From a performance by three of B.C.’s most respected musicians, to a troupe of male Brazilian dancers, to a trip down Broadway’s Avenue Q, the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Society is aptly celebrating lucky number 13 with music, theatre, dance, comedic and children’s acts, and even a book smack, to keep everyone culturally fulfilled this season.
The centre is expecting a full house for this year’s big theatre presentation, Broadway’s huge hit Avenue Q, taking the stage Nov. 6.
Presented by Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre, the show is definitely for adults as it features full-on puppet nudity (which is not that strange a concept in the theatre world these days. Anyone see The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan from a few years ago?) and dark humour, says Erin Kennedy, the Performing Arts Centre’s artistic director.
“It’s described as Sesame Street for adults, and is a coming-of-age story that is irreverently witty. It beat out Wicked for Best Musical (at the 2004 Tony awards),” said Kennedy.
Another sure-to-be popular show is the centre’s 13th annual Birthday Bash Sept. 28, featuring Canadian and B.C. music legends, Barney Bentall, Jim Byrnes and John Mann (of Spirit of the West fame.)
Those who love music in a more intimate cabaret-style setting will want to check out the PAC’s on-stage concert series, which returns for a third successful year after sold-out performances by Royal Wood as well as Del Barber and Oh My Darling last year.
This year’s offerings include the gritty blues sounds of Vancouver duo The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, Oct. 5, as well as up-and coming Afro-Cuban/jazz artist Patricia Cano, May 1 (2015).
“(Cano) sings in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish,” said Kennedy. “She gives a powerful performance. She literally kicks off her shoes and radiates off the stage.”
For those who have more classical tastes, the PAC society is returning with Morning Melodies, a subscriber series of four daytime concerts, hosted by Vancouver pianist Sarah Hagen, featuring top-notch Canadian chamber musicians.
Cellist Rebecca Wenham kicks off the series Oct. 7 in the centre’s Marie Fleming Hall.
Those wishing to laugh off the doldrums have a couple of comedians to hang out with this season.
Described as “one of the funniest guys around,” by The National Post, British comedian Chris Gibbs is at the centre Oct. 3 with his show, Like Father, Like Son? Sorry.
“It’s about him becoming a father. He’s been at Just for Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and has that dry, clever wit,” said Kennedy.
Back for its 11th year is the I am Woman! Hear me Laff annual celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8. This year’s headliner is none other than comedienne Erica Sigurdson.
“She headlined the year that Nikki Payne got stuck in a snow storm and couldn’t make her show. Erica filled in at the last moment and had everyone in fits of laughter,” said Kennedy.
Back to the theatre series, and apart from the craziness that is Avenue Q, the series starts with a beloved favourite.
Presented by Kamloops’ Western Canada Theatre and Gananoque, Ont.’s Thousand Islands Playhouse, Driving Miss Daisy, Oct. 20, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy that made Morgan Freeman a star in the film version (his first film role!) and follows the 25-year friendship between a stubborn matriarch and her proud chauffeur.
Fans of CBC Radio will want to check out the original production of Debussy vs. Ravel The Judgement of Paris, Jan. 25, which features veteran broadcaster Tom Allen, current host of CBC Radio 2’s Drive, and a band of respected Canadian musicians in the story of the two famed French composers trying to conquer Paris through their music.
Another well-known voice, make that the man of many voices, writer-actor-producer Rick Miller, of MacHomer fame, returns to Vernon March 7 with his new solo show, Boom.
“It’s a multi-media extravaganza that looks at 25 years of the time that shaped the baby boomers,” said Kennedy. “Rick embodies 25 characters in the show, which premiered at High Performance Rodeo in Calgary and was workshopped at Ex Machina, Robert Lepage’s studio in Montreál.”
Capping off the series April 23 is a more avant-garde production, WonderHead’s Grim and Fischer, described as a deathly comedy where actors will wear the company’s award-winning masks.
This year’s dance season also offers music, spectacle and movement to fill every sense.
It all starts Oct. 18 with Tango: Passion of a Lifetime, featuring two dancers in the passionate Argentine dance backed by the Romulo Larrea Ensemble and vocalist Veronica Larc.
“It’s an enticing combination of traditional tango music and dance, with one pair of tango dancers slicing the air with their legs,” said Kennedy.
Other exciting dance performances include an original and said to be eerily beautiful production about the Romanian count with a taste for blood by Ballet Victoria. Dracula hits the stage Nov. 21.
The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada is bringing its original production based on the life and songs of French songstress Edith Piaf to the centre, Feb. 20.
Kaha:Wi Dance Theatre’s TransMigration, which uses traditional and contemporary First Nations dance, music and design to tell the story of shaman artist Norval Morrisseau, stages March 28, and in an exciting assortment of hip hop, cirque, samba and exotic and erotic dance, 11 male dancers from Rio de Janeiro will be leaping across the stage in Käfig (Café) Brasil, April 14.
Families are not being left out of the loop, with four fun shows in this year’s kids series.
“Unlike the general admission seating we had last season, this year we are assigning seats so that everyone who buys a ticket to the series will be able to enjoy the show,” said Kennedy.
The series starts with the beat-boxing string trio Infinitus and their From Handel to Hip-Hop concert, Oct. 4.
Fans of children’s author/illustrator Eric Carle will want to get tickets/subscriptions early for Mermaid Theatre’s presentation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Carle favourites told through puppets and props, Nov. 22.
Vancouver’s Monster Theatre, who have performed A Christmas Carol and other classic stories at the PAC in the past, are back this time with a version of Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Jan. 17, while “Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible” children’s entertainer Tomàs Kubinek flies in March 1.
A few days before the official start of the season with the Birthday Bash is a special event Sept. 26, where the VPAC society, along with the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, will literally smack us with some literary offerings to celebrate Culture Days. The free event, to take place in the Performing Arts Centre’s foyer, will feature five book smackers (reference librarian Kristi Hennings, youth services librarian Stephanie Vollick, poets/authors Laisha Rosnau and John Lent, and storyteller Gabe Newman), who will each pitch any number of books in the span of one hour. The event is emceed by local teacher/director/actor Lana O’Brien.
Tickets and subscriptions for all concerts and series are available at the Ticket Seller box office at the centre. Call 250-549-7469, or visit www.ticketseller.ca to order or for more information.