Regular Guy Reviewer reviews...
Them three boys sure make a lot of dark, progressive-rock noise.
That was my sophomoric takeaway after spending the last Monday in March watching The Tea Party perform at Kelowna Community Theatre. The Tea Party (TTP), comprised of Jeff Martin, (lead vocals and guitar), Stuart Chatwood (bass guitar and keyboard), and Jeff Burrows (percussion), are a long-standing Canadian rock band with blues, Celtic, and Middle Eastern influences sprinkled in. Some in the media have dubbed their sound as “Moroccan roll.”
The Tea Party’s current 28-city swing is an anniversary celebration entitled the “20 Years of Transmission Tour.” In 1997, the enigmatic trio released their most-successful album called Transmission. For this innovative chart-topper, they added electronic instruments to their beats which resulted in a distinctive industrial edge.
Transmission achieved tremendous success by earning double-platinum status in Canada, reaching #3 on the Canadian music charts, and receiving a Juno nomination for “Blockbuster Rock Album of the Year.” Being such a clutch performer for them, it’s no wonder why TTP is on the road dusting off their old Transmission and blowing out their greatest hits.
To me, TTP’s music was loud, dark, and borderline ominous. After arriving on stage 30 minutes late to start the first set, their first screamer was Army Ants. Whoa. Army ants are nature’s foraging hordes that kill and eat anything in their way. What a pleasant visual. Martin’s vocals were equally as foraging and relentless as he attacked the lyrics.
The rest of the long set included favorites such as Babylon, Psychopomp, Gyroscope, Emerald, Alarum, and Release. How dark were these shady singles? Some of the words/phrases that I could understand were: salvation, redemption, pleasure of pain, nothing’s for real, black magic, sea of rage, and lost all control. That’s a lot of aggression and angst wrapped up in a lead singer whose stage presence reminded me a lot of a combo Eddie Vedder and Jim Morrison. That’s a compliment.
When Transmission and Temptation were played to rousing ovations from the almost-sold-out crowd, you could definitely hear the Middle Eastern inspiration. I almost expected belly dancers to appear and shake things up.
Because wife Elaine and I had early-morning appointments, we ducked out at intermission. Lame, I know. What revelations did we miss in the second set? According to the playlist provided by the production manager, TTP blasted through Writings, Bazaar, Ocean, Heaven Coming Down, and Save Me. Sister Awake was the only encore listed. Someone write me if there were more.
The Big Finish: amongst all the darkness, Martin did shine a bright light on TTP’s involvement with The White Ribbon Campaign. WRC is a global movement of men and boys working to end male violence against women and girls. Maybe they could write a song about this uplifting global message on Transmission 2?
Kelowna Fan Xpo (KFX) is nerd nirvana for cosplayers.
My wife and I went to a geek festival and witnessed our first “Cosplay Contest.” I know what you’re thinking. Why are self-proclaimed geeks gathering in Kelowna and what is cosplay? Allow me to enter the Stan Lee science fiction/fantasy world of artistic expression and spell out all the details.
On Saturday, March 25th, Kelowna Community Theatre was one of the host sites for a “Comic-Con” style event called Kelowna Fan Xpo (KFX). Now in its fourth go-round, KFX transports participants into the fan-culture world of comics, manga/anime, Sci-Fi, fantasy, horror, toys, movies, and video games. The KCT stage featured celebrity improvisation, entertainment seminars, and costume parades. Out in the lobby were tables of exhibitors and merchandise.
Under the guidance of Artistic Director Bonnie Gratz and Producer Joseph Otoo, KFX has grown significantly in attendees and vendor sponsors. Other venues utilized for booth space, gaming areas, and autograph signings were the Rotary Centre for the Arts, New Vintage Theatre, and Okanagan Regional Library – Main Branch.
From what we observed, KFX was designed as an all-ages earthly experience for adults, millennials, and youngsters who want to dress up and morph into full-fledged fantasy mode.
Speaking of fantasy, the word cosplay is a contraction of the words costumes and play. Cosplay has garnered worldwide attention as a performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character. It’s costumed role-playing. When in costume, many cosplayers seek to adopt the affectations, mannerisms, and body language of the characters they portray.
