Setting the musical into motion, the drums and piano begin to play together in harmony. The joy in the audience is palpable; clapping and stomping their feet in rhythm with the music, singing their day-to-day burdens away.
Alberta Kitchen Party, whose last show runs tonight, is a musical story of five young artists in Calgary exploring their own lives while sharing a common interest in music.
Joe Slabe, musical director at Forte Musical Theatre Guild which works with Alberta Theatre Projects, says the concept for the show came from Darcy Evans. Evans, the former artistic director, envisioned the show as a joyful reopening to the theatre post-pandemic but died in 2020 before seeing his vision come to life.
“He wanted a celebration, he wanted these particular artists with their multi-talents to be playing and singing and just having a good time,” Slabe said. “I think that people who know the history of the company will recognize that that’s a tribute to Darcy.”
Producing a play in a pandemic
The play was originally scheduled for March 2021, but the pandemic and constant revising of restrictions pushed the date of production. The cast and crew tried alternatives to keep the show going.
“Trying to create a show on Zoom. Terrible. It’s so hard,” Slabe said. “We did a couple of weeks worth of workshops at different times to come up with stories and song ideas and you just reach a point where you can’t do it over Zoom anymore.”
Despite setbacks, the show kicked off the opening night on March 2 and finishes today, March 19.
Kodie Rollan, who took on roles behind the scenes with Alberta Theatre Projects, is now showcasing his craft through acting and singing and is excited to be a part of the team.
“I have forgotten what it feels like to be on stage. I’ve forgotten what the adrenaline feels like to feed off of an audience. So it was really weird at first. It was definitely an adjustment but it’s still a very, very special feeling,” Rollan said.
Stars in the making
Rollan and the ensemble of Anna Dalgleish, Alixandra Cowman, Jeremy Carver-James and Daniel Fong come from different levels of experience but are all familiar with the ins and outs of the theatrical stage.
“This is my first show that’s autobiographical, in some sense. So a lot of the shows that I’ve performed in the past, I’ve had to don a character that someone else has written. But this is the first time that I’ve gotten to co-create a piece around the truth about my life,” Rollan said.
It all came together because of a variety of ideas. Slabe’s biggest contribution was putting the pieces together.
“We’re all co-creators. We all brought the story to the table. We all brought songs to the table, but then there has to be a sequence of the things that happened,” he said.
What to expect
“There’s going to be some songs that you recognize, there’s going to be some new songs that are really exciting,” Slabe said.
The audience can expect to jam out to the Panic! At The Disco song ‘Hey Look Ma, I Made It’ performed by Rollan, his favourite song from the show.
Slabe says the opening number ‘Ain’t no Party like a Kitchen Party’ written by Jeremy Carver-James best encompasses the play as it tells the story of all the characters involved through one song.
After two years of fear, anxiety and isolation, Slabe said, “It’s what we need right now. I’ve heard this from several people who said, ‘I didn’t know how much I needed this until I saw it’. I think it’s good for your soul.”
The play begins energetically but as the scenes get more intimate as characters share personal stories, it mellows with the cast hoping the ending will resonate with the audience.
“Especially now when things are still very difficult with our world, there’s still a lot of heaviness in the air. A little bit of joy is something we can all hold onto,” Rollan said.