Gus Hansen

Gus Hansen

Vernon about to enter Mardi Gras Mayhem

Ya’ll head down to NOLA for this year’s Vernon Winter Carnival dinner theatre show.

Okanagan Lake may be a long way from the blue bayou, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in a spicy jambalaya mixed with some good juju.

For ya’ll who’ve never been buried in beads, eaten a King cake, or paraded down the streets barring nothing but a slide whistle, it’s time to “laissez les bons temps rouler” (that’s let the good times roll) at this year’s Vernon Winter Carnival.

This year’s theme, you guessed it, is Mardi Gras, and everyone will be feasting on some New Orleans’ fun and hospitality without having to worry about the Canada-U.S. dollar exchange rate.

One event that is adhering to the theme full stop is this year’s dinner theatre production, which is once again being produced by Vernon’s Backstage Theatre at the Schubert Centre.

Written and directed by Vernon’s very own Michael Poirier, with music direction by Julie Armitage, the production promises to have music, masks, and mayhem.

This year’s Carnival theme played right into Armitage’s hands as she visited New Orleans last year with Vancouver’s City Soul Choir, of which she is a member.

“As you can imagine Mardi Gras is a big deal down there, so it was perfect in deciding what to do with this year’s show,” she said. “We wanted to use elements of New Orleans in the play: the music, the setting of an old hotel, ghosts and voodoo.”

“We always like to play up the theme and usually we like to make the setting for our plays local, but this one begged to be set in New Orleans,” added Poirier.

Entitled Mardi Gras Mayhem, the play is set during NOLA’s famed Fat Tuesday festival, with most of the action taking place in the lobby of the Grand Historic Creole Hotel.

Once a grand Victorian era establishment, the hotel has fallen into disrepair and is managed by Miguel François Smith (played by John Lomas).

Miguel’s ex-wife, Gabrielle (Betty Ann Northup), who happens to be a voodoo priestess, enters the scene and is hounding her former husband for support payments, while their son, Otto (Gus Hansen), is working as a bell hop as slave labour.

Then there’s businessman Clark Simpson (Neil Morrison), who has booked into the hotel but does want anything to do with Mardi Gras, and a Canadian couple from Vernon, the Frantopolowskis (Paul Lawson and Catherine Hansen), who have arrived at the hotel without luggage and are still wearing their toques, mitts and parkas.

“When Mardi Gras fever takes over, the Canadians can’t understand the concept of why everyone is taking their top off,” said Poirier, adding that their icy indifference soon melts, without full exposure.

Also entering the madness is abrasive Mme. Brasseau (Lesley McCoy), who has already been kicked out of one hotel, and manages to check herself into the Grand Creole, where she takes a shine to the businessman.

Mischief ensues when a trio of spirits from the underworld haunt the guests.

The Naked ghost (Pascal Belanger) died from a heart attack while partying hard at Mardi Gras, while the Wallet ghost (Michael Wardlow)is a notorious pickpocket and passes his findings around. Then there’s the Little Girl ghost (Samantha Henri), who likes to play tricks on the guests.

And they all sing, well except for the Naked ghost who can’t wear a microphone, jokes Poirier.

All will be accompanied by a live band featuring Betty Johnson on guitar and banjo, Gerhard Traxel on guitar, Connie Traxel on drums, Ellie Young on bass and Wendy Aronyk on percussion and flute.

Armitage will lead and join the band, playing one of the sliding whistles she brought back from her trip to New Orleans. Her experience not only exposed her to the big brass of the music scene and some newer talents, but to Mardi Gras culture.

The play features big band-style standards by Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), along with zydeco and jazz by artists such as Kermit Ruffins and John Boutté.

“Some songs will be familiar, while some will not,” said Armitage.

“One of the songs we’re doing is (Shamarr Allen’s) Meet Me on Frenchman Street, which talks about how the locals fire up the barbecue on the street late at night… If you go to Frenchman Street it is what Bourbon Street used to be before it became all touristy. It’s just music constantly.”

Adding to the atmosphere is the food. Schubert Centre chef John Fournier plans to cook up an authentic New Orleans feast for the buffet dinner.

“We hope everyone comes for the whole experience,” said Armitage.

“We have an amazing crew from the set decor to the stage managing. Everyone is working hard to make this the best play,” added Poirier.

Mardi Gras Mayhem runs at the Schubert Centre Feb. 10 to 13. Both the Friday and Saturday shows are now sold out. Limited tickets ($45, includes dinner and show) are still available for the Wednesday and Thursday shows and can purchased at the Winter Carnival office, by calling 250-545-2236 or order online at www.vernonwintercarnival.com.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Cops for Kids riders will be spinning 30 feet in the air on scissor lifts at SaveOn Foods locations in Kelowna, Lake Country and West Kelowna Saturday, May 8, 2021. (File photo)
Cops reach new heights for Okanagan kids

Nor-Val Rentals is doing the heavy lifting Saturday in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

A medical worker prepares vials of the COVID-19 vaccines, Chinese Sinopharm, left, Sputnik V, center, and Pfizer at a vaccine centre, in the Usce shopping mall in Belgrade, Serbia, Thursday, May 6, 2021. Serbian authorities are looking for incentives for people to boost vaccination that has slowed down in recent weeks amid widespread anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories in the Balkan nation. The government has also promised a payment of around 25 euros to everyone who gets vaccinated by the end of May. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
38 new COVID-19 cases, more than 335k vaccines administered in Interior Health

Interior Health also to start targeted vaccinations in high transmission neighbourhoods

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kelowna OK Tire closed due to COVID-19 exposure

The business will remain closed until May 11

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Coronavirus 3D illustration. (CDC photo)
Two South Okanagan businesses closed due to COVID-19

The businesses are listed on the Interior Health website

Most Read