Walking between venues was a colorful cast of multi-genre characters. These folks take fantasyland seriously. We could identify Batman, Wonder Woman, and Harry Potter. The others, no clue. But according to script, we could have seen the likes of Harley Quinn, Vixen, Powergirl, Katana, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, the Green Lantern, and the Scarlet Witch.
The Cosplay Contest we watched on the KCT stage was the kiddie parade. We’re talking very young to barely teens. All the costumes had to be homemade. Creative stuff. Later in the evening was the Teen and Adult Cosplay Contest. Due to prior commitments, we missed this much-anticipated masquerade ball. Judging from what we saw strolling down Water Street, competition was Sasha Fierce to pick the best-of-the-best costumed crusader.
The Big Finish: Kudos to KFX for making a significant effort to keep its show G-Rated and family-friendly. Having out-of-town cosplayers showing up is an encouraging economic indicator that geek weekend could get bigger and more Marvel-ous. KFX 2018 will take place on March 23 and 24.
Here are three words you probably never thought you would hear in the same sentence – Tanya Tucker and Kelowna.
Well well well, grab your cowgirl and hold her tight. It happened. Right there in the middle of the stage at Kelowna Community Theatre. On a school night. In front of an enthusiastic crowd that wanted to saddle up for a hayride down Delta Dawn lane. Country music legend Tanya Tucker belting out her signature hits and classics in a toe-tappin’ version of March Madness.
Darn tootin’. No brackets needed. Her songs were soulful and sassy and fans were gobblin’ them up like a bison burger with cheese fries. While Tucker was never billed as the coal miner’s daughter, she persevered through self-inflicted hard times and clawed her way to country music’s penthouse. Along the way she lassoed 23 Top 40 albums, 56 Top 40 singles, 10 #1 Billboard hits, and at age 15 was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
That’s a lot of material. That’s a rich history. By her own admission, Tucker was not going to win any music awards on this Thursday night. She arrived in the Okanagan coming off a stomach virus and was not firing on all cylinders. Her voice was strong, but between songs she mumbled a few stories and accolades and seemed, in my opinion, to be weary and slightly over-medicated.
But the show must go on. And it did. Tucker’s six-piece band (all dudes) was outstanding. I especially enjoyed the fiddler – this guy picked like a pro and roamed the stage like he was having a total blast. His enthusiasm was infectious. Oops – maybe not the best adjective to use on this night?
According to my count, Tucker warbled through 18 songs in an 80-minute set. They came from different decades and writing partners, and included: If Your Heart Ain’t Busy Tonight, San Antonio Stroll, Texas (When I Die), Love Me Like You Used To, Would You Lay With Me, What’s Your Mama’s Name, Strong Enough To Bend, Little Things, Ramblin’ Fever, and finally…Delta Dawn.
Opening the show was up-and-coming cowboy crooner Ben Klick. The kid, and I mean this guy was barely out of high school, lives in Kelowna and came on stage in classic cowboy gear. It was his first time to sing at KCT and first time in front of such a large crowd. He sang three original songs, one of which was called 'What’s Going On'. It will be released as a single in June 2017. For a young pup, he had excellent stage presence and communicated confidently with the crowd.
The Big Finish: we didn’t get to see or hear the best of Tanya Tucker. I would describe her as a balladeer who wrote a lot of lyrics about a lonely life. What I was most surprised about was the lack of cowboy hats, boots, and big belt buckles being worn by the paying public. Guess there aren’t that many cowpokes riding around the lakefront and wineries.
Okay, help me out here. Which one was Blackie and which ones were the Rodeo Kings?
I’m still not sure of the answer, even though I saw Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (B&RK) perform live on stage at the Kelowna Community Theatre. The three front men – Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing, and Tom Wilson – were guitar-playing wizards who took turns singing lead vocals. Behind them were bass player Johnny Dymond and drummer Gary Craig. Blackie – will you please step forward and identify yourself to us commoners? Maybe I’m being a little too anal about this unsolved mystery?
Moving on, the seasoned quintet brought a little bit of everything to the Okanagan. That included nepotism, a deep-rooted social message, and a playlist of folk, alternative country, and country rock music. You guessed it, I couldn’t accurately define which songs were from which category. Didn’t matter. B&RK entertained for two hours straight and defied their long-in-the-tooth status.
