Sticking to its tagline of “Escape the Ordinary,” the Arden Theatre surges into the 2019/20 season with a fresh and diverse platter of performers guaranteed to whet the appetite of even the pickiest theatregoer.
Film, dance, music, theatre, comedy, and a sing-along are all part of the roster. However, the most exciting thing is the large number of entertainers making their inaugural appearance interspersed with the more tried-and-true that haven’t performed here in several years.
The whole season crackles with energy and imagination.
“It’s such a personal thing to put together a season and I hope people love it,” said professional programming presenter Caitlin North. “It feels like an honour to put this world-class season together and I hope people are as excited as I am about what’s coming.”
A mix of 29 shows will grace the Arden Theatre and St. Albert Community Hall with a few more to be added once all contractual details are ironed out.
Tickets go on sale Monday, Aug. 12 at 10 a.m. Call the Arden box office at 780-459-1542 or at ticketmaster.ca.
Below is the professional series to date.
Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival Tour
Screening at the Arden for its ninth year, the film showcases high-octane sportsmen exploring remote landscapes in adrenalin-fuelled action sports.
“It sells out quickly and brings in audiences we don’t necessarily see at other times of the year,” North said.
Back by popular request, the Scottish Celtic-rock band is slated to make another appearance following their inaugural showcase in 2018.
“These guys were a total surprise hit. They are a killer live band. Their energy is great. They’re fun on stage and great songwriters. They approach Celtic songs with a contemporary edge and it was a no-brainer to bring them back.”
Red Sky Performance
It’s been seven years since Indigenous dance troupe Red Sky Performance swooped into St. Albert with The Great Mountain. They return with Trace, a cutting-edge contemporary piece about ancestral origins.
“It talks about the origins of mankind and the beginning of time. It’s all about connecting to the beginning of time through the lens of Indigenous cultures.”
California Guitar Trio & Montreal Guitar Trio
Six of the world’s best guitarists unite for an incredible evening of progressive rock, jazz, world and classical music.
“These guys are a huge favourite of our audience. They put on a stellar performance. They have a diverse range of repertoire and they play hits from pop to accessible classical music.”
Although new to the Arden, the New York singer-songwriter folk artist has filled venues from Carnegie Hall to The Fillmore.
“He’s got these real sensory melodies and he’s very charismatic with audiences. He’s one guy with a guitar, but he fills a room with his voice and stage presence.”
Poet, painter, and essayist, Tom Russell is one of the finest songwriters of his generation and is credited with inventing Americana roots music. Much in demand across the world, Russell last performed at the Arden in 2013.
“He just released a new album, October in the Railroad Earth. He’s such a prolific songwriter. He’s another performer with a deep catalogue. He’s done more in his lifetime than most of us can imagine.”
Reuben and the Dark
Led by Reuben Bullock, this Calgary-based fivesome is a creative force in Alberta’s rock/pop/folk scene.
“They write authentic rock-pop-roots. I saw them perform at the Calgary Folk Fest with an audience of 15,000. This is one show that will appeal to a younger audience.
The Paco de Lucía Project: Flamenco Legends by Javier Limón
Paco de Lucía was widely considered to be the world’s premier flamenco guitarist. Javier Limón, a longtime collaborator and 10-time Grammy Award winner, reassembled the original band that toured with Lucía.
“Paco de Lucía passed away unexpectedly five years ago. He was the most decorated and well-known flamenco guitarist from Spain. All of Paco’s musicians have come together to honour him.”
Connie Kaldor and Family
The Juno Award-winning folk artist is joined on stage by husband, Paul Campagne, and her two sons Gabriel and Aleksi.
“They’re all musicians and Aleksi is even a great tap artist. Talent runs deep in this family. Connie is a great songwriter and she’s wickedly sarcastic.”
Barney Bentall and The Cariboo Express Tour
This country-roots variety show tours every year in Western Canada as a fundraiser for various charities similar to the Huron Carole.
“It tours around the holiday, but this will not be a holiday show.”
This trio doesn’t think of itself as country. These legitimate park wardens think of themselves as a backcountry band.
“Their songs tell stories of park rangers. They have a different slant to other country musicians and they’re really fun.”
The Ennis Sisters
In 2017, The Ennis Sisters put the spirit back into Christmas with their holiday classics, and their hit show earned them another slot this year.
“They have a fresh lineup every year. They are always changing. Their harmonies are impeccable. They integrate step dancing which makes it slightly different from other seasonal shows.
Terry Barber performs the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
Jan. 17, 2020
This show is a must-see for fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical maestro who gave us Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar to name a few.
“Terry Barber is a counter-tenor. I saw his performance at a showcase. After the first song, he received a standing ovation from the audience. He has such a huge voice and he represents Andrew Lloyd Webber so well.”
