The Arden Theatre has announced its 2022 winter-spring lineup, with 20 productions in two venues. More acts may be added as the season progresses. Since the March 2020 pandemic shutdown, these live shows mark a major milestone.
As vaccines take effect, not only audiences, but artists from around Canada have had less trepidation about performing on the road, said professional programming presenter Caitlin North. For concert venues, it is a time of new beginnings.
“Our biggest challenge was that the pandemic was never in just one place, one region. Artists were continually amending their schedules and we were amending what went on here. We were continually shifting things. We had to learn to be nimble. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping nothing changes,” North said.
The season’s mixed bag blends old and new faces in theatre, comedy, music, and cirque. Barring any changes to the lineup, it starts Jan. 18 with the inaugural appearance of Gordie Tentrees Trio. It ends May 3 with long-time favourite Charles Ross and his One-Man Star Wars.
Appearances from several national treasures rooted in the Canadian mosaic are comedian Brent Butt, blues singer-songwriter Kat Danser, comedian/social activist Mary Walsh, folk artist Catherine MacLellan, jazz singer Molly Johnson, pop-rock singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman, and Kalabanté Afrique en Cirque.
“I’m really proud to bring back a lot of favourites while reintroducing a lot of artists our patrons have never seen. Considering the world we live in, we couldn’t have put together a better lineup. I’m excited and I hope people will take a chance and come back. It feels as if things are moving back to a sense of normalcy.”
As previously mentioned, the Gordie Tentrees Trio launches Jan. 18. Originally raised in Ontario, the folk artist’s home base is Whitehorse. The product of a broken home raised on a family farm before being bounced around foster homes, Tentrees worked as a golden glove boxer, teacher, and youth worker before settling into folk music. He just released a new album, Mean Old World, detailing his experiences in foster care and as a foster parent to an Indigenous child.
“He’s a road troubadour like Scott Cook or Steve Poltz or Fred Eaglesmith. As a songsmith, he continually writes about the world around him. This new record is about him coming full circle,” said North.
Brent Butt, Canada’s comedy king of standup acts, returns Jan. 21. Although he became a household word through Corner Gas, live comedy, animation, film — nothing is beyond his multi-talented prowess.
“Everyone likes him. He’s the every-man comic. He talks about things that are so relatable — especially those things on our radar.”
Immediately following Jan. 22 is Edmonton-based folk artist Ben Sures, known for his timeless stories, catchy hooks, and poignant lyrics.
“He hasn’t actually played at the Arden since 2013, but he has a new record coming out next month — The Story That Lived Here. He’s very prolific and has released quite a few albums and a children’s book. He’s an accomplished painter and he’s really fun.”
One of Canada’s newest Indigenous sensations, Diyet returns Jan. 26 with her band The Love Soldiers. Born in a tent at Kluane First Nation in the Yukon Territory, Diyet creates a musical presence that spans alt country, folk, roots, and traditional. Inspiring with catchy melodies, Diyet’s stories are rooted in her Indigenous world view and northern life.
“She’s had a spectacular rise in the last couple of years. She has powerhouse vocals and has interesting stories that leave audiences spellbound. She learns, teaches, and documents her native language — Southern Tutchone. She works to preserve the language. And from what I understand, the language is musical and lends itself to music.”
Another Indigenous favourite is soul-funk songstress Celeigh Cardinal who drops by Jan. 29. Winner of the 2020 Juno Award for Indigenous Artist of the Year, Cardinal is also part of Disney’s Reimagine Tomorrow series where she sings There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.
“I like the fact she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She’s human. She’s funny. As a woman I find her relatable. She sings about her life, about motherhood. And she’s a great singer-songwriter as well as CKUA host.”
Blues powerhouse Kat Danser & the Tall Tales make an appearance Feb. 4. Having earned the title as the self-styled Swamp Blues Queen, Danser is renowned for her sophisticated lyrics, rich arrangements, and earthy groove.
“She completed a PhD in ethnomusicology during the pandemic and released a new record — One Eye Open. I appreciate the work she creates and the work she does as a woman in blues, which is a hard industry to break into. She’s a total badass.”
Terry Barber, who received standing ovations at the Arden back in December 2019 performing the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, steps back into form on Feb. 5 singing Freddie Mercury’s rock repertoire.
“His Andrew Lloyd Webber show was one of the last before the shutdown and it was a huge hit. People went bananas for him. He is an incredible countertenor, and he commands the stage. Freddie Mercury was one of his heroes and it’s a natural fit for Terry.”
Friends! The Musical Parody instead is a first for St. Albert. The two-day run Feb. 11 and 12 satirizes the television show Friends, a group of six Manhattan amigos navigating Manhattan life during the 1990s.