If you think you had a grueling work week, check out B&RK’s road schedule from Saturday to Saturday – Winnipeg, Swift Current, Saskatoon, Calgary, Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Kelowna. Eight consecutive nights on a snazzy tour bus out promoting their new Kings and Kings album. Wilson described the bus as a giant purse containing a lot of personal items that were hard to find.
The opening act was a handsome young fella named Thompson Wilson. He sang five songs with just his guitar and soulful voice. Turns out he was Tom Wilson’s son, a roadie, and tour bus driver. The audience ate up a couple of his “I’m short on cash” sentimental solos and wanted more.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings are true believers in affecting social change. The band has been working with CARE Canada to defend dignity and fight poverty, especially among young girls and women. Same goes for bullying and hate. The group cares so much about making a difference that on stage behind the drummer was a large banner that shouted: "This Band Kills Hate".
This band also sings for a living and belted out 15 homespun songs sandwiched around sassy storytelling. Fan favorites: Water or Gasoline, Stoned, Shelter Me Lord, Acadian Driftwood, Gotta Stay Young, Remedy, and White Line.
Before the evening’s final number, papa Wilson reiterated the band’s unifying message. “People can do anything,” he opined. “Let’s talk about love. Let’s live in a world where there’s patience, grace, tolerance, honesty, and love. Everyone has to do their part.” Amen, brother.
The Big Finish: B&RK may be getting older (Tom Wilson admitted it), but I could see them sharing a triple-bill with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. On their Kings and Kings album, featured singers included Eric Church, Rodney Crowell, Keb′ Mo′, Raul Malo, Vince Gill, and the “Men of Nashville” from the Nashville television show.
Based on global events garnering headlines, perhaps a more accurate name of Friday night’s show at Kelowna Community Theatre might have been "From Russia with Love."
I mean that in a positive way. The only operatives peddling influence on this delightful evening were the musical tacticians in the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO). Led by Music Director Rosemary Thomson, the OSO presented its "Masterworks IV – Colours of Russia" showcase to a sold-out house. The orchestral compositions were mostly upbeat and invigorating, and according to wife Elaine, the OSO performed at the top of its game. High praise from the boss.
For the record, and I mean this in a humorous Anderson-Cooper-kind-of- way, I don’t believe there were any Trump appointees or KGB agents in the audience. Nyet to spy games, leaks or political tomfoolery. Instead, there was love and admiration in the old barn and the Russians were mostly behind it.
The evening started off with an Ontario discharge. After the Canadian National Anthem, the first composition played was called Eruption. It was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and supported by the Canadian Government as part of TSO’s Canada Mosaic celebrating Canada 150. The composer was Edmund Top, described by Thomson as a "millennial who likes heavy metal and Gregorian chants." That explains the 12-minute piece’s driving rhythm.
Next came the first Russian – Sergei Rachmaninoff and his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op 43. It was highlighted by a piano solo, which led to the arrival of guest artist Minsoo Sohn. He sat down at the Steinway at stage front and thrilled with his 10-fingers magic show. With no sheet music, he deftly marched up and down the keys with virtuoso efficiency. It was impressive enough to deserve the extra-long standing ovation he received at music’s end.
After intermission, there was a poignant homegrown "aw shucks" moment. Thomson introduced Edmund House, he was retiring as Principal Horn in the OSO after 30 years. House shared a few anecdotal stories about his supportive family and the life of a horn player being unseen behind a music stand. Later this summer, he has been invited to be a contributing artist at the 49th International Horn Symposium in Natal, Brazil.
The back end of the show was devoted to Tableaux d’une Exposition (Pictures at an Exhibition) written by Russian Modest Mussorgsky and orchestrated by Frenchman Maurice Ravel. This work has been played the world over and tells the story of 10 art pieces (paintings) being turned into music. The OSO nailed it and earned its own standing O.
Next up for the OSO at KCT will be Masterworks V: Italian Airs & Graces on April 7.
The Big Finish: According to Thomson, the colours of Russia were displayed in the sounds of the instruments and shifting rhythms. I was expecting darker and more ominous-sounding overtures. Perhaps I got the wrong idea by watching too many spy thrillers?
Have you ever had the experience of watching a movie or TV show and said to yourself “I’m not really following the plot but like what I’m seeing?”
