And the theatre season continues: take your seats people, Act II is about to begin

Onegin, Vancouver Arts Club Theatre. Photo by David Cooper

By Liz Nicholls,


The theatre season isn’t ending; that’s not how the calendar works. There’s still Act II, and it’s about to begin. It’s the moment to cast aside regrets and look forward. What looks too good to miss?

Onegin: There’s a real cross-country buzz about this indie Canadian rock musical from Vancouver’s Arts Club, a reimagining of the Tchaikovsky opera and the Pushkin poem. It’s the original work of Veda Hille and Ariel Gladstone, the team behind the quirky hit Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata. Catalyst Theatre, appreciators (and practitioners) of inventive explorations of the musical form,  brings the much-awarded Onegin to their home stage, the Macab at the Citadel, Jan. 17 to 28 to launch Catalyst Presents, a new series devoted to hosting top draws from the indie theatre scene.

Betroffenheit. Photo by Michael Slobodian.


Betroffenheit: the much-awarded creation of the acclaimed Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and playwright Jonathan Young, arrives here as part of an international tour, after scooping up the 2017 Olivier Award. The dance/theatre fusion, by all accounts overwhelmingly powerful, explores the state of shock, grief, perplexity that are the emotional aftermath of trauma. The Kidd Pivot/ Electric company production, which originated in Vancouver, has travelled the world; it arrives onstage at the Citadel March 30 to April 1, a joint presentation of the Citadel and the Brian Webb Dance Company.

Ben Caplan in Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story. Photo supplied.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story: this highly unusual musical folk tale from Halifax’s 2b theatre company comes to the Citadel Club (May 9 to 13) from an acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe. And it arrives here from six weeks at the New York Off-Broadway venue 59E59. A music/theatre hybrid, it’s the joint creation of Hannah Moscovitch and Ben Caplan, one of the country’s starriest playwrights and Klezmer sensation respectively. And it tells a love story, which Moscovitch took from her real-life family history, of Romanian Jews arriving in Canada in 1908. The story (which seems to accumulate topical resonances as it goes), the creators, the supple musical form: all are intriguing. 

The Humans, Stephen Karam’s very funny very disturbing Tony Award-winner, opening next week on the Citadel mainstage (and runs through Jan. 27), redefines the family reunion drama in strange, even surreal, ways. Jackie Maxwell, former artistic director of the Shaw Festival, directs the Citadel/Canadian Stage co-production, the first sighting of the play in this country, in a year when it will be everywhere.

Poison, an international hit that’s scooped up major awards on  both sides of the Atlantic, is the work of Dutch playwright Lot Vekemans. A study of grief, loss, and love, the acclaimed play comes to us courtesy of Jim Guedo’s Wild Side Productions, starring Amber Borotsik and Nathan Cuckow. It’s in Theatre Network’s Roxy Performance Series March 15 to 25. 

The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, which gets the general nod as the greatest English language comedy ever, is taken in hand July 12 to 28 by comedy specialist company Teatro La Quindicina. A replacement for Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple in Teatro’s 2018 season (a problem of securing the rights), it stars Mark Meer and Ron Pederson (who’d have been Felix and Oscar) as Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff.  

If musical theatre does stretches with unusual partners in Onegin, Betroffenheit, and Old Stock, see how limber it can be wrapping itself around these unusual premises:

Michelle Bardach in Children of God, an original musical by Corey Payette. Photo by: Matt Barnes.

Children of God: Cory Payette’s musical (he’s both writer and director), the first original Canadian Indigenous work on the Citadel mainstage (March 3 to 24), tells a powerful story of two siblings and their residential school experience. 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: the 2010 Broadway musical that The Plain Janes have been trying to do for two seasons, is here. By the Full Monty team of Dave Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane, it careens crazily through ‘80s Madrid, as per the screwed-up relationship story from the Pedro Almodovar film of the same name. Kate Ryan’s production, which has a kick-butt cast (Jocelyn Ahlf, Jason Hardwick, Madelaine Knight, Gianna Read, Andrea House)  is at the Varscona Feb. 15 to 24.

Step out and embrace the new: the second half of the season has a cluster of intriguing premieres. 

Do This In Memory Of Me by Cat Walsh, Northern Light Theatre. Photo supplied.

