Edmonton live entertainment venues return after a long intermission

November 17, 2021
Edmonton live entertainment venues return after a long intermission

After many months of show cancellations and delays, Alberta’s live music and theatre scenes are coming back to life. 

This month the Jubilee Auditoriums in Calgary and Edmonton held the first full productions since shutting down in March of 2020.

People that purchased their tickets more than two years ago finally got the see Alberta Ballet’s production of Swan Lake.

The Jubilee’s acting general manager Scott McTavish said getting back in the swing of things came easier than he expected.

“We weren’t as rested as we thought we might be. Most of our teams did return to us,” McTavish said.

“We’ve had a very low attrition rate on our front-of-house staff. And all of the stagehands, we’re back in fine form.”

For the performers, it was a tight turnaround but worth it to be back on stage performing.

Members of the Alberta Ballet returned to the studio in August, practising in small groups while wearing masks.

Alberta Ballet’s production of the Swan Lake was the first show at the Jubilee since shutting down in 2020. (Paul McGrath)

Co-artistic director Christopher Anderson said their first big production in over a year came together quickly.

“We did not see the entire production together with all 28 dancers until we went to the Jubilee,” Anderson said. “Which was on Tuesday prior to when we opened on Thursday. So we had 10 hours of rehearsal in the Jubilee trying to put the ballet together.

“But it was quite remarkable to then step out on stage.”

While the return to the stage was long-awaited, now a new kind of work begins behind the scenes.

​​At Festival Place in Strathcona County, they’re hard at work adjusting the schedule to fit all the missed shows from the past two years.

Artistic director and facility supervisor Steve Derpack said the calendar is more than full.

“No word of a lie, we are booked every single night,” Derpack said.

“There are a few openings in January, but aside from that, we are booked every single night from tonight until July 1st of 2022. And that is because we moved and back-ended so many shows from 2020 and 2021.”

From a financial standpoint, Derpack said while new tickets are being purchased many are from 2020.

“The things that are a little different are the forecasting, you know, being the person who is in charge of the budgets. I’m constantly asked by our finance groups what I think will happen ahead, and the answer is a shrug of the shoulders.” 

McTavish said at this point, after cancelling the performance a few times, he’s just happy to see them go forward.

“In a lot of ways, it’s a little bit like sending your kids off to college, we’re becoming empty nesters now that we’ve moved these shows around three times,” McTavish said.

“We can actually present them on stage, welcome Albertans back into the Jubilees. And then the show is gone and won’t return again, at least for another few years.”

As for the Alberta Ballet, they’re busy prepping to present The Nutcracker on stage in December.

With just a few tweaks for COVID-19 protocols.

“In a normal pre-COVID situation, with the orchestra and with the children we have 100 performers with Nutcracker. And so with our Nutcracker this year, we have several adjustments,” Anderson said.

“So we’re trying to re-imagine what that will look like and how we can sort of keep that charm and kind of find that in a new way.”

Despite the changes, and the stress of a packed schedule after two long years, everyone is just happy to be back.

“We’re feeling safer, feeling like we’re figuring this out, and that we’re able to work, and be able to share live performance again.”

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