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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Musical Whodunit Spoof Dances On The Creative Ceiling

Murder For Two
Stage West Theatre

John Wascavage, Bradon Lambert - photos courtesy Stage West Calgary, John Watson



Your dinner theatre experience may never be the same again…

Stage West Calgary’s presentation of the musical comedy Murder For Two takes the popular venue into territory that vaults past anything you could possibly imagine - trumping even their guaranteed house-packing musical revues and Broadway production mountings.

Murder For Two is a champagne theatre experience that is right at home in this facility, yet offering a new plateau for the audiences fortunate enough to roll the dice on a feature they may have never heard of before. Tough call, as name recognition often rules the pocketbook when venturing out for an evening.

If you do attend, be prepared for manic mayhem possibly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before on any stage - two actors, multiple roles, and a musical whodunit that tests the limits of how many lines an actor could possibly memorize without being an actual teleprompter. 

In the case of the two actors last night, Brandon Lambert (Marcus, the budding detective) and John Wascavage (everyone else), despite having a runaway rollercoaster of dialogue and lyrics between them each were flawless and I think at times even tried to outdo each other. 

Add in both sharing piano duties (often at the same time!), and you still don’t come close to having any idea how anyone could pull off their assigned tasks without at least hitting a snafu once somewhere along the way. 

Photos courtesy Stage West Calgary, John Watson 


As I have to hold back a few comments for my upcoming Calgary Herald review, I’ll offer up a wee summary here - and of course I’ll post a link to the official review when that is live online.

Murder For Two sets about to showcase a hopeful detective yearning within small-town policeman Marcus Moscowicz (Lambert) hoping to attain his career ambitions by solving the murder of great American novelist Arthur Whitney at a surprise birthday party. 

Photos courtesy of Stage West Calgary, John Watson


His suspects are many, yet each one bears an uncanny resemblance to actor Wascavage - your only clue that he is a variety of distinct personalities are rotating accents and affectations - each one incrementally (and hilariously) over the top.

 While the early going is slow and a bit confusing, once you’re in on the gag, both actors showcase skill sets and talents that propel the entire proceedings on to what might be the conclusion, but there are some plot twists thrown in to suggest otherwise.

As important as each actor is, the talents of director J. Scott Lapp and choreographer Wendy Seyb contribute amply to make what seems impossible seamless and satisfying.

This is theatre at a creative high, exceeding any expectations. 


Murder For Two runs until September 3 at Stage West Calgary


5 out of 5 Stars

NOTE: Calgary Herald review is now live!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Stage West’s Rock Of Ages Catches Stride In Time…

Rock Of Ages
(Chris D'Arienzo/Ethan Popp)

Stage West Calgary, until June 25th

(Photo Courtesy Stage West Calgary)


Rock Of Ages

Stage West Calgary


As far as modern musicals go, Rock Of Ages is overall harmless fun - the show takes aim at 80’s rock and trends of the era, skimps on even trying to create 3-D characters, and yet still found success - the original production ended up the 27th longest running show in Broadway’s history.

Stage West’s recently opened production features plenty of talented actors, and by the end of the show, you can’t help but get caught up in the revelry. 

As I have to write my official Calgary Herald review, I’ll just touch on highlights here - however if you’ve heard of the show, you’ll know to expect doppelgängers for 80’s rockers like Bret Michaels (Poison), and snippets of hard rock/heavy metal favourites from the likes of Asia, Europe, and Foreigner. 

Despite the leather, big hair and frequent guitar solos, it’s the typical boy meets girl, boy follows dream, dream gets dashed, boy loses girl, but all’s well that ends well after all those things get sorted out by songs and humorous sight gags. 

The plot (such as it is) drags down the first act, but the second act roars with some laughs ands powerhouse performances - most notably Daphne Moens in the dual role of Justice (the owner of a local gentlemen’s club), and Sherrie’s (the girl) mother. Man, can she belt out a Pat Benatar song - and more…

Show stealers are the combo of German developers Hertz Klinemann (David Talbot) and his son Franz (Mark Allen), who knock their roles out of the park as the storyline progresses.

For the rest of the cast and ensemble, director Tracey Flye has brought in actors that seem nicely suited to their roles. Narrator, and rock club fixture Lonny (Michael De Rose) balances booming vocals with his character’s ongoing hijinx.

As the love interests and main characters, Drew (Scott Beaudin) and Sherrie (Sarah Horsman) each get moments to strut - Horsman in particular finds her stride during Harden My Heart.

