Beloved children’s entertainer Fred Penner opens the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre’s kids series Oct. 4.

Beloved children’s entertainer Fred Penner opens the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre’s kids series Oct. 4.

It’s showtime!

The stage is set for an exciting season of dance, theatre, music, kids shows and more at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.

It may be the end of summer, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end.

Fall marks the beginning of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society’s 14th annual season of shows, and it starts with two of Canada’s favourite entertainers.

Internationally renowned boogie woogie pianist Michael Kaeshammer and beloved children’s performer Fred Penner kick off an exciting season of dance, theatre, kids performances and special presentations.

Taking the stage for the centre’s 14th annual Birthday Bash, Oct. 3, is Kaeshammer, who got his start playing in B.C.’s capital of Victoria and is now considered Canada’s triple-threat combo of piano virtuosity, vocal ability and charisma.

“Michael Kaeshammer is not just a great musician, he’s a great showman and an artist you have to see live with his boogie woogie theatrics,” said Erin Kennedy, the Performing Arts Centre’s artistic director.

On stage the very next morning, Oct. 4, is Penner, who has just come off hosting the Polaris Music Prize and is best known for his songs The Cat Came Back and Sandwiches, as well as for hosting his own TV show, Fred Penner’s Place, from 1985 to 1997.

“He is a favourite of my childhood. I remember being gunned on Halloween candy and rockin’ to The Cat Came Back when I was a kid,” laughed Kennedy. “His performance is great for all ages.”

Penner kicks off the Performing Arts Centre’s kids series, which also features Portland’s Tears of Joy Theatre production of The Reluctant Dragon, Jan, 23.

“The show, told through puppets and live actors, is about a dragon who loves poetry and is befriended by a young boy from a town that fears the dragon,” said Kennedy.

Vancouver’s Axis Theatre (producers of the beloved action-packed masked comedy The Number 14)  returns to Vernon March 13 with its new production Hamelin, loosely based on the tale of the Pied Piper

“It has singing and dancing rats and is a musical for the whole family,” said Kennedy.

On April 17, another Portland-based theatre company, with a Canadian connection, WonderHeads, who presented Grim and Fischer in Vernon last year, are back with a new show, The Middle of Everywhere, about a man and a child who go on adventures through space and time – told by actors using full face masks.

The theatre series starts Oct. 20 with Six Guitars, which stars performer Chase Padgett as six different guitar players, each with his own distinct voice, views, and musical style (blues, jazz, rock, classical, folk, and country).

“He seemingly moves from one character to another, you think it’s six people doing the show,” said Kennedy.

Fans of Leonard Cohen will be lining up to see Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre’s acclaimed production of Chelsea Hotel, featuring a montage of Cohen’s songs and stories, Nov. 18.

Docu-drama Seeds, Feb. 6, stars actor Eric Peterson, best known as grumpy and hilarious Oscar from TV show Corner Gas, as Percy Schmeiser and follows the Saskatchewan canola farmer who fought agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto when it accused him of patent infringement and of intentionally growing its genetically modified plants.

On Feb. 25, the touring adaptation of the acclaimed opera about bullying, Stickboy, will make its Vernon debut.

Written by world renowned spoken word artist and Okanagan resident Shane Koyczan and directed by Rachel Peake (who directed last winter’s Caravan Farm Theatre production), the centre will also hold a special performance of the show for high school students.

Returning to the stage is the hit show A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline, March 9. The Western Canada Theatre, Thousand Islands Playhouse coproduction follows the legendary country and western music sensation as she climbs to stardom from small town Virginia to Carnegie Hall.

New York’s renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company, named after its founder who has been at the forefront of the American modern dance movement, starts off the centre’s dance series Nov. 10.

“Alberta Ballet was bringing the 16-member company to Calgary and Edmonton, so we convinced them to come here,” said Kennedy.

Those who missed the treasured Christmas-time favourite The Nutcracker on the Vernon stage last year can rejoice as Ballet Victoria is bringing its version of the beloved Tchaikovsky ballet to the centre Dec. 19 for two performances.

Another favourite classic ballet floats to the stage when Ballet Jörgen Canada (Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet) presents Sleeping Beauty Feb. 9.

And returning to the Vernon stage is the Okanagan’s only professional dance company, Ballet Kelowna, now under the direction of Simone Orlando, who will perform new works March 5. Also returning is Vancouver’s 605 Collective with its new contemporary dance, vital few, April 16.

The Performing Arts Centre will also host dance company Out Innerspace for a special dance residency the first two weeks of January.

“They are the coolest, new cutting-edge dance company out of Vancouver and will be using our stage, lighting and sound to work on their newest production,” said Kennedy.

Besides Kaeshammer, the centre is holding special presentations including An Evening of Wonders with Vancouver illusionist Vitaly Oct. 23.

“He does stuff that a lot of other magicians don’t know how he does it,” said Kennedy.

CBC darlings and Juno winning all-female trio The Good Lovelies play the centre’s only on-stage concert, Nov. 15. The 19-plus show is licensed with a bar available in the Marie Fleming Hall, however, attendees can now take their drinks back to their seats  to enjoy the show, said Kennedy.

Also returning is the 12th annual I am Woman, Hear Me Laff celebration on International Women’s Day March 8. This year’s comedy extravaganza will be headlined by news-making comic Jen Grant.

Feats of human strength and bravery will be demonstrated with the arrival of Cirque Alfonse and its family show Timber April 5.

“Timber is set in 1940s before logging became mechanized and features men (all sporting beards) who juggle axes and do other lumberjack feats. The show is scored by a live band playing French-Canadian folk music,” said Kennedy.

Morning Melodies returns to the Marie Fleming Hall on selected Tuesday mornings with four special chamber music concerts featuring acclaimed classical performers: tenor Benjamin Butterfield (Oct. 6), violinist Peter Krysa (Nov. 3), violist Nicolò Eugelmi and pianist Sarah Hagen (May 10).

The Performing Arts Centre Society will also host, not one, but two camps for children this coming year.

Back next July will be Missoula Children’s Theatre, but first will be the inaugural Rock Camp on the May long weekend. Taught by band Speed Control out of Whitehorse, the camp is sponsored by Yamaha so  kids can plug in to an instrument and rock out.

Series subscriptions, individual tickets, and information on all events at the Performing Arts Centre can be obtained at the Ticket Seller box office, by calling 250-549-SHOW (7469) or  at