That was me on the first Tuesday night of March at the Kelowna Community Theatre. In town for a one-night floor routine was the Alonzo King LINES Ballet from San Francisco. Based on this touring group’s reputation and global rave reviews, wife Elaine and I viewed this opportunity as a chance to flex our deltoid muscles and expand our cultural biceps.
Who wouldn’t be intrigued after reading this marketing nugget:
“Alonzo King LINES Ballet, now in its 33rd year, nurtures dynamic artistry and the development of authentic, creative expression through dance. The group is dedicated to exploring the possibilities of movement from a global perspective, and to renewing, and transcending, traditional ballet. Alonzo King is a celebrated choreographer who actively develops original new works with other artists from diverse disciplines and cultures. He understands ballet as a science – founded on universal, geometric principles of energy and evolution – and continues to develop a new language of movement from its classical forms and techniques.”
While it snowed outside, the ballet bonanza inside was divided into two programs. First came ‘Shostakovich’, music by Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. After intermission came ‘Sand’, with jazzy beats from saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran. Don’t ask me to interpret what took place on stage during each program. I’m not qualified.
The company was comprised of 10 dancers – five women and five men. One of the men was Robb Beresford, the only Canadian and an alumnus of Ballet Kelowna. The women mostly wore leotards with open backs. The shirtless men wore tiny shorts, stretchy long pants, and the occasional wrap-around skirt. Never once did we see a tutu – this was contemporary interpretive ballet.
What was my number-one takeaway from 90 minutes of explosive athleticism and steely expressionism?
These elite performers were ripped! We’re talking six-pack abs, tiny waists, muscular backs and well-defined arms and legs. At every twist, turn, jump, and spin there was an awe-inspiring chiseled muscle group or sculpted torso on display. Were these long-limbed laborers photo shopped? Someone needs to patent the ballet diet. It works. And you’ll look fantastic in tights.
On May 4 and 5, Ballet Kelowna and the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra will be performing together at Kelowna Community Theatre for a special show entitled Canadiana Suite – A Sesquicentennial Celebration.
The Big Finish: What are the must-have attributes to becoming a bona fide ballet bestie? Here’s what I scribbled in my notes near the finale: acting skills, good posture, flexibility, fluidity, charisma, elegance, poise, strength, balance, power, healthy knees and ankles and toes, a strong back, and an on-demand masseuse. That’s all. Sign me up, Alonzo.
Now that was entertainment at its highest and twangiest form.
On the first Sunday of March, nobody at Kelowna Community Theatre delivered the wrong envelope or read the wrong name. The headliners on this memorable night were two talented technicians – Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt. As advertised, these premier American singer-songwriters joined forces for an acoustic evening backed by nothing but their high-octane voices, incredible guitar playing, and friendly banter between songs that came off as unrehearsed as two chums sitting in grandma’s basement.
Let the record show that these highway-tested road dogs delighted the packed house with 23 songs in two-and-a-half hours of live theatre. No intermission. No backup singers. No frills. They were on their own on the dark stage, pickin’ and grinnin’ with amazing grace and dignity across various musical genres. Both have deep roots in blues, folk, and country. Both brought star power and noted résumés.
Lovett has released 14 studio albums, won four Grammy Awards, and has more than 40,000 Twitter followers. Hiatt has released 22 studio albums, been inducted into Nashville’s Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has his own star on Nashville’s Walk of Fame.
When the twangy twosome was about to be introduced, wife Elaine and I could sense the mostly Gen X audience was geeked-up like a hockey horde. This was no run-of-the-mill walk down memory lane. When the blues brothers (my nickname for them) took the stage, they were dressed in their Sunday best. Suit and tie and white shirt. Classy move. I found it especially compelling how one would watch the other sing with a look of wonderment and respect.
I won’t pretend that I knew most of their songs. Not even close. My goal was to soak in the lyrics, get lost in the warbling, and watch these gents handle a guitar like Sidney Crosby handles a stick. It was magical and mesmerizing. Better yet, it seemed effortless. These were master craftsmen.
What stood out? Their distinctive voices. These were not two axe-wielding peas in a pod.