“What a time to do it. They’ve had such a huge revival. They’ve found a new generation of fans. The production started off-Broadway and is on a national tour. It gives you a two-hour snippet of what Friends is or could be.”
Newfoundland’s favourite comedian drops by Feb. 17 in An Evening with Mary Walsh. A cultural icon, comedian, social activist, and multi-Genimi-Award-winner, Walsh will perform a collection of her best bits.
“I’m excited to bring Mary back. She’s similar to Brent Butt. She’s a symbol of Canadian comedy, but from a different part of the country. From TV and film work, she brings all these funny characters and hilarious slant to things.”
Lúnasa, one of the world’s hottest Celtic instrumental bands, flies in direct from Ireland. Just before starting a month-long tour in the United States, the fivesome appears at the Arden Feb. 25.
“They are so good at what they do. They really cherish their music, and you can tell how much they respect each other. I love to watch them play. I think they're spectacular.”
Combining the skills of a classical musician and a modern-day comedienne, Sarah Hagen introduces Perk Up Pianist, a one-woman show on March 4. Hagen takes the audience into the world of a concert musician and all its hi-jinks.
“It was a theatre piece developed for the Fringe. Sarah is an acclaimed classical pianist, and she’s played in that world for most of her career. She’s seated at a piano and tells these hilarious anecdotes while noodling on the piano. It’s a clever, funny, one-woman show.”
Lightwire Theatre, one of the few family shows of the season, presents The Ugly Duckling March 7. Lightwire produces a cutting-edge blend of full-body puppetry supported by classical and pop music as well as dazzling electroluminescent technology.
“They’ve been through the Children’s Festival and the Arden Theatre season. They create great work for young families using dance, theatre, music, black lights, and a soundtrack. They create very striking work and it’s good for all generations. It’s non-verbal, imaginative, and visually entertaining.”
One of the region's all-time favorite circus acts returns. Kalabanté Productions presents Afrique en Cirque in a two-day run March 9 and 10. Kalabanté’s brand is an incredible spectacle of athleticism, dance, music, high energy, and colour all wrapped up in the traditions of African culture.
“We’ve rescheduled them from April 2020. This time they’re bringing the full show. They’re the most incredible athletes, musicians, dancers I've seen. They’re phenomenal at what they do.”
Prince Edward Island folk artist Catherine MacLellan performs March 10. A gifted musician, the Juno Award recipient’s songs are introspective and define her independent spirit.
“This was another pre-pandemic show that was postponed. She’s really inherited the gift of songwriting from her father, Gene MacLellan (Snowbird). She’s been on my radar for a while, and I really respect her songwriting.”
Another Juno-Award-winning vocalist steps under the Arden lights March 19. Using her smoky voice, Molly Johnson wraps jazz and blues into an evening that resembles the by-gone eras of the greats.
“Molly straddles the line between jazz and blues. She’s always lots of fun and a bit of spitfire. She’s very cheeky in a funny way. She’s sultry and a great performer. “
Closing the month on March 31 is Lonesome Ace Stringband. This Toronto based old-time bluegrass trio delivers traditional country music of the American South. They recently released a new album, Lively Times.
“They’re not an up-and-coming band. They’ve been around a long time and as a group have released a couple of albums and are at the top of their game.
Irish Mythen, another postponed concert, is set to perform April 7. Also from Prince Edward Island, Mythen has a knack for drawing audiences into her stories taking them onto a wonderful emotional journey.
“She has a powerful voice. I don’t know if she even needs a microphone. She’s an incredible singer, a great songwriter and is also hilarious.”
Pavlo and his flamboyant blend of Greek, flamenco, Latin, and Balkan rhythms will play once more on April 20. Internationally celebrated with 11 albums and three television specials to his name, Pavlo has serenaded audiences for more than two decades.
“He’s a master guitarist and he has an incredible catalogue of music. I’m excited to present him because it’s has been a long time since he played at the Arden.”
Hawksley Workman, a Canadian pop-rock singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, performs April 26. He has repeatedly proved to be a popular, award-winning international sensation creating compositions and recordings of beauty, innovation and surprise.
“I’ve been a fan of his for 25 years — almost since high school. He’s an engaging performer and this will be the first time he plays the Arden. If you want to see him, get tickets now. We are nearly two-thirds sold out.”
Currently, the season closes with Charles Ross’ One-Man Star Wars on May 3.
“People love him. He’s part of the Fringe and he’s been featured on Conan O’Brien and other late-night shows.”
Tickets are available at 780-459-1542 or https://tickets.stalbert.ca.