Rylan Kunkel and  Devon Brayne, who played Johnny Cash in “Million Dollar Quartet,” and brings his Cash back to perform Cash’s interpretation of The Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor’s ’90s hit “Hurt.”
 Newcomer Bryanna Rae joins New West mainstays Erica Hunt and Kathy Zaborsky on  stage.


Auditions this month for Hatrix Theatre and Shakespeare In The Park

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If you feel the urge to get on stage, auditions are coming up for a couple of big productions happening in the spring and summer.

Karolyn Harker is excited to direct Neil Simon’s farce Rumours. photo by Richard Amery
 Up first, Hatrix Theatre is excited to present Neil Simon’s farce “Rumours”, set to run May 29-June 1 at a location to be determined.
 Auditions are Monday, Jan. 21 from 6-8 p.m. at Casa. Callbacks will be the next day at Casa at 7 p.m.
 The production requires a large cast of 10 to play four couples and two police officers.

“We’d like to start rehearsals right after auditions,” said director Karolyn Harker, who is excited to tackle a Neil Simon play.
“I’ve done Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite twice, once as an actor and once as a director,” she said, adding comedic timing is essential for the play to be a success.

“Neil Simon died last year at age 91. He grew up in a home with a lot of marital discord so he tried to find some humour in that. He always considered Rumours to be his first actual farce,” she said.


Good Times opens with some of Canada's best stand-up comedians

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 It’s all in the name— good times. Good Times provides a new venue for live comedy and in the process provides owner John Pogorzelski  a chance to fulfil his life’s ambition of being his own boss by doing something he is passionate about. John and his brother are old hands at creating entertainment opportunities, as their company Pogo bros can call Lethbridge  Oktoberfest celebrations among the feathers in their caps. John Pogorzelski is excited to open Good Times. photo by Richard Amery
“We’re still going to do Pogo Brothers, John Pogorzelski said, adding he and his brother Roy run karaoke and games nights all over the city. But now they have started their own venue to focus on games and regular live comedy.
 The new 30 seat capacity club, located at (317 3rd Street South) in the basement had their official opening, Jan. 5 with a showcase of professional stand-up comedians  touring comedians including Cory Mack, Mike “Pickle” Dambra, Charles Andrew, Adam Ruby Payne, Renee Manners, Alex Biron and Shawn Gramiak.
The opening night showcases were pretty much all sold out and give the public a preview of the comedy to come in the next two months as all of the comedians will be performing their own solo shows in the coming weeks.

 They have a few kinks to work out, with sound and lighting but the essence of a really cool, underground comedy club.
I caught  the very first showcase at 5 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 5.

 The first comedian Alex Biron, who will be back Feb. 9, joked about the different kinds of homeless people in larger and smaller cities. He  had a funny bit comparing what $80 million means to a CEO compared to what $80 means to an ordinary, poorer person.

 Surrey, B.C. born, Fort McMurray based comedian Renne Manners, who returns Feb. 16,  opened her set by opening an oversized list of jokes  “so I won’t forget them”  and joked about being a single mom and how her seven-year-old son also writes jokes as well as a funny bit about the number of teen moms in her high school in Surrey.

Charles Payne, who returns on Jan. 26, observed how “white the room” was and joked about how disgusting and confusing dick pics are, and online dating over 40.
I couldn’t see much of Adam Ruby’s manic  set as he stayed mostly at the back of the stage and out of my eyesight from my seat at the side of the stage. He  joked abut parenting now compared to in the ’70s and ’80s when he grew up. He returns to Good Times, Jan. 19.

 New York born comedian  Mike Dambra performs in Lethbridge about once a year. He was more in your face than the other comedians. He joked about spending a SaturdShawn Gremiak performing at Good Times. photo by Richard Amery, jShawn Gremiak performing at Good Times. photo by Richard Amery, Jan. 5. Photo by Richard Ameryan. 5. Photo by Richard Ameryay night performing  comedy in a basement, laughing “ I have another show at a pizza lace after this.” He joked about how Canadians are annoyingly over polite compared to New Yorkers, but spent about half of his set teasing a front row patron about selling furniture for a living. He received quite a bit of applause for his set. Dambra returns to Good Times, Feb. 2.

Cory Mack was the comedian I was waiting to see as she is the sister of my former boss. I even booked her for Fringe Festival back in Kenora, several years ago. Her routine was about growing up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan and  about how to get older kids to move out of the house by having louder sex. She also had a funny bit comparing how people, namely her husband, stroke their smart smart phones compared to  pleasuring a woman. She is back at Good Times this Saturday.

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