I would describe Lovett as hitting all the high notes with ease and harmonizing the heck out of every stanza. The guy can elegantly carry a tune. Sitting only a few feet away from his touring partner, Hiatt showcased a raspy, twangy voice with, one can assume, a lot of miles on it. He was more of the bluesy storyteller who belted some notes not heard on any scale. Playing the harmonica and whistling were also part of his repertoire.
Here’s a playlist sampling that spanned the decades: “She’s Already Made Up Her Mind”, “Fat Babies”, “She’s No Lady”, “Thing Called Love”, “Have a Little Faith in Me”, “Memphis in the Meantime”, “Cadillac with Tennessee Plates”, “Crossing Muddy Waters”, and “My Baby Don’t Tolerate”.
The Big Finish: My wife described the performance as intimate and authentic. I couldn’t agree more. Lovett and Hiatt put on a spectacular show and defined the meaning of true professionals.
On the final Saturday of February, a full house at Kelowna Community Theatre got to sit back and be entertained by youthful exuberance in a show entitled “One-derful – a Tribute to the One-Hit Wonders from the ‘70s and ‘80s.” It wasn’t jukebox karaoke, it was students of all ages, genders, and races at Wentworth Music belting out songs and jamming on every instrument imaginable.
Neat School of Rock format. Terrific execution. Play that funky music, young phenoms.
There was also a philanthropic angle to the festivities. This was the 11th year and 21st concert production that the Wentworth students have put on to raise money to benefit the local community through the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation. Proceeds are specifically steered toward supporting youth issues and dealing with access to mental health services, education, housing, and employment opportunities. Youth mental illness is the second-largest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
Most notably, Wentworth Music, along with sponsors, have raised more than $146,000 through these concert events. The ringleader is Noel Wentworth, Vice President of Education at Wentworth Music. Halfway through the concert, he delivered a captivating quote about his students and staff: “we are the makers of music and dreamers of dreams.”
During the more than two-hour show, I put on my nerd fedora and noted every one-hit wonder played. Here they are in order, with the singer or band. Try humming a few verses of these oldies-but-goodies:
Funky Town……..by Lipps, Inc.
Fantasy……..by Aldo Nova
Missing You……..by John Waite
Tainted Love……..by Soft Cell
99 Red Balloons……..by Nena
Video Killed The Radio Star……..by The Buggles
I Ran……..by A Flock Of Seagulls
Hot Child In The City……..by Nick Gilder
New York Groove……..by Ace Frehley
The Warrior……..by Patty Smyth and Scandal
Mickey……..by Toni Basil
Play That Funky Music……..by Wild Cherry
Come On Eileen……..by Dexys Midnight Runners
I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight……..by Cutting Crew
Spirit In The Sky……..by Doctor and the Medics
This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide……..by The Kings
Your Love……..by The Outfield
The Big Finish: Bravo to Wentworth Music and its roster of talented musicians for elevating their game and putting on an uplifting rock concert.
Remember that familiar adage – “there’s a first time for everything.”
That’s what we experienced on Saturday, February 18th at the loudest and wildest show we’ve ever seen at Kelowna Community Theatre. We got “patted down” by security guards inside the front entrance doors. This wasn’t the airport. These weren’t TSA agents. This was theatre management making sure the evening’s entertainment went off smoothly in a mostly controlled environment.
Why the extra muscle? Rock-and-roll, baby! Three bands and a sold-out gig. Let’s assume that many of the attendees came lubed-up and ready to blow off steam. This was their night to let demons fly and luxuriate in the in-your-face brashness of the vocal assaults. It worked. I don’t believe there were any security issues. I don’t believe anyone went home disappointed.
Headlining the night was Kelowna band The Wild! and their official Wild at Heart album release show. Let’s cut to the chase and say these rockers have a strong local following. And what about those band-member names – Dylan Villain (vocals/lead guitar), The Kid (guitar/backup vocals), Boozus (bass/vocals), and Reese Lightning (drums). Did I mention this was in-your-face music?! That’s the kind of amplified attitude you get when you mesh delta blues and rock-and-roll with punk rock.
The two other bands of the night were opening act Hired Guns and then Aviator Shades. Both groups rocked the house with mind-numbing guitar and drum riffs. The louder the better. As soon as Hired Guns got three verses into their first song, a few fans rushed to the stage and stayed put the entire night. Some danced. When Aviator Shades got cookin’, more fans stood and moved stage side. Both foursomes were rock-tastic on the undercard.
