Moments in Calgary theatre that rocked my world in 2018 by Lori Montgomery

As I look back (at the request of my editor) on the annus horribilis that was 2018 and the local theatre that made it somewhat more bearable, I realize that for the most part, it isn’t entire productions that remain in my memory. Almost every show I’ve seen had at least a moment or two that were gems, and those are the ones I pull out and examine when I need a reminder that the whole world is not actually going to hell in a handbasket. Here, in semi-random order and likely subject to change with my mood, are my top 5: 

Tracey Power’s choreography in Glory at ATP

The play was a tribute to women’s hockey in the 1930s, and the games were recreated ingeniously on the relatively small Martha Cohen stage using swing dance-inspired movement. It was completely counter-intuitive, but in retrospect absolutely the only way it could have worked. 

Emma Brager and Eric Wigston hosting the 10 Minute Play Festival

One of the highlights of One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo is this collection of smaller local companies strutting their stuff, and last year’s incarnation featured birding inspired plays at the request of guest hosts Brager and Wigston. The husband and wife team had some infectious fun with the task, and set a perfect tone. I smile every time I think about it. 

The design by the Old Trouts for Theatre Calgary’s Twelfth Night

There are not many shows in which the design is what stays with you (even among the Old Trout repertoire). The trompe l’oeil sets and over-the-top-even-for-Baroque costumes in this show were the stars, even in the presence of an excellent cast.  

The moment when you understand the premise of Half the Battle at Sage Theatre

The solo show by Owen Bishop saw him playing two very different characters, pilot and flight engineer in a Lancaster bomber in the Second World War. The premise is thoroughly insane, a recipe for disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing. And I still can’t tell you about it, because I want you to have this moment for yourself when he stages it again sometime. 

Every single moment of Onegin (co-presented by Theatre Calgary and OYR) 

The rock opera version of Eugene Onegin by playwright Amiel Gladstone and songwriter Veda Hille was a gem from beginning to end. Songs like “Let me Die” and “Good Evening, Bonne Soiree” would probably stick with me even I hadn’t downloaded the cast recording from Veda Hille’s website and listened to it all year.

Lori Montgomery is a former FFWD theatre critic who practices medicine to support her writing habit.

Postcard Musings by Caroline Russell-King

If I could give out “Scenies” as awards, these are who would get them in 2018.

Best Overall Show: Twelfth Night. When Theatre Calgary’s interim artistic director, Shari Wattling, said “Combine … Shakespeare’s wit, and Jillian Keiley’s direction, and the results are truly original and hilarious. You’ve never seen The Bard like this”, she was right.

Best Direction: Glynis Leyshon for Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Alberta Theatre Projects. (Runner-up for Best Play of the year as well.)

Best Female Actor:(tie) Julie Orton and Myla Southward were brilliant in the above play.

Best Male Actor: Christopher Hunt sparkled in Twelfth Night (W. Shakespeare)

Best One Act:  It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, (adapted by Joe Landry) directed by Craig Hall for Lunchbox Theatre. Great ensemble work.

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (photo courtesy Benjamin Laird)

Best TYA (Theatre For Young Audiences): Mary Poppins (Julian Fellowes, Richard at Robert Sherman) at Storybook theatre — perfect casting, with “A house” design and production values with Terry Gunvordahl’s  outstanding set and direction by JP Thibodeau.

Best Musical: Naughty But Nice the Big V, (J. Slabe, et al) Forte Musical Theatre Guild — also my favourite for Original New Work.

Best Design: Old Trout Puppet Workshop, world-renowned for their wildly fantastical and brilliantly inventive designs. Created with Peter Balkwill, Pityu Kenderes, Judd Palmer with Cimmeron Meyer and John Zowski, for Twelfth Night.

Best Chorographyor Fight Direction: Karl Sine for the variety and sheer volume of physical and comedic turns in the fight direction for Zorro: Family Code (Rebecca Northan, Bruce Horak and Christian Goutsis).

Newcomer Award:Conner Christmas in I and You (Lauren Gunderson) directed by Chris Stockton, Birnton Theatricals. 

Somebody Give Them Their Own Show Award:Jeff Follis or whichever persona s/he comes up with.

Gone But Not Forgotten: The Calgary Children’s Festival.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Patrick R. Brown, staring in his second Broadway play Aladdin on Broadway.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here

My top picks for theatre in 2018 will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me by Kari Watson

2018 was a great year for theatre productions in Calgary, a few of which gave me all of the feels and a lingering adrenaline rush — either from excitement, emotion, laughter, or all of the above. These are they.

Hot Brown Honey by the Briefs Factory (Australia) at the 2018 High Performance Rodeo. Non-stop energy, amazing performances and choreography, and one hell of a dance party rolled into one.

Onegin co-presented by Theatre Calgary and One Yellow Rabbit as part of the 2018 High Performance Rodeo. Everything about this show was a delight: the set, the performances, the vodka … oh, the vodka.

King Lear by the Shakespeare Company. It is no secret that I am a Shakespeare nerd, and everything I see coming from the Shakespeare Company gives me great joy. Stephen Hair as Lear … so good.

Much Ado About Nothing by the Shakespeare Company. See above, minus Stephen Hair. So much fun.

Twelfth Night co-presented by Theatre Calgary and the Old Trout Puppet Workshop. Yes, I love Shakespeare, but I also love puppets. Specifically, Old Trouts puppet wizardry. This production filled me with so much joy I have to say that it won hands-down this year.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead presented by ATP. The theme with me continues – this is my favourite non-Shakespeare play, and having the lead characters performed by Julie Orton and Myla Southward not only made the play more interesting for me, but made me love it more. Brilliantly acted, not just by the leads, but by the entire cast. They had me at “heads.”

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring The Culture Cycle event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE. Contact her at

(Twelfth Night photo courtesy Andrée Lanthier.)