From the beauty that is Swan Lake to the historical tragedy that was the Titanic, the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Society has a season that will likely swim than sink.
The excitement starts with the centre’s 11th birthday bash, featuring a performance by Woody Holler and his Orchestra, Oct. 6.
A classically trained tenor, Holler is also a decorated yodelling champion who plays mostly country-folk, or “jazz from the saddle,” as he calls it, said Brian van Wensem, the centre’s audience development coordinator.
Holler isn’t the only musician the society is presenting this year. David Myles, a folk-jazz singer-songwriter heard on Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café, takes the stage Nov. 15.
“We haven’t had a lot of music at the centre lately, so we are responding by bringing more music in,” said van Wensem. “Our mandate is to bring acts that wouldn’t normally come here.”
As in the past, that mandate usually applies to the society’s dance season. The centre is one of the few smaller city theatres that offers a full season of dance performance, and this year is no different.
The pièce de resistance is a full company production of Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet Swan Lake, presented by Ballet Jörgen Feb. 2.
“It has the dance people vibrating,” said van Wensem.
Another famed Canadian ballet company, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, performs Nov. 20 with contemporary pieces by three prolific choreographers.
“They are a phenomenal group who have been here before and will be bringing a full company of 12 dancers,” said van Wensem.
The Okanagan’s own Ballet Kelowna, led by artistic director David LaHay, also returns with Double Variations March 2.
“I don’t know a lot about dance but with Ballet Kelowna, I understand what I see because of David LaHay,” said van Wensem. “They will be bringing an appy platter; a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”
For those who are looking for something a little more “out there,” this year’s Made in B.C. presentation, Out Innerspace’s Vessel, April 13, will offer just that with its highly physical and visually impressive contemporary dance.
The dance season opens with something more traditional when the Vancouver Tap Ensemble and Tapco presents It’s About Time Oct. 20.
“They will have both professional and student tap dancers. There will be a huge number of them on stage,” said van Wensem.
This year’s theatre season offers up something for everyone, and opens with a farewell performance of the huge hit The Number 14 Oct. 13.
Produced by Vancouver’s Axis Theatre and starring most of the original crew and cast, the wildly popular play, set on an urban bus as it travels through the social strata of a large city, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a national tour in the fall. This is its fourth presentation in Vernon.
“Every time it has played here it has sold out,” said van Wensem. “They are saying this is the very last tour of the show, so we expect another full house.”
The fall also sees the arrival of that doomed ocean liner, and the return of Windwood Theatricals out of New York City, Oct. 27.
The company, which has previously presented Cabaret, Bye Bye Birdie, and Barry Manilow’s Copacabana in Vernon, cancelled its North American tour last year, but is back with the huge Tony award winning musical about the ship that would never land.
“They are touring with 33 actors, four musicians, and a large crew,” said van Wensem. “The musical has nothing to do with the movie and is basically telling what happened on the ship from four different perspectives.”
Musical lovers will also be enthralled with a new tribute, following in the same vein as A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline and The Buddy Holly Story, with Unforgettable: The Music of Nat King Cole, Nov. 17.
“This one is different. While Buddy and Patsy were plays with music, Nat is music with a little story,” said van Wensem. “Don Stewart (who plays Cole) is supposed to be amazing. It’s Nat King Cole performed live. How can you go wrong?”
Seen at Caravan Farm Theatre this summer as the police deputy Bull Withers in The Notorious Right Robert and His Robber Bride, Toronto actor Bruce Horak is returning to the area with his one-man production This is Cancer, Jan. 26.
Diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina) when he was a baby, Horak is legally blind and delivers this frank, at times polarizing, and very funny personification of cancer in all its ugly truths.
The show, which has been a hit on the Fringe Festival circuit, pulls many punches and is not for those sensitive to strong language or mature subject matter, said van Wensem.
More familiar faces will be appearing in the Western Canada Theatre co-production of Kevin Loring’s Where the Blood Mixes.
Lorne Cardinal, who played the lovable police sergeant on TV show Corner Gas, and Craig Lauzon, of Royal Canadian Air Farce fame, are two of the stars of the Governor General Award winning play, coming to the centre March 5.
“It’s a brutally honest and irreverently funny story of loss and redemption from residential school survivors,” said van Wensem.
This season’s kids’ series also has everything a family could ask for, starting with Story Theatre Company’s take on the well known story of Aladdin, Nov. 4.
“This has nothing to with the Disney story. It’s based on the original take about a father and son’s journey,” said van Wensem.
Monster Theatre, which has previously won over young audiences with Mini Masterpieces and The Shakespeare Show, is returning with another classic, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Dec. 9.
Families don’t need to have an understanding of French to watch Quebec company Bouge de là’s The Studio (L’Atelier) March 10. The show does not have much spoken word, and instead features four dancers on stage.
“It is set in an artist’s studio where image capture is used. It’s projected on stage as art and movement. It should be visually strong. I think the kids will love it,” said van Wensem.
Kids can also sing along when Juno award winning musician and children’s entertainer Norman Foote visits the centre April 14.
Another family oriented show being presented as a special presentation is Cirque Ziva, featuring China’s Golden Dragon Acrobats, Jan. 13.
“It’s new territory for us. We are featuring adult pricing as well as kids pricing for this show that starts at 7 p.m.,” said van Wensem. “The production quality on this is huge. It’ll make a good Christmas gift as the show is in January.”
And those into spoken word can check out the Travellin’ Slam Poetry show, as three award winning slam poets, including Canadian slam poetry champion Brendan McLeod, battle it out for top honours in this student-judged event, being offered as a special presentation Feb. 15.
The Performing Arts Centre is also offering something for all those comic book geeks out there.
The Intergalactic Nemesis, April 22, features three actors voicing dozens of characters, with a foley artist and musician providing the sound effects and musical score, respectively. More than 1,250 hand-drawn and full colour animated images will be projected on a two-storey-high screen.
“It’s based out of Texas and was featured on Conan O’Brien’s show,” said van Wensem.
And don’t forget the perennial hit, which returns on International Women’s Day March 8, the ninth annual I am Woman: Hear me Laff.
This year’s all-female stand-up comedy showcase, served up by the Laff Riot Girls, will be headlined by the always entertaining and very funny Elvira Kurt.
Season subscriptions to the society’s dance, theatre and kids series are now on sale, as are individual tickets to all the shows, including special presentations.
Memberships can be purchased for $10, which gives discounts on each show, while high school students, with proper ID, can purchase tickets for any society show for $5 as part of the eyeGO program.
To order or for more information, visit the Ticket Seller box office in the centre, call 250-549-7469 (SHOW), or visit www.ticketseller.ca.