The Wild! finally took the stage at 10:10 PM. By then the audience was ripe for the hometown boys and wanted to flat-out party. Almost everyone stood for every song. Those near the stage were head-bobbing to each thunderous chord. I believe by the end of the night the old barn may have moved a few inches off its foundation?! Did I mention the music was mind-numbing?! Dylan Villain baited the crowd with salty shout-outs and playful admonitions.
We learned that The Wild! has shared the stage with Buckcherry, Monster Truck, and Korn. Breaking news stated that the group had recently nudged past Metallica for the #2 spot on iTunes Canada.
The Big Finish: This rock-and-roll smorgasbord reminded me of MTV’s Headbangers Ball. It came on late at night and featured name bands and lesser-knowns. If you tuned in, you knew what you were getting into. Elaine and I knew what we were getting into once we cleared security. Our ears may still be ringing, but we had a bloody-good time.
The third Friday of February at Kelowna Community Theatre was the whole enchilada as the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO) got spicy and performed Masterworks III – Latin Fiesta.
This night of colorful instrumentation and syncopated rhythms paid homage to Romance-speaking countries like Spain and regions such as Latin and South America. For a nearly packed house hungry for multi-cultural cuisine, there was a full menu on stage that featured three appetizing entrees: flutist (or flautist) Christie Reside on loan from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, two tango dancers from a Vernon dance troupe, and 80 members of the Okanagan Symphony Youth Orchestra (OSYO).
The evening got off to a spirited start when OSO Maestra Rosemary Thomson took the stage and asked the audience to stand for the Canadian National Anthem (in honor of Canada's 150th Birthday). These were the last non-Latin notes to be heard for the next 90 minutes.
First on the program was Three Latin-American Dances written by Gabriela Lena Frank. The music was slow, ominous, and not the fast-paced tempo I was expecting. I did like the distinct sounds of the bongos and trumpets, they brought some lively oomph into a low-volume storyline.
Things turned upbeat when Rodrigo’s Concierto Pastorale was introduced as a movement featuring the flute, English horns, and oboe. That’s when Reside came out to stage front with her shiny woodwind tool and proceeded to dazzle with her talents. She was magnificent, her solos were crisp and intoxicating. Bravo. How did she learn to breathe and toot at the same time? I appreciated how she rhythmically bobbed her head and shoulders while playing.
At intermission, wife Elaine and I met up with her friend Sarah. I asked Sarah, who played the flute, what she thought about Reside. Said Sarah: “She covered all three octaves in three notes. How did she get her fingers to move that fast? She made it look effortless.”
Local talent dominated the evening’s second half. During part of the Piazzolla movement, two dancers from City Dance in Vernon appeared. Dressed in red and black, they performed an Argentine tango in front of the orchestra. The visuals matched the sounds.
Before the big finale, Thomson had to stall for a few minutes as more stage chairs were added. On came the OSYO, some as young as nine years old and all dressed in white shirts, to sit next to their protégé/mentor playing the same instrument. Well executed, OSO. The 120-person orchestra played Danzόn No. 2 by Márquez. It was rousing and well-received. Olé and adios!
The Big Finish: Kudos to OSO for putting in the time and effort to develop the next generation of fledgling instrumentalists. It must have been a thrilling stage experience for all the kids. Youth is being served one note at a time.
Can someone recommend a good audiologist in the Central Okanagan?
Kelowna Community Theatre put its revamped sound system to a three-hour test with a rock-and-roll double bill that put the amp in amplifier and tinn in tinnitus. The headliners on this loud-and-proud evening were platinum-selling rock blasters Big Wreck. This four-person crew was touring to support the release of “Grace Street” – the group’s fifth full-length studio album. Ascot Royals were the special guests and mild-by-comparison warm up act.
When we settled into our seats a few minutes before show time, we were flying blind with an open mind. We didn't know what to expect from these Canadian crooners. We didn’t know Big Wreck from The Big Lebowski. Ascot Royals might as well have been the Kansas City Royals. Entertain us with your best stuff, boys.