Do This In Memory of Me/ En Mémoire De Moi: If you haven’t seen a Cat Walsh play, you’ve been missing an original take on “dark comedy” (she’s even done a solo thriller; how tricky is that?). There’s a new Walsh, in alternating English and French performances at Northern Light Theatre and L’UniThéâtre (March 13 to 25). Do This In Memory Of Me is set in 1963 Montreal, and its protagonist, 12-year-old Geneviève. , is desperately hoping the ban on girls for the prize “altar boy” gig will be lifted. That’s when the star altar boy disappears on his way home from school.   

•There are not one but two new plays by the accomplished Collin Doyle in this half of the season. Slumberland Motel, premiering at Shadow Theatre, won the Alberta Playwriting Competition 11 years ago. So It hasn’t exactly been rushed precipitously into production before its time. Julien Arnold and Reed McColm star as a couple of road-weary vacuum cleaner salesmen in a down-at-heels motel. It comes armed with the intriguing warning “brief comedic nudity.” Hmm.

Julien Arnold, Reed McColm in Slumberland Motel. Photo by Marc J Chalifoux photography 2017

Too Late To Stop Now premieres in May in an Edmonton Actors Theatre production. The third in Doyle’s “Mill Woods trilogy,” it returns us to the inhospitable bosom of the fractious family we met in The Mighty Carlins. Dave Horak’s cast includes John Wright as the impossible patriarch, Maralyn Ryan and Cole Humeny.   

•At the Citadel, a new and non-tentative family swashbuckler comes from the dexterous hand of Concrete Theatre’s Mieko Ouchi. The Silver Arrow: The Untold Story of Robin Hood stars a female as the classic green-clad agent of wealth re-distribution in Sherwood Forest. Daryl Cloran directs a full-bodied steam-punk  swash-buckler, this year’s Citadel/Banff Professional Program show, that includes aerial arts (courtesy of Firefly Theatre) and incidental music by the singer-songwriter cabaret star Hawksley Workman.

•At Workshop West, it’s the very intriguing prospect of Beth Graham’s new Pretty Goblins, a tale of estranged twins inspired by Christina Rossetti’s haunting narrative poem Goblin Market. Brian Dooley’s production, which stars Miranda Allen and Nadien Chu, runs April 18 to 29.

Other shows to look forward to in 2018:


•Trina Davies’ The Romeo Initiative, the third of her plays to be seen on Edmonton stages this season (Waxworks, Shatter), is a rom-com/thriller cross inspired by the chilling Cold War history of a Stasi program to enlist West German secretaries by finding them their perfect Romeo. Nancy McAlear directs the Skirts AFire Festival’s mainstage offering March 1 to 11.

Infinity by Hannah Moscovitch, at Theatre Network. Photo by Ryan Parker

Infinity, a Dora Award-winner by the Canadian star playwright Hannah Moscovitch. You could say of either the play, or Bradley Moss’s Theatre Network production (April 19 to May 6), that it’s  about time. Its trio of ultra-smart characters are a physicist and a musician, and their mathematician daughter. 

THE COLLABORATION: The enterprising indie Cardiac Theatre (Pompeii L.A., Peter Fechter: 59 Minutes) has taken the unusual initiative of finding producing partners in both Edmonton and Calgary — Azimuth Theatre, Downtown — for Harley Morison’s production of The Listening Room (Feb. 15 to 24). By Calgary up-and-comer Michaela Jeffery, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic landscape where teen dissidents are using outdated technology to probe the mysteries of the past.   

Sheldon Elter in Métis Mutt, at Theatre Network. Photo by Ryan Parker.

THE RETURN: The history of Sheldon Elter’s memorable one-man show/memoire Métis Mutt is a veritable study in Edmonton make-your-own theatre: how it starts small and develops major creative talents as it goes. Métis Mutt is back, in a new production directed by Ron Jenkins at Theatre Network (Feb. 15 to March 4).

THE CAST: Kevin Sutley’s new production of Shakespeare’s R&J for Kill Your Television Theatre is a chance for audiences to catch a quartet of Edmonton’s hottest young actors on one stage in one tumultuous show: Oscar Derkx, Braydon Dowler-Coltman, Luc Tellier, Corben Kushneryk. Joe Calarco’s high-stakes transposition of Romeo and Juliet to an ultra-strict Catholic boys’ school, where it’s a forbidden text and reading it is a sin, dates from the late ‘90s. How it fares two decades later, in very different times, is for us to discover in Theatre Network’s Roxy Performance Series Jan. 18 to 28.


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