With the ongoing SAG-ACTRA and Writer’s Guild strikes likely to cause a dearth of new movies or television series in the coming months, Calgarians would be well advised to take their search for quality content to the streets, taking advantage of the often under-utilized performing arts scene. Here’s where to start.
The 2023-24 season’s motto is “Theatre for All” and it’s easy to see why. Between a roster of crowd-pleasers and a new $39 ticket initiative, making theatre accessible is the goal. Kicking off the season on Sept. 12, with a month-long run of the perennial favourite whodunnit, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, murder mystery fans will be kept guessing until the final act.
Made in Italy is, ironically, a made-in-Alberta one-person show about the Italian immigrant experience in Jasper of the ‘70s (October 17 to November 11)
December sees the return of the family favourite, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, while the spring season brings two pop culture giants — a Beatles X Shakespeare collab of As You Like It (February 27 to March 24), and Beaches: The Musical (May 18 to June 16).
Rounding out the season is Meteor Shower (January 23 to February 11), an absurdist dinner party comedy by Steve Martin, and Selma Burke (April 2 to 27), about the famed Harlem Renaissance sculptor. Why spend your evenings channel surfing when the theatre’s got nearly every genre covered?
For tickets and info, visit theatrecalgary.com
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Based out of the Pumphouse Theatre, Morpheus Theatre also has a little something for everyone, and with tickets ranging from $23 and under, it makes for an enjoyable and affordable night out.
With a nod to Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, Morpheus begins its 29th season this month with Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors, sequel to Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor. 1930s Paris is overrun by a madcap tenor and his insatiable wife in this farcical tale of mistaken identities.
Morpheus’ Christmas highlight this year is a live radio play of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, while the new year brings new meaning to the term, “the one who got away” with The Peacock Season, a murder mystery set in 1908.
For musical fans, the feather in the cap of each Morpheus season is the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production, this season’s being the duo’s classic, The Gondoliers, running from April until May 2024.
For tickets and info, visit: morpheustheatre.ca
A few more theatre highlights:
Start the Halloween season off right with a few creepfest performances — beginning with the classic tale of madness, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, presented by Vertigo Theatre and running throughout October.
For tickets and info, visit: vertigotheatre.com
Dracula arises from the dead again, in a production by Workshop Theatre, running over Halloween week at The Pumphouse Theatre.
For tickets and info, visit: workshoptheatre.ca
If blood, gore, and musicals are more your speed, this month, the Front Row Centre Players present Carrie: The Musical at the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre.
For tickets and info, visit: frontrowcentre.ca
Don’t have a lot of time on your hands? Lunchbox Theatre stages one-act plays over the lunch hour — just below the Calgary Tower. Focusing on local and Canadian contemporary playwrights, each production is uniquely different from the last.
For tickets and info, visit: lunchboxtheatre.com
Inspired by science fiction doyenne, Octavia Butler, Downstage presents All Good Things Must Begin, a series of one-act plays produced in collaboration with the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation and Climate Change Theatre Action, focusing on racial justice, and radically hopeful and radiantly green futures.
For tickets and info, visit: downstage.ca
Have you seen Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza and need a bit more circus in your life? Jupiter Theatre collaborates with Le Cirque de la Nuit to present The Time Machinist for a short run at The Grand Theatre September 8 to 10.
For tickets and info, visit: theatrejupiter.com
So, maybe music’s more your thing — and while Calgary’s live music venues run the gamut of genres from art punk to zydeco, often overlooked are the city’s well regarded “classical” performance companies. Blending performance and visual arts, contemporary hits, and of course, timeless classics, this isn’t your grandparents’ classical music.
Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra
The Calgary Phil was one of the first local performance companies to perfect the pivot into prioritizing accessibility — well before COVID lockdowns turned most stages dark. Each season is artfully curated to appeal to classical music lovers, naturally, but also pop music aficionados, movie buffs, and kids of any age. Music lovers aged 35 and under can enroll in the Cpossibilities program — with exclusive access to $15 tickets to select performances, kids aged 12 and under can attend for only $10, first responders are eligible for a 15 per cent discount, and unsold rush seating is available for $25. Can’t make the show? Check out their live-stream library.
