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New West melts hearts with Christmas spirit

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If  Christmas cheer could melt  ice and snow off winter roads as well as it could melt an old Grinch’s heart, New West Theatre could make a fortune.
According to me,  anytime before Dec. 24 is too early to celebrate Christmas, but ‘Christmas Melodies,’ happening  Dec. 1-5 at  the  Dec. 1-5 run  at College Drive Community Church (2710 College Drive South), was almost enough to make me change my mind. Scott Walker, Erica Hunt, Mark Nivet and Kathy Zaborsky reheaerse. Photo By Richard Amery
 Backed by the Lethbridge Big Band, a 20 member orchestra  Erica Hunt, Mark Nivet, Kathy Zaborsky, Scott Carpenter and Big Band singer George Gallant, all took turns taking solos and turning heads.
The orchestra included including the Herb Hicks Jazz trio and New West Theatre music director Paul Walker.
The cast, the girls dressed in red dresses and the guys in black tuxedos supplied beaming smiles, jokes and hair-raising vocal harmonies.
 Some highlights were Mark Nivet’s high notes on “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which included a strong R and B feel. And Erica  Hunt brought a sexy vamp to “Santa Baby.” George Gallant’s version of “Christmas Blues” was moving and one example of the singers being drowned out by the band.
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New West presents you with Christmas Spirit

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New West Theatre is ready to get Lethbridge into  the Christmas spirit this week.
George Gallant, Erica Hunt, Mark Nivet and Kathy Zaborsky under the tutelage of music director  Paul Walker have been working on an evening of Christmas  Melodies and big band music.Scott Walker, Erica Hunt, Mark Nivet and Kathy Zaborsky. Photo By Richard Amery
“It’s windy out and it’s brown, but Christmas is just around the corner,” enthused Erica Hunt who is looking forward to the production’s Dec. 1-5 run  at College Drive Community Church (2710 College Drive South).
The theme of the show this year is the beloved Christmas television variety specials on the ’60s. So there will be lots of singing and a few jokes interspersed in between the vocal numbers.
“If you want something to put you into the  Christmas spirit, this will do it. And it helps us,” Hunt added.
“It just feels like Christmas when you hear these songs.”
This is more of a concert than a full scale production for New West Theatre, so there will be  well known Christmas carols and a fewer light-hearted Christmas songs like ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.’

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Festen not for the faint of heart

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Festen is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach or the easily offended, because the truth can really hurt sometimes, especially when the subjects of the play have a  pretty deep, dark and disturbing secret.
That didn’t stop director Jay Whitehead from tackling taboo topics for his first outing directing a University of Lethbridge production, which runs  Nov. 24-28 in the University Theatre.Christian goes toe to toe with his dad in Festen. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’m an actor first. When I read the script, it struck me as a play filled with juicy  acting roles for the actors to sink their teeth into,” explained Whitehead preparing his 14 member cast for a Monday night dress rehearsal.
Festen is David Eldridge’s dramatic adaptation of  the 1998 Danish film “The Celebration,” which was written  by Thomas Vinterberg and Morgens Rukov.
The story surrounds the activities of Klingelfeldt patriarch Helge who is celebrating his 60th birthday following the funeral of the family’s eldest daughter Leslie who committed suicide.
 So right away you know this isn’t going to be an easy production to watch, especially  when the audience hears a chorus of ominous screeches, screams, groans,  baby cries, bumps and bangs while waiting for it to begin. The audience is right on the stage with the actors, as eldest son Christian, played by Tanner d’Esterre enters, suitcases in hand, sits on them and has a drink from his flask for what seems like an eternity with nary a word. And soon the audience  will discover why — because he is about to drop a bomb on this upper crust family and  their friends which will tear them  apart. 
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Big fun with Big River

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Lethbridge Musical Theatre is getting ready for a musical trip down the big muddy Mississippi for the next couple weeks.
 Big River, a musical interpretation of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, sets sail on Friday, Nov. 6 for a two week journey at the Yates Theatre.Dusty Dee Litchfield, who plays Huck Finn in Big River gets make-up done by Sheena Lawson. Photo By Richard Amery
“This is the best cast we’ve had in a long time,” said artistic director Kim Walburger adding Lethbridge does a major production every year at the Yates.
“This is the story of Huckleberry Finn. It won seven Tony Awards when it first came out but it came out at the same time as “A Chorus Line” so it was overshadowed by that. It’s almost word for word just like the book, but there’s  music in it — down southern U.S.A music,” he continued adding he’s wanted to bring the production to Lethbridge for quite a few years.
“We’ve got quite a few new people and a lot of people I’ve worked with before, so it’s been fun  to see them all grow,” he said noting having Juran Greene (who is best known for  singing with local funk/R and B band Hippodrome) playing the slave Jim has really helped the cast mesh with each other.
“He is a really great singer. I always said if we could get Juran, the rest of the cast would come together. And (Taber country singer) Dusty Dee Litchfield plays Huck Finn. He is Huck Finn. And we’ve got boys singing six part harmonies. It’s usually difficult getting boys to sing two part harmonies,” Walburger enthused.

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