Since the COVID-19 shutdown, live theatres in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region have looked like ghost towns collecting dust. Costumes were hung on racks, sets abandoned, and lights turned off. Some wondered if venues would reopen.
Theatres bided their time and patiently waited our return. Now alongside a provincial government count of more than 50 per cent of Albertans fully vaccinated, theatre doors are opening for an influx of excited patrons.
One of the first shows to open this summer is Plain Jane Theatre’s ode to Broadway musicals, showcasing Scenes from the Sidewalk: An Inside-out Cabaret. A limited two-day run takes place July 18 and 19 at the ATB Financial Arts Barn.
The name says it all. Matching the current upside-down climate we live in, producer-director Kate Ryan gives us a topsy-turvy view of musical theatre. While artists sing and dance outdoors in the Arts Barns west-side courtyard, the audience sits on chairs inside and views the cabaret through the building’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
During the past 15 months of mandated Plexiglass, keeping theatre and music was critical to the mental and emotional well-being of many artists. Ryan, a St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumna who developed an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals, experimented with a similar cabaret format in the autumn of 2020.
“It was a way to check in and see what we were doing. So much was happening with COVID and Black Lives Matter. As artists it was our job to bring this to the table. As artists we ask questions such as, 'How do we navigate these conversations? How do we make sure we move forward to make a better world?'” said Ryan.
In past Plain Jane productions, she selected a theme and chose songs to reflect it. In this uniquely-styled cabaret, the topic was a sidewalk and the cast presented song suggestions about what the sidewalk meant to them.
“It was completely driven by the artists and the songs supported their views. They were asked: 'Where are you at and what are you taking from the sidewalk? Are you meeting someone? Leaving someone? Have you lost something? Are you discovering someone or something?'”
The core cast of seven triple threats includes Althea Cunningham, Daniela Fernandez, Sue Goberdhan, Matt Graham, Rain Matkin-Szilagyi, Logan Stefura, and Josh Travnik.
Matkin-Szilagyi and Stefura sing the light-hearted, eye-opening Tour de France from Amélie while Cunningham belts out Nina Simone’s jazzy classic, Feeling Good.
“It’s (Feeling Good) such a rich song and Althea has this incredible range and depth. Her voice is rich and strong,” Ryan added.
Goberdhan takes the stage ready to sing Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Ready to be Loved from the revue Edges.
“What I adore about Sue is the joy she commands. She has a vibrancy about her. She commands everyone to celebrate each and every moment.”
Fernandez brings a caring, compassionate quality to Adele’s Hometown Glory while Graham, a lyricist-composer, offers In 50 Years, an original chart.
“This show is unique through the experience of the actors. It’s really moved forward from last year’s show. It’s evolved into something more joyous. In the fall the group was more reflective.”
Limited tickets are available to maintain safety protocols.
“Last fall we were completely sold out. It was such a positive experience. We got so many great emails from folks. It worked out beautifully.”
Both shows start at 7:30 p.m. The Arts Barns is at 10330 – 84 Ave. Tickets are pay-what-you-will. They can be booked at https://tickets.fringetheatre.ca/event/601:3484/