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    Categories: Entertainment

Arden Theatre salutes Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2016-2017 season

Niyaz and Ali Azim

In an oddball turn of events, Strange Brew kicks off the 2016-2017 Arden Theatre season on Sunday, Sept. 18.

In a history making moment, it’s the first time a film launches the Arden season.

If you’re an old geezer or enjoy comedy, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the 1983 SCTV film starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as the Great White North’s two favourite hosers, Bob and Doug McKenzie.

Oddly enough, Strange Brew seems like a peculiar kick-off choice. But since Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2017, the entire season is a salute to our country’s artistic stronghold.

Professional programming presenter Caitlin North has stacked the calendar with a lottery of 42 acts from our ten provinces and three territories.

“It just seemed like the natural thing to do. There’s so much talk around the 150th already. It just seemed a fun way to celebrate the great artists and the amazing talent that comes through here,” North said.

And in Strange Brew, the two unemployed bros Doug and Bob, personify textbook Canadians garbed in plaid shirts, ski toques, fur-lined parkas and an addiction to beer.

In a brief recap, the loveable goofballs find low-level jobs at the Elsinore Brewery. Before they can devise a plan to guzzle free beer, the duo lands in a vat of trouble.

It appears the evil brew master has concocted a dastardly plot to dominate the world by adding mind-control drugs to beer. And it’s up to these goof-offs to foil the plot and stand up for their peace-loving Canadian beliefs.

This year North has upped the movie selections to six from last year’s four.

“We’re trying to stick to a Canadian theme. We looked at what was available to us and we chose films that would appeal to wider audiences. We wanted to give people titles they recognized,” North said.

Additional movies in the film series are Anne of Green Gables on Oct. 30 and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel on Nov. 6. Following is Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie’s romantic yet testy Away From Her on Jan. 15 and Paul Gross’ wickedly cool Men With Brooms on March 19.

Closing the cinema series is FUBAR and FUBAR 2, a mockumentary about a couple of bangers’ ongoing friendship through thick and thin. Both are screened April 2. (FUBAR is a military acronym for f–ked up beyond all repair.)

Although not part of the cinema series, Radical Reels from the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival showcasing jaw-dropping athletic feats returns on Sept. 29.

The bulk of the remaining season focuses on the professional series, a family series and a short speakers’ series. The two-person speaker series features Egyptian born Canadian author and journalist Mohamed Fahmy on Oct. 1 speaking about his prison ordeal in Egypt.

“The trial was such a topical issue given the state of world affairs. He speaks from his specific experiences, not only as a survivor but as a journalist,” North said.

Later in the season on Feb. 3, Canadian icon Margaret Trudeau discusses her 2006 best seller Changing My Mind. It details her struggles with bi-polar disorder and the grief at losing both a son and former husband.

“She has a very interesting story based on her experiences with mental health. It’s an issue people are starting to feel confident talking about it.”

The bulk of shows focus on the professional series. Although it includes magic, dance, gospel, rock, pop, swing, world and Latin, the series appears heavily tipped towards the folk-roots-country realm.

Magician Sheldon Casavant, who charmed the munchkins at the 2016 Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival of the Arts, returns Sept. 20 for a mind-bending experience of now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t.

Another huge fave, pop-rock singer-songwriter Royal Wood, brings his beautiful melodies for a two-day presentation on Sept. 23 and 24.

And the Ottawa based, Juno Award winning Monkey Junk also returns to celebrate their 2015 release Moon Turn Red, a collection of hard-driving songs blending elements of funk, soul, rock and deep swamp blues.

“Last time the tickets sold out in record time. Do not wait to get tickets.”

It’s tough to put a finger on Andrea House’s style, but on Oct. 4, the Edmonton-based artist lets loose at the St. Albert Community Hall with her compelling and pure vocal tone, riveting stage presence and beautifully crafted songs.

The great country-roots travelin’ troubadour Fred Eaglesmith continues to tour and he returns for a two-nighter on Oct. 6 and 7.

Roots-rock recording artist Terra Lightfoot blends vulnerability with ferocity and taps into powerful emotions in her sophomore album Every Time My Mind Runs Wild. At her Arden debut on Oct. 15, pop-folk artist Cayley Thomas opens for her.

