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Marooned with Munsch is a bunch of fun

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Geneviève Paré  and Cari Russell rehearse Munsch. Photo by Richard AmeryIf you want to warm up a chilly winter day, or if the kids are complaining that there is nothing to do, get Marooned With Munsch.

The New West Theatre for young audiences presentation of the popular children’s stories is a fun, high energy and funny hour-long show that follows four children separated from their parents on a tropical island, with only a box full of props, four Munsch books  and their imaginations to keep them from worrying about being rescued.

The four actors, Cari Russell, Willie Banfield, Geneviève Paré and New West general manager Jeremy Mason, laugh, joke, mug for the ‘imaginary’ audience and flip and roll all over the stage and hang from tree branches, as the children act out the Munsch books and get the audience involved with the show.

Many of the children sat on the floor right next to the stage.

In fact Mason, Banfield and Russell tap into their elder child  while Paré does a great job of portraying a child trying to be an adult.
Tommy’s (played by Mason)  ‘silly ideas’ are hilarious and imaginative,  including a good one about building a time machine out of sand and using it to go back in time and remembering bring food and water for the stranded  children. By the end of the show, the ‘silly ideas’ underly  the “don’t make fun ” theme that runs throughout  the stories.


Jeremy Mason returns to the stage with Marooned with Munsch

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Marooned with Munsch provides a welcome return to the stage for New West Theatre General Manager Jeremy Mason.Willy Banfield, Cari Russell and Jeremy Mason rehearse a scene from ‘Stephanie’s Ponytail. Photo by Richard Amery
New West Theatre’s popular Christmas season production of author Robert Munsch’s  popular children’s stories kicks off on Boxing Day and runs until Jan. 8.

“Theatre for Young Audiences is  one of my passions. And it made sense to do this one because Glitz and Munsch have staggered openings, so there was more time to do this,” said Mason who was last on stage with  a TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) show in 2008. They have been rehearsing since Dec. 12.

“I definitely love being on stage,” Mason continued, adding he and artistic director Nicholas Hanson wrote this story about a group of children who get separated from their parents and  become marooned on an island.

“They  are trying to find things to make an SOS with and find a treasure chest with five Robert Munsch books and some costume pieces,”  described director Andy Jenkins, who is enjoying directing his third Munsch production with New West.

“They imagine the audience for their show,” he continued.
“We wanted to choose some of the more popular Munsch stories and ones we haven’t done before,” Mason said adding the stories include ‘I Have To Go,’ about a little boy who has to pee; ‘Show and Tell,’ about a boy who brings his baby sister to school for show and tell; and  Stephanie’s Ponytail, about a girl who keeps changing her hairstyle, and is alternately mocked, then copied, though she gets the last laugh in the end.

“It’s great to run around and be a kid again while being surrounded by a group of professional actors,” Mason continued.
That is a sentiment shared by New West newcomer Cari Russell.


Glitz brings the funny and escapist fun to the Christmas table

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 Steady crowds are celebrating the Christmas season with New West Theatre’s latest gala production of Glitz.
As promised Glitz includes performances of a lot of tried and true popular favourites, so the show is familiar, though enjoyable, pure, mindless escapist fun. And with the cast lighting up the room with their big, beaming smiles throughout, it was tough not to enjoy it.
 Scott Carpenter, Erica Hunt, Jay Whitehead and Jocelyn Haub crack each other up writing comedy. Photo by Richard AmeryEven though I’m relatively new to covering New West Theatre, even I can remember hearing Erica Hunt and Scott Carpenter performing their  sexy, seductive and funny version of ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On,’ ending with Erica taking off Carpenter’s hat and being shocked by his bald head.

 They eased into the show after a subdued version of Loverboy’s ‘Working For The Weekend,’ during which the band could barely be heard.

After that, they introduced the show with an affable exchange between Scott Carpenter and  Erica Hunt about Carpenter mixing up the name of the show with rhymes for Glitz and actually coming up with some good ideas for New West shows, including  Brits (featuring hits of Britain), Grits (hits of the south,) and Zits (teen pop hits).

 As per usual, the comedy made this show for me, especially the bits that accompany some of the songs, like “Eye of the Tiger,” which kicked off the show after a hilarious routine about Jay Whitehead accidentally putting on Scott Carpenter’s underwear, which devolves into a mohawked Carpenter coming through the crowd in a colourful boxing robe and challenging Whitehead to a Rocky style boxing match. Just for kicks, I’d love to see them perform an all comedy show. But there is something for everyone in this show, lots of excellent dancing, singing and hilarity.


Comedy a highlight of Glitz

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New West Theatre is getting ready to get Glitzed, Dec. 16. As is most of the December productions, Glitz is somewhat of a greatest hits show, but the comedy makes it stand out.
Popular performer Mark Nivet returned from Toronto to be part of Glitz and is looking forward to it.
“It really is a good, solid cast. Everyone works really well together,” he continued adding it has also been  a lot of work.
“We’re keeping it to under two hours, but we had a sound check today and I was singing for about eight hours straight, ” he continued during a quick break from rehearsals.Scott Carpenter, Erica Hunt, Jay Whitehead and Jocelyn Haub pore over a script. Photo by Richard Amery
While he is best known for his impressive singing voice, he also gets to try his hand at Glitz’s comedy.
“The show showcases everybody. We all contribute, so if I feel I can contribute somehting, I’ll say it,” said Nivet, who is enjoying his fifth year and about fifteenth show with New West.

“They’re doing a movie montage, so the band is playing movie themes while Scott Carpenter is re-enacting some of the scenes. So I said I could take off my shirt and just be ET, and everybody just lost it. So it’s nice some of my things get in the show,” he said adding he is looking forward to opening night.

“I’m just looking forward to performing with my friends. Every time I come here, I grow as a performer and an actor. It’s a lot of hard work, but there’s nothing I’d want to do,” he said.

“We combine  some audience favourites from the past  years with some exciting new surprises,” said director Nicholas Hanson.

“ So we have a pretty focused rehearsal process,” he continued adding the show includes audience favourites from  the likes of the Guess Who,  Simon and Garfunkle and Fleetwood Mac as well as more contemporary material and a cast of eight familiar faces including Scott Carpenter, Jocelyn Haub, Erica Hunt, Jessica Ens and Kathy Zaborsky as well as returning faces like Mark Nivet and  faces from the past like Jay Whitehead and  Peter Monaghan.

“It ’s hard to explain, but we realize how many families and groups of friends have made New West part of their December traditions, so we want to make the December production as vibrant as possible and appeal to a  broad range of audiences,” he continued adding one big tradition is the New Year’s Eve champagne show, in which  the community rings in the new year by taking in the how and celebrating with champagne during the intermission.

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