Ascot Royals opened with a bellowing message – this was gonna be a night everyone’s ears might regret. The five-person group, led by lead singer Jimmy Chauveau, cranked out seven songs that were all guitars and drums. Chauveau flitted around the stage with his white high tops, black skinny jeans, and white tee. His curly-on-top mop reminded me of Prince in Purple Rain. No doves cried during the set.
Big Wreck took the stage stylishly late around 9:10 p.m. Cool move, because anticipation was building in the barn from the late-arriving fans. Let’s just say many of them came extra juiced for this ear-splitting jam session. Between sets, a theatre staffer told me that bar sales were brisk for brewskis and mixed drinks.
The Big Finish: Big Wreck did not disappoint. Lead singer Ian Thornley was captivating with his booming voice and wide range. Each number seemed to get louder and louder and the loyalists were loving it. They were standing and screaming by the third song and stood for the rest of the evening. As I’m typing this, my ears are still ringing a little bit. No worries, no major Wreck-age. A younger-than-normal demographic filled the seats. This throng came to unwind, scream friendly vulgarities, and wallow in the music. They played right into Thornley’s experienced hands. He knows how to command a room. Big ups to Big Wreck.
Ken Lavigne – now that’s the way to close out a Christmas roadshow.
On a chillier-than-normal Monday, December 12th, we hustled over to the theatre to have a listen to the Ken Lavigne Christmas Musical Roadshow 2016. This holiday mixer was put together with a nostalgic twist and described as an enchanting musical tour through the golden age of radio. Helping evoke the Vaudevillian variety shows of days gone by was a vintage-style microphone that Lavigne sang into. He called her Myrtle. She was straight out of a 1920’s radio studio.
Joining Lavigne, and Myrtle, on stage were dashing talents Alison MacDonald and Daniel James White. These two were not just two elves decking halls and jingling bells. They were stage-tested artists who sang solos, told jokes, and grooved to the music. Credit to the headliner for filling his stocking with a strong cast of versatile performers.
Not to be lost in the holiday shuffle was the four-piece ensemble that cranked out the familiar sentimental sounds. They were pianist Andy Slade, bassist Casey Ryder, violinist Llowyn Ball, and percussionist Matthew Atkins.
After metaphorically coming down the chimney to begin the show, Lavigne and his carolers started by unwrapping classics such as Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, It’s a Marshmallow World, I’ll be Home for Christmas, and Winter Wonderland. With the audience thoroughly greased for more, things slowed down for storytelling and comedy bits.
What I noticed throughout the show was how the singers enunciated into their microphones. Reminiscing back to radio’s golden era, it was imperative to speak clearly, speak loudly, and create different voices and intonations for the audience listening at home. In Vaudevillian style, the cast used clever props, sound effects, and read voice over sponsor commercials. They had their schtick down and it was entertaining in an old-fashioned way.
After intermission, the song-and-dance serenade turned into a snowball fight. No really, it’s true. After Lavigne turned up the heat by singing Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka, he switched back to the Canadian cold and initiated a snowball fight with the audience. All the singers and band members threw nerf-like white balls into the unsuspecting audience and expected to those same balls to be thrown back at them. Never seen anything like it at a concert? Organized chaos. It worked.
For the much-anticipated encore, Lavigne belted out a tenor version of Hallelujah to honor folk singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. The crowd silently soaked it in. But wait, there was more. In a flash, Lavigne turned his blazer inside out to a gold-shimmery number and crooned Elvis’ Blue Christmas. Hip-action included.
The Big Finish: Nothing blue about this rowdy-at-times roadshow. It entertained until the last snowball found its way back on stage.
Hold onto your Drosselmeyer – that was one impressive ballet bonanza.
Exactly two weeks before Christmas, we had the privilege to take in a Sunday matinee showing of The Nutcracker at Kelowna Community Theatre. To be more specific, and to please many of the parents, grandparents, cousins, and siblings attending the sold-out production, the official all-inclusive title was The Canadian School of Ballet (CSB) presents The Nutcracker featuring dancers from Ballet Kelowna.
This dance card was packed with Kelowna kids of all ages, sizes, and abilities to glide on their tippy-toes in front of the hometown crowd. It gets better. The CSB had two featured dancers playing the lead role of Clara. One (who performed at our show) was Hannah Zobel, a grade-10 student at Okanagan Mission Secondary School. The other was Kendra Haskett, a grade-11 student at Kelowna Secondary School. A weekend to remember for these young ladies.