I’ll expand on all of this in my Herald review, and post a link here when that is live online and in the physical paper. 

Until then , I hope you’ve got a bit of a sense of what to expect with this wee review. 

Rock of Ages runs until June 25th at Stage West Calgary

4 out of 5 stars  







Friday, March 17, 2017

11th Blog Anniversary!


While I surely don't blog as often as I used to in the early years (daily, no matter what), this space still sees some usage, and I plan to get back to making much more in the ruckus department here again soon.

Pictured above, just for shifts and giggles, the very first record I ever bought - after listening to 78 RPMs of Elvis on the floor in the family house living room, as a very young sprout. Recently picked it up on CD, so almost first circle, notwithstanding a digital copy from iTunes. 

Music has been a huge part of my life, and I expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. One way or another...



Saturday, February 18, 2017

Latest from Stage West Calgary: Drinking Habits, by Tom Smith


Drinking Habits


Photos courtesy Stage West Calgary


Given that religion is in the news in a very polarizing manner as of late, perhaps it is prudent timing to have this rollicking glimpse into a fictional convent on stage right now at Stage West Calgary.

A broad farce of human nature set behind religious trappings, Drinking Habits is both a wordplay on the dress of nuns, and a nod to this particular order’s penchant for brewing up a little bit of illicit vino to help keep their convent afloat. 

Utilizing every element of classic farces in the tool chest, playwright Tom Smith takes familiar stereotypes of the Christian faith and blends them with intrepid journalism (fake news?) to provide hearty and continual laughs, once the cast has been introduced, and the scene set.

I’ll have my official Calgary Herald review next week to follow this one, so just a few highlights here:

The Sisters Of Perpetual Sewing is a very small order, barely scraping by, alongside an even smaller neighbouring parish. A note from Rome arrives to indicate there may be some scrutiny, and if necessary, both may be closed if not found sufficiently worthy (profitable).

Cue the paranoia around who the spy will be, the elaborate schemes to catch him or her in the act, add slamming doors and mistaken identities, and you have all those aforementioned farce elements, just then requiring an able cast to draw the audience along in a convincing enough manner. 

Here, director J. Sean Elliott has outdone himself, populating this little world with a stable of talent that brings exceptional comic timing to Smith’s well-conceived story - it’s worth noting that there’s already a sequel to this fun-fest, and an award. The play picked up the Robert J. Pickering Award for Excellence in Playwriting in 2004.

Photos courtesy Stage West Calgary

Alphabetically, the cast includes Al Braatz as George, the gentle-natured, goofy groundskeeper that gets recruited into Mother Superior’s plan to root out the holy spy sent to investigate. But he ends up having an even greater deception that plays into the results.

Natascha Girgis is Sister Augusta, one of the two denizens of the sparsely populated convent - and she is a delight in every aspect of her role here. Whether that may be conspiring to keep the illicit wine business on the down-low, or as she develops her detective skills to make sense of the added population introduced by happenstance from afar, Girgis draws plenty of belly-laughs from a well written role.

Charlie Gould is Sally, the runaway bride bent on elevating her journalistic career to a rightful place, or basically any place aside from where she has been languishing in that effort. She goes undercover in the convent with determination. And a nun’s habit…

Elinor Holt is a marvellous Mother Superior, somewhat oblivious to what her fellow nuns have been doing behind her back, but well determined to prevent whatever that might be from coming to an abrupt end. To that end, she directs espionage to out the spies that would be right home in an episode of TV’s Get Smart.  

Robert Klein is Father Chenille of the tiny parish next door, wrought with anguish that he is about to be replaced by a younger priest. Jeremy LaPalme is Sally's partner in the undercover press, Paul - also her ex-fiancĂ©, but maybe not so ex as she might be thinking. 

Esther Purves-Smith is the other nun in the order, and her Achilles Heel appears to be a lack of any ability to lie, which plays out towards the build-up to the finale in a scene-stealing display of emotion. 

The final element is Sister Mary Catherine (Arielle Rombough), who is not quite yet a nun, but she’s still very vital to how this all unfolds. It is after all a puzzle that must fit together for the twists and turns at the end, which may be there on display all along for intrepid mystery fans in the audience. 

Based on the laughter last night, I think this stands out as one of the strongest farces in recent memory.

5 out of 5 stars.

Link back here when the official Calgary Herald review is out!

Drinking Habits runs to April 16.