Alberta Ballet returns to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre’s stage this November for their performance of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

Alberta Ballet returns to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre’s stage this November for their performance of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

A theatre for all

The Vernon Performing Arts Centre opens its doors and stage to a jam-packed season.

What do Romeo and Juliet,  Sarah McLachlan, John the Baptist, and Princess Warrior Marg Delahunty have in common? Not a whole heck of a lot, except that they are making their way —in some form or another— to Vernon this year.

Some of Canada’s most beloved talents, in just about every aspect of the arts, are part of the 2013-14 Vernon Performing Arts Centre (VPAC) society’s 12th annual presentation season, which honestly has a little something for everyone.

The VPAC’s artistic director Erin Kennedy, along with executive director Pamela Burns Resch and the society board, are presenting performances for all occasions. There’s comedy, dance, theatre, and children’s entertainment. However, this year they have added something new for music lovers.

“We have two new series within our special presentations,” said Kennedy, who is the primary “shopper” for the artists who come through the centre’s doors.

One of the series, she adds, is a “nice, intimate way to enjoy chamber music.”

Called Morning Melodies, the four concerts take place mid-morning on a Tuesday in the VPAC’s Marie Fleming Hall.

“There will only be 65 seats, so it is very intimate,” said Kennedy. “This is a show for the populace that might not want to go to a show at night. Some are not comfortable with driving at night or they may have young kids that they want to expose to classical music.”

Hosted by Vancouver’s Sarah Hagen, a classical pianist, the series opens with cellist Ariel Barnes Oct. 8 and continues with tenor Benjamin Butterfield Nov. 12, and violinist Jennie Press May 13. Hagan will accompany the artists for all shows and will give a solo performance as part of the series Feb. 18.

A series subscription for all the concerts is available as well as individual tickets for each concert. The centre is also looking at providing a bus that will pick up residents at local senior homes in the city.

Also new for this season are two on-stage concerts, where the audience will forgo the main auditorium to sit on the stage.

“We will be building a stage on the stage,” said Kennedy. “We learned from last year that 750 seats is sometimes too much for an intimate concert experience so making 100 is much more effective.”

The concerts will welcome Canadian pop music singer-songwriter-producer-arranger Royal Wood Jan. 21 and a double bill with alt. country crooner Del Barber and Franco-Appalachian-bluegrass quartet Oh My Darling Feb. 17.

“I saw both of them in Vancouver and they tell really great stories and have a great stage presence,” said Kennedy.

Two other special presentations will guarantee laughs with some of Canada’s top comedians coming to town.

Things kick off with the Ultimate Comedy Show, Oct. 19, hosted by master improviser and Comedy Inc. star Roman Danylo. The show features fellow comedian David Milchard, who has gone viral with his online series, Convos with my Two-Year Old, and will feature comedy, music and sketches.

And yes, the woman who scared Toronto Mayor Rob Ford enough for him to call 911 is coming to town.

Mary Walsh, so memorable on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, is reprising some of her favourite roles, including Marg Delahunty, that fearless warrior princess, as the headliner of the 10th annual I am Woman, Hear me Laff for International Women’s Day, March 8.

“We will have a lineup of female comedians for the first half and then Mary will come on for the second half with a selection from her new show, Dancing with Rage, where she navigates everything from politics to the absurdities of everyday life,” said Kennedy.

Families who are looking for a night out will want to check out the VPAC’s annual birthday bash  (yep, it’s been 12 years since the theatre officially opened its doors) and this year is a treat coming all the way from China with the Shangri-La  Chinese Acrobats, Oct. 4.

“They have their visas so are they are ready to come here,” said Kennedy. “It will be a great family show with acrobatic feats, balancing and more.”

It isn’t the birthday bash that is opening the theatre season this year, instead it is the return of Lucas Myers, the Nelson theatre-mind best known for building a deck on the VPAC’s stage last year in his appropriately named show, Deck.

Myers brings his new one-man production, Hello Baby to the stage Sept. 21.

“It is basically a lecture by a father to his newborn baby and explores the experience of becoming a parent from the male perspective. It also includes funny songs,” said Kennedy. “(Myers) is a charismatic performer so it’s always fun to spend a few hours with him.”

Also coming in September is the first dance performance of the season with a contemporary dance company out of Southern California.

On Sept. 28, Backhaus Dance performs two pieces: Incandescent, which explores light in both a physical and spiritual sense, and Elasticity of the Almost, where the dancers will maneuver around the stage filled with thousands of red balls.

“They are a fluid mix of classical and modern but are contemporary in style,” said Kennedy. “They perform to great contemporary music such as DeVotchKa and Andrew Bird.”

Another upcoming dance performance includes the return of Alberta Ballet, Nov. 3, who  performed so eloquently to the music of Joni Mitchell in the Fiddle and the Drum from a few seasons back. This time they are bringing their new production Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, featuring the music and poetry of Sarah McLachlan, to the stage.

Another top-notch Canadian dance company is returning Feb. 4. Ballet Jörgen, who presented the sold-out Swan Lake last year, is once again presenting a full ballet with Romeo and Juliet.

“The swan from last year’s Swan Lake will be playing Juliet,” said Kennedy.

Also on stage March 1 will be the reenergized Ballet Kelowna. The company almost collapsed last year due to low funding, but was resurrected for another season, and will be enjoying its last performance with founding artistic director David LaHay.

Closing the dance season is  Shay Kuebler’s Karoshi, April 12.

Kuebler is from Vancouver’s 605 Collective and has a background in hip hop and martial arts and will be bringing a group of male dancers in a very physical performance, which will include live taiko drummers.

The centre’s theatre season continues with the return of Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre (Buddy, A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, Mom’s the Word Remixed) and their new play Boeing Boeing, Nov. 7.

“It’s written in a sexy Mad Men style, but instead of an ad man, it’s about a pilot who has three fiancés on the go at the same time and, as you can imagine, things go awry,” said Kennedy.

The Old Trout Public Workshop (The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan and Famous Puppet Death Scenes) is also returning to the VPAC with its new “adult” puppet show. Evolution of Happiness, Jan. 28, is a puppet documentary evolving from blissful prehistoric humanity to the present-day pursuit of happiness.

The centre would be remiss without its one big, full-scale, musical and this year, from New York-based Moonglow Entertainment in association with Toronto’s Draydon Entertainment,  is the Broadway classic Godspell.

With music composed by Stephen Schwartz, whom audiences will know as the mastermind behind Wicked, the show of Biblical proportions takes the stage Feb. 11.

For those looking for something a little darker, Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre, an award winning company that normally tours to larger centres, is bringing its play Nevermore March 7.

“We’ve been working on bringing them here for the past three years,” said Kennedy.

Nevermore is based on the imaginary life and mysterious death of Edgar Allen Poe and features high design and is stylized as an original musical.

“It has a storybook quality to it that is like a pop-up book,” said Kennedy, adding the show is primarily for 13 years and older due to some scary scenes, but will be presented to local secondary school students.

Subscriptions and single tickets for all the Performing Arts Centre society’s 2013/14 series are available at the Ticket Seller. Call 250-549-SHOW (7469) for more information.