Also making their Arden debut on Nov. 4 is Fortunate Ones, a folk duo pursuing their musical aspirations with a sweet Maritime sound.

Montreal-based Quartango drops by on Nov. 5 for another sizzling performance. This time the quartet teams up with Argentine tango dancers Roxana and Fabian for an intricate spellbinding evening of sensual romantic music.

Juno Award winning banjoist Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project on Nov. 12 takes audiences through the rich history of everyday folk music.

The very polished Maritime native David Myles is back on Dec. 6 singing It’s Christmas, his yuletide record of nostalgic songs.

The McDade siblings rev it up for two nights on Dec. 16 and 17 with their wild mix of world-Celtic-folk and holiday spritz.

Edmonton-born musician Barry Allen and The New Rebels kick-off the second half of the season on Jan. 21 with classic rock hits from his forthcoming album The Speed of Dark.

“He’s a sweetheart and an important figure in the local music scene. He’s a champion of both young and old.”

Santiago-born Marco Claveria with his band of seven musical masters returns on Jan. 27 with a fusion of Afro-Peruvian, Brazilian, Cuban and Chilean sounds.

The New North Collective arriving on Jan. 28 is an ensemble of solo artists from Canada’s three northern territories.

“This is the group that inspired the season,” said North. “They have a diverse background and they all play instruments. There is traditional throat singing and pop and rock. They do a nice job of bridging cultures and making it contemporary.”

It’s been more than a half dozen years since pianist Jim Witter appeared on the Arden stage making his McCartney-Lennon comeback all the sweeter on Feb 4.

It’s been a while in coming but country artist Lisa Brokop will shepherd audiences through The Patsy Cline Project on Feb. 10 with a multi-media show that includes memorables such as Walkin’ After Midnight, I Fall to Pieces and Crazy.

“Our patrons will eat this up. Lisa is such a beautiful singer in her own right and she’s had quite a country career.”

Canadian acoustic music super group and two-time Juno Award nominees The Bills share their 2016 release Trail of Tales on Feb. 11.

Acclaimed soprano Measha Brueggergosman reveals a very personal side of herself as she shifts from opera to gospel singing an intensely powerful collection of freedom songs on Feb. 17.

“I’m very excited to be presenting Measha Bruegergosman. She’s worked on a really beautiful project and it’s a nice tie-in to Black History Month. And it’s also nice to present a different format for what we’re known for.”

The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer were the surprise hit of last season and North predicts their playfulness and joie de vivre performance will once again be hit on Feb. 18.

The season’s one big dance project features Ballet Jörgen celebrating their 30th anniversary presenting Swan Lake on Feb. 24.

The East Coast’s Rose Cousins drops by on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 with an emotional exploration of song that delves into various corners of the heart.

For over a decade, Juno Award nominees Azam Ali and Loga Ramin Torkian have embarked on a quest of love and peace guided by the mystical phrases of Sufi poets. Blending traditional folk songs and electronic rhythms, the world musicians pay homage to the doctrine of love on March 18.

“I saw them at the Edmonton Folk Fest. It was literally trance music, not in the form of electronic trance, but in a way that evokes that feeling. It’s astounding,” North said.

The huge hit makers Delhi to Dublin are back in St. Albert with their latest album We’re All Desi on March 31.

The Quebec based band MAZ is slowly building audiences across the country with trance-inducing grooves and distinct sound textures. They appear at the Arden on April 1.

“They are mainly instrumentalists and perform traditional French-Canadian music, but they put a twist on it. They have D.J. and in a subtle way introduce it into the music. It’s one of a kind.”

In a double bill exclusive, folk artists The Small Glories pair up with roots artist John Wort Hannam on April 20 and swing performers The Jivin’ Belles close the season on June 27.

“The Jivin’ Belles are recent graduates of Grant MacEwan’s music program. They will present a fun, kind of throwback performance to the Andrews Sisters.”

In summing up the season, North believes it is a good representation of the Arden audience.

“I think the season does a good job of capturing the artistic activities and touring Canadian acts right now. It’s a fun way to present Canadian artists to our community. There are artists from every province and territory. We’ve covered them all.”

Tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, Aug. 8. Call 780-459-1542 or stop by in person at the Arden box office at St. Albert Place on St. Anne Street.

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.