Arden season posts strong sales so far
Second half showing box office promise
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 05, 2013 06:00 am
The first half of the Arden Theatre season had cash registers ringing, and if the initial burst at the gates is any indication, this is one horse with a winning streak.
Seven out of 12 shows were sold out, including Joel Plaskett, Whitehorse, Matt Anderson, Hank Williams Live, Danny Michel, Minsoo Sohn, Lunch at Allen’s and Radical Reels.
In fact, the demand was so great for Radical Reels – a complilation of extreme sport shorts from the Banff Film Festival – its run will expand from one night to two next year.
“The first half of the season was absolutely incredible,” said Caitlin North, the Arden’s professional programming. “I’m not sure we had record-breaking sales, but we did have amazing sales this season.”
If the first half is any indication, the next four months should be a roaring success.
The season reboots on Friday, Jan. 25 with a double-header starring singer-songwriters Del Barber and Ben Sures.
“Del Barber has had a lot of success lately on radio and his name is becoming familiar across Canada. His star is shining brightly these days. Ben is a mainstay in the Edmonton scene and is doing very well for himself,” North explained.
The New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band returns on Jan. 26 with their infectious buzz of trumpets, trombones and tubas.
“From my experience as a fan, I know them as a band that’s well known and has been part of the rebirth of the brass band movement,” North said.
One Man Lord of the Rings, originally slated for Nov. 2, was rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 30.
“Having one man perform all the characters and move seamlessly from character to character in 70 minutes is an extraordinary, really fun, family performance of the literary classics,” North said.
Jeremy Fisher and Emm Gryner, two unique voices who share a poetic tongue, are nearly sold out for their Saturday, Feb. 2 show.
“Jeremy has become well-known on the Canadian scene over the last decade. He’s a troubadour of the ’50s and ’60s and reminds me of singer-songwriters from the Greenwich Village era that moved to their own beat. He reminds me of Paul Simon.”
Cigar-chomping comic Brent Butt, best known for his Saskatchewan-based hit TV series Corner Gas, is already sold out. Butt first appeared on the Arden stage in March 2004 during a brief eight-day tour of Canada.
“He played the Winspear not long ago. He plays the big halls, but it’s nice that he comes back to the community theatres that gave him a start,” North said.
Also with close ties to Saskatchewan are The Northern Pikes, a classic prairie rock band performing Saturday, Feb. 16.
“They started making noises in the late ’80s and ’90s. They’re a fun, nostalgic show that would appeal to anyone in the 35 to 50 age group.”
Singing troubadour Eric Bibb returns to the Arden on Friday, Feb. 22 with African musician Habib Koité in tow.
“We’re bringing together two great guitar players. Eric has been influenced by a lot of different styles from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie to Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. He’s carrying on a great tradition and putting his own twist onto it. And Habib is from Mali. He has very distinctive guitar sounds and they complement each other.”
Juno award-winner Old Man Luedecke is a Nova Scotia roots artist with an easy-going openness that makes him a crowd favourite out west.
“He’s such a charming and funny storyteller. He has such a way, it reminds me of Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Café. He has such a strong tradition of folk storytelling and playing the clawhammer banjo,” North said.
The Hot Club of San Francisco returns for a second season on Friday, March 8 with a concert of music set to silent movies. And a week later on Friday, March 15 Harry Manx will drop by for an evening of poetic lyrics playing his signature 20-string Mohan Veena.
The following day, CBC’s Irrelevant Show is gearing up for night of live improv that will be taped then broadcast nationally at a later date.
The Ron Sexsmith show coming Wednesday, March 15 is nearly sold out with less than 50 tickets left.
“He’s a popular singer-songwriter. He comes through regularly and continues to do well. As a fan, I have a lot of respect for him. I find him to be a romantic songwriter. He has a great sense of melody and he’s really evolved as an artist.”
In contrast, the Savoy Family Cajun Band arriving from Louisiana has a very salty, southern flavour.
“They have a very French Canadian sound with fiddle, accordion, and a lot of flair.”
Bringing a breath of fresh spring air to the Arden on Sunday, April 7 is Miss Caledonia, a one-woman show about a gal who sees an escape from a small town in the form of a beauty pageant.
Closing the season on April 19 and 20 is the Juno-nominated Cowboy Junkies, a popular rock band that has veered from pop to country with sweeping, gently disarming tunes. More than 75 per cent of tickets for both shows are already sold.
North attributed the season’s success to a strong provincial economy and various other factors.
“The season does a lot to engage huge varieties of artists, tastes and age groups,” she said. “There is something for everyone and there’s a lot of recognizable names which always helps.”