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Neptune Theatre

A Halifax Holiday

Jeremy Webb's A Christmas Carol

Jeremy Webb returns as Scrooge in a Christmas Carol.

With its rich history and diverse population, Halifax has many beloved traditions and events to mark the Christmas season. The unofficial kickoff to Halifax’s holidays comes on November 17 with the Holiday Parade of Lights. This popular annual parade will draw some 100,000 spectators, so stake out a good vantage point early. The parade begins on Barrington Street, wending its way through the downtown, west on Spring Garden Road. There will be music, entertainment, floats galore and a visit from Santa Claus.

The action returns downtown on November 24, as Grand Parade square in front of City Hall hosts the city’s Christmas Tree Lighting. Once again, there will be family-friendly entertainment and a visit from St. Nick. If you miss that, you get a do-over on December 1. Drop by Sullivan’s Pond for the Dartmouth Christmas Tree Lighting . The agenda includes a concert by Razzmatazz, fireworks and free rides on the Santa Claus Express Train.

As you’d expect, there are holiday concerts aplenty as well. On November 28, Cape Breton songstress Rita MacNeil performs her annual Christmas show at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue. Joined by pianist Frank Mills, she presents traditional holiday tunes.

And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the return of two wildly popular annual productions by Symphony Nova Scotia. Running from December 7 to 13 is an elaborate production of The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s heartwarming story of a
little girl whisked into a fairytale land features performers from Halifax Dance and elaborate puppetry by Mermaid Theatre. Up next at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue is the Symphony’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Guest soloists and the 80-voice Symphony Chorus give full impact to the Baroque masterpiece.

If you’re not in the holiday spirit by December 23, return to the Dalhousie Arts Centre for the annual Barra MacNeils Christmas concert. Another annual holiday favourite, this one pays homage to the province’s Celtic roots, as the Cape Breton group shares old-time music.

November and December are jammed with holiday plays and stage shows, too. The holiday show at Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street this year is Elf: The Musical. Based on the popular Will Ferrell comedy, it’s the fairytale story of Buddy. Raised as one of Santa’s elves, he discovers he’s human and heads to New York to track down his father.

On December 10, celebrations take a hilarious twist with Tis the Season. Cape Breton comedians Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison team up for a sidesplitting look at the holidays. If it never quite feels like Christmas until you see Scrooge, so drop by the Cunard Centre on December 13 for Jeremy Webb’s one-man performance of A Christmas Carol. After performing the show for several Christmases, Webb is an expert at bringing Scrooge’s uplifting tale to life.

Finally, say good-bye to 2012 and welcome 2013 on December 31 with the annual New Year’s Eve celebrations in Grand Parade square on Barrington Street. Beginning at 9:30 p.m., local TV personalities host a rollicking all-ages celebration, with live music and a spectacular fireworks display at midnight.

The Culture Club: Halifax’s Cultural Institutions Return

Raoul Bhaneja plays all 17 parts in the Neptune Theatre two-hour solo production of Hamlet.

With Shakespeare, Vivaldi and the hottest young musical innovators, October sees a trio of cultural institutions return to Halifax.

With old favourites and new acts you have yet to hear about, Halifax has plenty to offer music and theatre fans this month. Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street, Atlantic Canada’s largest (and one of its oldest) professional theatres, kicked of its season last month with the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A smash hit in London, the Victorian musical—by turns comic and macabre—is the tale of a wronged man, returning to London for an imaginative revenge on the judge who stole his wife and family. It runs until October 7.

Up next in Neptune’s Studio Series is a remarkable production of Hamlet. Canadian Raoul Bhaneja plays all 17 parts in the two-hour solo show, bringing Shakespeare’s tragedy to life in an energetic and technically flawless performance. Hamlet runs from October 9 to 21.
Back on Neptune’s mainstage, the month concludes with the latest work from acclaimed Nova Scotian playwright Daniel MacIvor. In Bingo, a group of adults return to their Cape Breton roots for their 30th high-school reunion. It’s a funny, thought-provoking story of friendship and growing up—and the nice guy finally getting the girl. See it from October 16 to November 4.

Music fans are also in for a great month in Halifax. After teasing audiences with small free shows during Symphony Week last month, Symphony Nova Scotia launches its new season with Haydn’s Creation at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue. For the first time in more than a decade, the Symphony and the Symphony Nova Scotia Chorus are tackling Haydn’s soaring, triumphant, ambitious composition. See it on October 6, with an encore on October 7.
The Symphony offers more for classical purists on October 14 with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Guest violinist David Stewart, former concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic, leads the orchestra through the baroque masterpiece. This show is at Saint Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road.

Don’t think Symphony Nova Scotia is stuck in the past, though. This month it lends its considerable talents to the Halifax Pop Explosion, an annual festival of alt/indie music, showcasing emerging talents from around the world. On October 19, as part of the festival, West Coast folk-rocker Dan Mangan joins the Symphony for a unique
musical collaboration.

And with 150 bands playing at 18 different venues around the city, the Halifax Pop Explosion has much more to offer music lovers. Other highlights include Gianna Lauren and Al Tuck at The Carleton on October 16, Wintersleep at Olympic Hall on Hunter Street on October 18, and Mardeen at the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street October 20.

A monster season

Two of the city’s biggest cultural institutions launch exciting new seasons.

Neptune Theatre is the biggest professional theatre in Atlantic Canada, so the launch of a new season is always a big deal. This year, the new season begins on September 13 with Frankenstein. Continuing through October 9, it’s a bold and ambitious retelling of the Mary Shelley classic.

For a theatre company that spent last season highlighting Shakespeare, it may seem a bit of a left turn, but artistic director George Pothitos is constantly working to challenge audiences. “At Neptune, we strive to inspire our audiences with great stories,” he says. “The plays we’ve chosen this year reflect this.”

Other highlights this season include the classic The Jungle Book (November 22 to January 8), the world premiere of Norm Foster’s Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out and the fabulously glitzy La Cage aux Folles (April 10 to May 27).

“They are a blend of intelligent, engaging, funny, challenging and whimsical theatrical experiences,” Pothitos says. “The struggles and triumphs of these characters from around the world—India, France, Switzerland, Newfoundland, Calgary and New York—illuminate our own lives, our struggles and our triumphs.”

In addition to the main-stage shows, Neptune boasts an intimate Studio Stage where it offers even more for fans. The season there begins with the poignant tale of aging, Another Home Invasion (October 11 to 23). “Our quest for excellence and innovation is present in everything we do,” Pothitos says. “The plays and musicals we program, the directors we choose, and the designers, actors and creative staff we thoughtfully assemble. They all come together to create a unique theatrical event.”

Meanwhile, music fans are anxiously awaiting the start of Symphony Nova Scotia’s new season. They’ll have to be patient until September 20, when Symphony Week features a variety of free concerts at venues around the city, previewing the new season.

The first full concert of the season is on September 30 at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue in Halifax. And it’s also one of the orchestra’s most exciting shows of the season. Juno-award winning singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman takes the stage for his first orchestral show. Workman is one of the most innovative musicians in rock today, so this is sure to be an unforgettable show. There’s an encore performance on October 1.

Under Maestro Bernhard Gueller, Symphony Nova Scotia has become known for its ability to embrace new styles and artists. “Symphony Nova Scotia is the most versatile orchestra in Canada,” says legendary conductor Howard Cable. Still active at age 91, Cable joins the Symphony to conduct The Big Band Era on October 4.

After the Hawksley Workman show, the Symphony races into a busy season. Other highlights include the Christmas classics The Nutcracker and Handel’s Messiah in December, The Music of Pink Floyd in February and the French Festival from April 18 to 22.