The Calgary Phil’s 2023-24 season features a two-night only performance of Never Break the Chain: The Music of Fleetwood Mac September 8 and 9, while the music of David Bowie is showcased on January 13. The ’80s make a comeback in a big way, as Calgary Phil’s Pops Series presents Totally 80s (March 8 and 9), while Beethoven X. Coldplay offers a more modern flavour on April 27.
The Christmas season is capped off with two annual favourites, Handel’s Messiah, and a traditional Christmas performance at Grace Presbyterian Church. Ring in 2024 with A Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert.
If the movie listings are looking a little dull, check out Calgary Phil’s presentations feature performances of music from the movies Up and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Star Wars, A New Hope, as well as The Broadway/Hollywood Songbook.
Dr. Seuss shows kids that the symphony is one of the places you can go, with a symphonic production of The Sneetches, while Dan Brown (yes, that Dan Brown) has broken The Da Vinci Code and returned with Wild Symphony, a zoological introduction to the orchestra for kids. The original orchestral intro, Peter and the Wolf is revisited in collaboration with Calgary Pride for a musical drag story time.
Jazz, Spanish guitar, and of course, Beethoven, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Dvořák all make appearances in this stacked season.
For tickets and info, visit: calgaryphil.com
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Housed in the beautiful and historical Wesley Church building in the Beltline since 2005, Calgary Opera features, arguably, some of the most beautiful set and costume design in the city, as well as a line-up that’s designed to appeal to everyone from the most seasoned opera-lover, to the curious newbie.
Like Calgary Phil, the opera offers a discounted ticket and season pass program, Allegro and Allegro+, for audience members aged 35 and under, a discounted first-time subscriber discovery pass, limited $40 main stage tickets, and a discounted brunch subscription pass. Register for the Opera Buddies program and you’ll receive a personalized primer and intro to the opera and free attendance to a performance.
The 2023-24 season is small, but mighty, with four main stage productions at the Jubilee, beginning with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro October. Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, is a comic opera tale of hopeless devotion set in the Basque region of Spain in the 18th century (February 3 to 9).
A force majeure of the opera world, Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold – presented in conjunction with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, with a performance that will include the entire 80-piece orchestra on stage, alongside the cast and set — is surely to be an unparalleled theatrical spectacle this spring (April 20 to 26).
Meanwhile, Vittorio Giannini’s Beauty and the Beast, the first opera ever commissioned for radio in the 1930s, will be a family-friendly performance well positioned to kick off this year’s Christmas season (November 24 to December 3).
For tickets and info, visit calgaryopera.com
With a more challenging season than in years past, the 2023-24 season merges staples like Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and Christmas must-see, The Nutcracker with exciting guest performances and adaptations. Beginning with a visit from New York’s Ballet Hispánico and their performance of Doña Perón, the life story of Argentina’s famed former first lady, Eva “Evita” Perón (September 14 to 16).
Beijing’s Dance Theater, in its Canadian debut, presents Hamlet, Shakespeare’s ultimate antihero and most riveting tragedy, portrayed through dance (February 15 to 17).
Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring scandalized audiences when first performed in 1913, and the balletic adaptation is sure to evoke the familiar jarring feelings of unease, particularly when this double bill is paired with Austria’s Oper Graz’s, Der Wolf, an unsettling reimagining of the Little Red Riding Hood tale.
Hansel & Gretel, while an equally twisted tale, is adapted for the ballet into a fantastical and whimsical visual spectacle that dance fans of any age can enjoy (March 7 to 9).
For tickets and info, visit: albertaballet.com
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Arts Commons BD&P World Stage
The BD&P World Stage, presented by Arts Commons, showcases a wide range of performing arts throughout the year, with a global focus on music, film and dance. The 2023-24 season features two dance highlights, Circa: Humans 2.0 in February, and Malpaso in March.
A combination of circus acrobatics, choreography, and modern dance, Circa is Australia’s premiere contemporary circus; their performance of Humans 2.0 focuses on themes of growth and decay, limitations and extremes.
Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company teams up for an exclusive Canadian performance with New York’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, led by Arturo O’Farrill. Blending traditional Afro-Cuban dance, ballet, and contemporary dance, Malpaso is world-renowned troupe representing the enigmatic country through performance. O’Farrill ends the performance using his Mexican roots to lead the Afro-Jazz Latin Orchestra with an adaptation of Osnel Delagdo’s 24 Hours and a Dog.
For tickets and info, visit: artscommons.ca/arts-commons-presents/bdp-world-stage-series