To say the Kelowna Community Theatre adds to this community would be a colossal understatement.
For every one of its 50 years, there’s a funny anecdote or tidbit likely to come out at its 50th anniversary tribute being held Sept. 13, the same day residents of Kelowna opened its doors for the very first time, dragging in lawn chairs to watch performances. It apparently took a year to fill the aisles with permanent seating.
Since that day, the great stage has seen rock stars and movies stars, theatre types, dancers and musicians from every corner of the industry praise its beautiful waterfront footprint and laud the unusual sound quality.
“I’m not enough of an audiophile to know the scientific reasons for why it sounds so good in there. I just know that it does and it consistently does,” said popular local singer (and Economic Development Commissioner) Robert Fine.
Of course, every performer can have a rough night and Fine can remember at least one doozy in front of those long, elegant stage curtains. He was once booked for a dating club event and arrived to discover he was the sole entertainment and set to sing to recorded tracks on the stage alone for two hours; needless to say, he was down off that stage, trying to work the crowd in person in no time at all, sweat on the brow.
“It was a long night,” he laughed in interview this week.
But for every cringe-worthy moment, the performers who arrive at the base of Doyle Avenue to bring a laugh or a tear to our eyes have a dozen fond memories. KCT is the place Fine met his band, for instance, as both were booked for Kelowna’s 100th birthday celebration.
“It’s such an asset to a have in a smaller city that’s sort of working on becoming a bigger city,” he said. From Diana Krawl to Ray Charles, he can personally count a string of top talents he’s managed to see live without every leaving the valley thanks to the space.
Like Fine, Doug Sonju is a part of that talent. Sonju started playing at the theatre in 1971 with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, which was then an entirely amateur affair.
Now the principal clarinet for the OSO, Sonju remembers how the Black Box Theatre, in the back of KCT, was once a rehearsal room, though the sign on the door read “reheasal.”
He will be among the performers in a woodwind octet scheduled to play for the 50th anniversary concert. Joined by the OSO’s brand new principal flute, principal bassoon player and principal oboe player, he will be serenading the audience with Mozart as the full orchestral has yet to assemble for “reheasal.”
“We wanted the show to feature some of the theatre’s loyal tenants,” said Dale Allen Berg, of KeyNote Productions, the company producing the anniversary celebration.
While a string of big-name talent is planned for theatre’s 50th year, the actual anniversary itself will thus be all local.
Ballet Kelowna will bring a piece originally choreographed on its artistic director David LaHay, Lignes and Pointes, featuring two couples, one performing lifts that draw beautiful lines on stage in contrast to the couple working with strong footwork en pointe.
Originally choreographed by Brian Mcdonald and Brydon Paige of Les Grande Ballet Canadiens, the work was considered on the forefront of the avant-garde choreography that drew dance away from the strict structure of the formal ballets and into a new world of movement.
The ballet dancers will be joined by Theatre Kelowna Society, Wentworth Music, Dance City Academy, Fine, the OSO woodwinds, local jazz singer Anna Jacyszyn and opera singer Alexandra Babble.
The evening should prove an extraordinary testament to the talent KCT hosts every year and the scope of artistry working in the valley.
Tickets for the Golden Anniversary Showcase are $15 and available through Select Your Tickets or by calling 250-762-5050. The event runs Sept. 13.