Time for me to put all my fairy-tale cards on the table. After being on this planet for 60 years and one day, I had never seen The Nutcracker. That goes double for a ballet. All dancing – no dialogue. Ho ho ho. When strolling into the theatre, I was an open canvas ready to be enlightened with fancy footwork and folklore. Two hours later, I had visions of pirouettes, Snow Queens, and Mouse Kings dancing in my head.
Don’t ask me about specific dance numbers - I wouldn’t know a plié from a plea bargain. In my note-taking, I penned that the choreography was highly entertaining, the sets bright and cheerful, and the costumes colorful and crisp. There had to be some serious coin pumped into the skirts, tutus, tights, and props. You certainly can’t get all those on sale at the mall.
What struck me most was the power of the music. Credit to Tchaikovsky. Five minutes into Act I, a very familiar overture of his was pounding through the theatre’s sound system as the performers circled the stage. I couldn’t name that tune – but I’ve heard it a zillion times before. There were more familiar compositions emanating throughout the performance. Shoot, where’s a classical music teacher when you need one?
My favorites were the Russian Dance, Dance of the Candy Canes, Grande Pas, and Waltz of the Flowers. Somewhere in this mix the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Cavalier (prince) cavort together as a duo.
The Big Finish: They nailed it, just like the rest of the good-posture cast.
If laughter is indeed the best medicine, then a whole lot of folks were feeling a whole lot better after Saturday night’s “Just for Laughs” comedy twin bill at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
Headlining the evening was Scotsman Danny Bhoy, billed as the “Commonwealth Comedian” known for his observational storytelling and razor-sharp wit. This was his sixth tour of Canada (he loves Canada and apparently Canadian audiences love him!), and on this late October evening, this show was the final stop of his current tour. No rest for the weary. He was hysterically electric for 85 minutes, especially when spontaneously engaging audience members.
The opening act was equally talented and mega-funny Ivan Decker. This Vancouver native could be billed as one of the most clean-cut comedians on the planet – dark blazer, belted slacks, shined shoes, and a boy-next-door haircut right out of the Mormon playbook.
On this chilly pre-Halloween evening, the Kelowna Community Theatre was hot with anticipation. The giggle-fest was slated to start at 7:30 PM, but for some reason the inside doors didn’t open until 7:20. That left a major traffic jam in the front lobby. Nobody got out of sorts. Folks were jazzed about the show, and a few had come from as far away as Nelson, BC to take it in.
By the time Decker confidently took the stage, the hall was packed and attendees juiced. He launched right into a foray of fast-food follies and mysteries of the microwave. The crowd was eating it up and howls of delight were echoing fast and furious. By the time he ended his bit with the perils of juicer ownership, the audience was a slushy in his hands. Well played, voice of the millennial generation.
Bhoy introduced himself from off stage, in the dark. It was audacious – and set the tone for the saucy zingers and punchlines to come. Upon first hearing his voice, it sounded exactly like Scottish-American actor and television host Craig Ferguson. Hopefully that’s a compliment?
Bhoy’s chops took him all over the storytelling landscape. A sampling of his targets included Justin Trudeau (gushing praise), Brexit (not a fan), Canadian politeness, B.B. King, buying underpants, and men getting their manhood stuck in their zipper (ouch!). Through all of it the building was consistently loud and filled with guffaws at darn near every payoff line. Polished act. Reputation well-earned.
The Big Finish: I don’t believe anyone left KCT without a smile on their face or a favorite line stuck in their head. Bhoy was at his bhest when he easily could have mailed it in. Decker was a delight and might be headlining his own tour in the very near future. Too bad this touring tag-team is tapping out – I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs a healthy dose of laughter.
About Regular Guy Reviewer:
Regular Guy Reviewer is exactly as described – a regular guy who likes to go out for an evening and be entertained. Truth be told, he's never watched Annie on Broadway nor does he know all the songs in Fiddler on the Roof. But he knows what he likes and can describe it in a well-balanced and witty manner. If you're looking for a review for the everyman when it comes to concerts, shows and performances at the Kelowna Community Theatre, you've come to the right place.