Arts gala delivers the goods
Variety show highlights talent and hands out awards
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Thursday, Mar 21, 2013 05:15 pm
The fourth annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts Gala upped the ante this year, presenting a svelte, polished affair that was balanced with the right dose of humour.
Tuesday’s song-and-dance ceremony at the Arden Theatre, hosted by CTV Edmonton’s Josh Classen, stayed pretty close to the script. But there were a few comedic moments of surprise.
Thespians Maureen Rooney and Paul Punyi made history as the first husband and wife team to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for an enduring commitment to educational theatre that has spanned well over two decades.
During the introduction, Classen called out, “I don’t have the envelope.”
Sitting in the audience, Rooney’s voice piped up, “I’ll announce it,” much to the delight of an audience that proceeded to give them a thunderous and very emotional standing ovation.
While Mayor Nolan Crouse presented the pair with one of Julie Hage’s raku vessels, a work inspired by a little boy sailing a toy boat on the Sturgeon River, Punyi appeared to wipe a tear from his eye. Either that, or he flicked lint off his glasses.
The evening’s very first award – for youth artist – was no surprise and went to Andrew Boyd, a dynamic triple threat performer. Local painter Laura Watmough nabbed the excellence in arts teaching for her long-time commitment to budding visual artists.
Samantha Williams-Chapelsky, a prolific painter, was honoured as this year’s emerging artist. As the only artist in his category, guitarist Peter Belec was an automatic shoo-in as the established artist.
The St. Albert Community Band earned the community arts group award. Alan Murdock, singled out for his strong support of the Rotary Music Festival and dance, was the recipient of the leadership award while Don’s Piano Showroom was endowed with the corporate patron of the arts award.
Gala chair Nancy Watt had often said that the event was more than just an award ceremony. It was also a celebration of live arts.
This year’s gala certainly boasted an abundance of entertainment from a medley of Broadway numbers and a taste of rock to some cool jazz, hot ballroom dance and a theatrical presentation.
Current St. Albert Children’s Theatre members and alumni launched into an extravagant medley of more than 50 voices that soared to the theatre’s rafters. DanceCo and Art of Dance joined this wall of sound, adding grace and sizzle.
Instead of welcoming the 250 plus attendees in a business suit, Mayor Nolan Crouse donned an Elizabethan town crier’s costume, much to the delight of the audience.
The St. Albert Theatre Troupe introduced playwright David Haas’ 10-minute short titled Antidope. While at times the Arden stage appeared to overwhelm this compact production, there were a few character highlights such as Bob Locicero dressed in a pink poodle skirt toting a machine gun.
As masters of cool jazz, the Peter Belec Trio was a tight, intuitive professional group that instinctively knew how to get into the groove with humour.
At the trio’s intro, Belec asked the audience, “Are you ready to have a good time?” After the applause died down, he replied,” Well, you’ll have to wait for the next group.”
After playing a couple of tunes from Belec’s last album, Melodic Miner, the applause was so loud Classen asked for an encore. Judging by the trio’s expressions, it was an unexpected request. However, they graciously obliged with Doug Organ’s Low Crab Diet, a nimble display on keyboard.
Ballroom dancer Elise Seehagel, partnered with Daniel Seguin, raised the room’s temperature a few notches with hot tangos and cha chas. And Tupelo Honey’s finale closed the evening with an explosive rock segment that had people bobbing heads and clapping hands.
The gala also pulled off a minor surprise with St. Albert Live, a sampler of a new City of St. Albert social media initiative that showcases either hometown or touring talent at various city landmarks. Four promotional videos are available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/stalbertlive.
Classen spoke the last words of the evening saying, “Congratulations to all the award winners. Drive safe and we’ll see you next year.”