Just a day later, Okan turns up the temperature with their Afro-Cuban roots mingling with jazz, folk and global rhythms. This is the duo’s St. Albert debut and already their afternoon show is creating a loud buzz.
“They are captivating and so accomplished. They are totally Afro-Cuban and they are fun, fun, fun.”
This is a nostalgic opportunity to slip on a pink jacket and wig, or grease up your T-Bird hair and let your inhibitions fly with Danny (John Travolta), Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and the gang.
“We did it five years ago and people really loved it. There’s a host that comes with the show and everybody gets a gift bag to make the experience more fun.”
Several local blues fans punched the air with their fists on hearing Harry Max would be performing at the Arden in the new year. His last performance with the elaborate 12-string Mohan Veena was in 2013.
“He’s such an accomplished and celebrated musician. He’s released a new record but my understanding is that it’s not indicative of what he’ll be performing.”
Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl
This one-woman comedic theatrical performance is sure to draw the sympathies of anyone that has worked as a barista. Actor Rachel Perry creates Joanie, a graduate stuck working as a barista. Using her training, she studies her subjects, reveals a few quirks, passes on life lessons.
“I really relate to this show. I worked as a barista at Second Cup and Winspear,” said North.
The Bros. Landreth
The Bros. Landreth, who took a short hiatus to work on individual projects, are back stronger than ever.
“They’re blues rock and they remind me of the Doobie Brothers. There’s something about their sound. It has a '70s rock vibe. They are great musicians, great songwriters and they have that special bond that only siblings have.”
An Evening with Steve Poltz
“I’m most excited about him. I first saw him at the Edmonton Folk Fest. He’s one of the funniest storytellers I’ve ever seen. Some of the stories he tells you’d think there is no way this could be true, and then you Google it and it is. He’s a phenomenal songwriter and this event is going to be a fantastic night of music and comedy.”
Over the Moon
Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Suzanne Levesque and Craig Bignell are Over the Moon, a southern Alberta roots duo.
“They performed with Tom Jackson in Huron Carole. The audience totally ate up what they did. They have such good chemistry.”
Making her first appearance at the Arden, Shakura S’Aida is an award-winning cosmopolitan recording artist known for her scorching blues vocals.
“She’s a powerhouse singer and she has a great wit. She has this huge voice – a growly, raspy voice you expect to hear in a blues club and she’s very funny.”
VC2 Cello Duo
Bryan Holt and Amahl Arulanandam introduce Beethoven’s cello repertoire as a springboard to their innovative works.
“They’re touring the prairie provinces bringing classical music and world music to areas that may not necessarily be aware of. They’re young and they make classical music less stuffy.”
The Slocan Ramblers
Big on bluegrass, the Juno-nominated Slocan Ramblers possess a bold, dynamic sound that translates into energetic live shows.
“They are one of the best acoustic roots-bluegrass bands out there. They are not playing from the same songbook of Flatt and Scruggs. They write their own music.”
A contemporary favourite, Cape Breton’s Port Cities returns with their wildly self-assured rootsy pop that features their devotion to robust songwriting.
“They have a new record out and we’re about to get them before they really take off. They’re a great trio of solo artists that collaborate in a fresh way. It’s really solid pop music.”
An Irish-Canadian contemporary folk singer-songwriter, Irish Mythen has a nimble voice that is at once boisterous and loud, tender and thoughtful.
“She’s very well respected and has played every major festival in the world.”
James Keelaghan & Jez Lowe
Canadian roots artist James Keelaghan and British artist Jez Lowe have forged a musical partnership writing songs about people and places around them.
“The two have a fun chemistry. And their voices complement each other’s writing style so well.”
Saturday, March 28
Known as one of Canada’s premiere jazz vocalists, Juno Award-winning Molly Johnson delivers an emotional depth that is unequalled.
“She’s known as a jazz vocalist, but in her new recordings she has more of a funky vibe, more of a soul, adult contemporary feel. She’s performing with a four-piece and she embodies what you can expect in a classy performer.”
The Zombies, a British rock invasion band from the '60s was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. They were also scheduled to play the three-day outdoor festival Woodstock 50 until it was cancelled. However, they plan to rock the Arden stage.
“They were an iconic British psychedelic rock band of the '60s. Their music stood the test of time. They were not one-hit wonders. Their catalogue runs deep.”
Afrique en Cirque
Closing out the new season is Kalabanté Production’s Afrique en Cirque, a longtime favourite of local audiences. Their sellout performances combine breath-taking acrobatics, spectacular energy and drumming.
“They’re bringing a big cast of 11 acrobats and musicians. They’re a visually stunning show and very committed to what they do.”