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Newcomers shine in New West Theatre’s Tinsel

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New West Theatre’s holiday season production of “Tinsel,” running at the Yates Theatre until Dec. 31 is all about sharing the love and remembering some of New  West Theatre’s favourite moments over the past few years.Shelby Wilson is performing with New West in Tinsel. Photo by Richard Amery
 Pretty much all of the musical selections include the words “love,” “ heart”  and “you.”

The show opens with a moving arrangement of Lionel Richie’s 1986 hit “Dancing on the Ceiling.” All of the talented cast, including longstanding members Scott Carpenter, Erica Hunt, Kyle Gruninger and Kathy Zaborsky plus newcomers AJ Baragar, Shelby Wilson and Rylan Kunkel, who is part of his first New West show, get to show off  during the group numbers. Shelby Wilson is an instant highlight who stands out immediately from the beginning of “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

 In addition to singing together, they also get to glow in solo spots.

 The newcomers shine especially bright throughout Tinsel.

 AJ Baragar strums guitar  while singing a hilarious rendition of the Arrogant Worms’ “ If I Were Prime Minister,” as “backup singer” Gruninger tries to steal the spotlight from him.

Baragar and Gruninger also play well off each other and together, as they display their acrobatic ability, donning tights and tutus, balancing a big red rubber ball between each other to the tune of a few bars from the Nutcracker Suite played by the crack band of keyboardist Bente Hansen, lead guitarist Scott Mezei, drummer/band leader Paul Walker and bassist/guitarist Greg Paskuski.
Gruninger definitely steals the spotlight on  a version of The Killers’ “ I Believe In a Thing Called Love.”


New West Theatre brings good tidings with Tinsel

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Not that New West Theatre is ever otherwise, but the local theatre company’s new December show, “ Tinsel” is all about love.

New West Theatre is excited to put a little love in your heart with “Tinsel” Dec. 12-31. Photo by Richard Amery
“Almost every song we’re doing has love in the title,” observed New West Theatre general manager Derek Stevenson.

The show, which runs at the Yates Theatre from Dec.12-31, features some of the best of the best songs and comedy from over the years.

 It features a talented cast of experienced veterans like the core of Scott Carpenter, Erica Hunt, Kathy Zaborsky, and Kyle Gruninger plus Shelby Wilson and AJ Baragar who made their New West debuts in the July production of “Jukebox” as well as newcomer Ryland Kunkel.

Kunkel is a familiar face for patrons of the great Canadian Barn Dance.
“I’m used to playing music with my family, but I’ve never had to do muscle memory for dancing and singing and doing them both, but it’s been fun,” Kunkel said, adding he is excited to expand his musical horizons with New West.

“But I am doing a Glen Campbell  tribute and I’m playing piano with Kathy (Zaborsky). They’re bringing the grand piano out for us,” Kunkel said.
“I usually play folk, bluegrass or country music


Christmas with the classics as Dickens Meets Shakespeare

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Celebrate the Christmas season with Dickens Meets Shakespeare, Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. at Casa.(L-R); Heather Ladd, Jeff Graham and Kristine Alexander are getting into the Christmas spirit with Shakespeare Meets Dickens, Dec. 16 at Casa. photo by Richard Amery
 The show features a strong cast of performers, performing Charles Dickens’ “ A Christmas Carol,” followed by songs, sonnets and Shakespeare.
“The evening will begin with a performance of Charles Dickens ‘ A Christmas Carol’ and Christmas carols from the Victorian period,” said Shakespeare In The park co-ordinator Kate Connolly.
“It will be followed by all things Shakespeare including scenes, songs and sonnets,” she added.

A Christmas Carol will be performed by a lot of familiar faces from Shakespeare in the park including Andrew Legg and Dj Gellatly, who have directed Shakespeare in the Park productions and Derek Stevenson who has performed with the local Shakespeare troupe.

 It will also feature veterans from community theatre like Shelley David and Jeff Graham and some familiar faces from the University of Lethbridge’s drama productions.
“We have a lot of directors, actors and board members from community theatre performing,” Connolly said.

“ A Christmas Carol” is widely regarded as a Christmas classic, but it is more than that.
“Dickens wrote the stories in the 1840s. It was a time known as the Hungry ’40s because of an economic slump and the rising food prices which lead to a huge rise in poverty especially in London,” Connolly said.
“Dickens wrote  ‘A Christmas Carol’ to draw attention to the plight of the urban poor. There’s Scrooge, the grasping miser who learns to true meaning of Christmas through the intervention of three ghosts of Past, Present and Future. It also includes Bob Cratchett and his family including Tiny Tim, a young crippled boy who has this amazing love for all humanity,” she continued.
Megan Wittig, the music director of the musical portion of the evening will be singing and is coaching several performers including Matt Cameron, Chris Peterson, Brenton Taylor and Erica Barr.
Jeneva Moxon, who was stage manager for this summer’s production of Romeo and Juliet will be directing Shakespeare Meets Dickens.


Auditions for Playgoers of Lethbridge’s A Doll's house this week

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Juanita DeVos is excited to direct Playgoers of Lethbridge’s Feb. 8-11 production of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.”
 She already has most of her backstage crew in place, the next step is auditions, which take place, Dec. 9 and 10 at Casa.
 If  you are interested in trying out for the play, book an audition time for Dec. 9 and 10 by going to
DeVos will get back to you, if those times don’t work she will do her best to accommodate your schedule.

“The people who have booked times will be able to audition at that time and we’ll fit in people who drop in around those times,” DeVos said, noting she is excited to work with Playgoers veteran Eric Low.

“ I worked with him  for Noises Off and wanted to work with him again,” she said, noting Low was originally planning to direct “A Doll’s House,” but had to back out  due to health issues.

“But he already did a lot of research in to the characters and the production, so he will be our dramaturge,” DeVos enthused.

 The play requires a cast of four men and four women plus two children — a boy and a girl.

Playgoers is using a 1936 Thornton Wilder acting version of the play, which is about “Nora, the wife of a banker, Thorwald, has a secret debt, incurred with good intentions and a forged signature. When her husband is promoted to bank manager, the threat of blackmail threatens to destroy his career and their family life together. As circumstances unravel, Nora realizes the truth of her situation: she accuses her husband and her father before him of having used her as a doll. In one of the most famous scenes ever written for the stage, Nora slams the door on her domestic life as wife and mother until she can learn to be herself. The marriage of Ibsen's naturalistic style with Wilder's knack for emotional nuance creates a modern, vigorous acting version of this revered classic drama.” The original  play premiered in 1879.

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