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


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.

The a cappella version of “Four Strong Winds,” is the spine tingly beautiful opening to the second half of the show.


Like most New West shows, comedy is a big part of the production.
Fred Hillyer inspired uproarious laughter just by walking on stage and making unusual faces. One of the best bits was a sketch about Hillyer getting an audience member to take a photo of his twin daughters played by Erica Hunt at her brash, outspoken best, and Scott Carpenter in drag.Fred Hillyer and Kathy Zaborsky are a highlight of ‘Rockin’  the Country.’ Photo by Richard Amery
Another excellently bizarre sketch full of terrible  puns was about literal rodeo which involved literal translations of rodeo events.

For example, ‘calf roping’ involved Erica Hunt  tying a rope around Scott Carpenter’s calves. And though square dancing isn’t a rodeo event, two of the cast including Jessica Ens dancing in cubes was strange, though not as strange as Grahame Renyk’s can can dancing Gene Autry in a tiny horse.

Jessica Ens and Jocelyn Haub  sang a beautifully sassy version of Terri Clark’s ‘Girls Lie Too.’ Haub’s solo performance backed only by guitarists Kelly Roberts and Scott Mezei, of Taylor Swift’s ‘White Horse’ was also a highlight. Haub also played well off of Renyk during the farm themed news portion of the show.

 Hillyer and Hunt played well off of each other on a couple sketches including one about mistaken farming and agriculture terms. He also performs an excellent version of  novelty classic “I Am my Own Grandpaw.”

Though it was an excellent show, Hillyer was often drowned out  by the laughter, and some of the other cast members were difficult to hear when they were speaking  as were some of the the guitar solos. Erica Hunt sang Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart,” while Fred Hillyer sang a couple other Hank Williams’ classics. Hunt also did an excellent job of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man.”

Considering the emphasis on classic country music, I was actually surprised they didn’t include any Johnny Cash.

“Rockin’ the Rodeo” runs until July 24 at 8 p.m.each night, Tuesdays through Saturdays.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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