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what to do in edmonton

For the Thrill Seeker: 5 Thrilling Edmonton Attractions

Skydiver in freefall high up in the air
You only need 60 seconds to pack in all the thrills that skydiving has to offer! Whether you want to take the plunge for the first time or are an experienced jumper, dive from Canada’s fastest jump plane to experience an exhilarating 120 mph freefall. Skydive season starts April 1, and several jumps take place daily. Edmonton Skydive, 59523 RR 260, Westlock County, 780-884-5867, edmontonskydive.com

NEED FOR SPEED Race your car or motorbike down the one quarter mile drag strip Fast and the Furious style at Castrol Raceway during JB’s Power Centre Street Legal races every Friday night. If snow is keeping you off the tracks, head to Speeders Indoor ProKarts track to race electric powered pro-karts. Castrol Raceway, Highway 19 & Highway 2, Nisku, 780-468-3278, castrolraceway.com. Speeders Indoor ProKarts, 13145-149 St., 780-451-4377, speeders.ca.

HIGH FLYING FUN Soar 450 feet across the world’s largest indoor zipline with Line Tech Ziplines. You’ll get a view of the World Waterpark, where thrill seekers will want to try water slides like Cyclone where a trap door opens to release riders into a vertical free fall, before they encounter a gravity defying loop. West Edmonton Mall, 8882-170 St., 780-489-8147, linetechziplines.com.

TRIPLE THE FUN If you’re always in line to try the fastest, most topsy-turvy rides at amusement parks, you won’t want to pass up a ride on the Mindbender! It’s the world’s largest indoor triple-loop roller coaster, reaching heights of up to 14 stories and speeds up to 100 km/h. If you’re not too dizzy after the ride, head over to Space Shot to get launched 120 feet high in less than two seconds, all before plummeting back to the ground below. Galaxyland at West Edmonton Mall, 8882-170 St., 780-444-5300, wem.ca.

NATURE AT HIGH SPEED Take a drive off the beaten path and experience the great outdoors on a snowmobile or quad — either one might be suitable for the weather this time of year! Visit altasnowmobile.ab.ca or aohva.com for information on trails and rentals near the city. Pioneer Offroad Rentals, 7907 Davies Rd., 780-454-1010, pioneerrentals.ca. Expedition Rentals, 7012-82 Ave., 780-932-2746, expeditionrentals.ca.

Joshua Bell Concert in Edmonton

Violinist Joshua Bell is a classical music icon and legend, and is certainly one of the most celebrated and familiar violinists in the world. He continues to amaze audiences and attract accolades for his talent and career that spans over 30 years.

If his name or legacy doesn’t ring a bell (pun definitely intended), perhaps you’re familiar with the renowned experiment conducted by Gene Weingarten at The Washington Post in 2007. In Pearls Before Breakfast, Weingarten details how Bell staged a nondescript and unannounced performance at a metro station in New York, going virtually unnoticed and garnering only $32 from passersby for a performance that people would normally pay hundreds of dollars to see in a concert hall.

Bell’s famous violin, a 1713 Huberman Stradivarius, is integral to Bell’s career with its own impressive history. As Bell himself writes, “it is overwhelming to think of how many amazing people have held it and heard it . . . I am always touched to think . . . of the musicians Huberman saved from the Holocaust — with funds raised by concerts performed on the very same instrument I play every day”. Bell says he considers it an honour to be the Huberman’s caregiver on its 300th Birthday this year.

Joshua Bell performs in Edmonton September 24, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Winspear Centre.

Joshua Bell performs in Edmonton September 24, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Winspear Centre.

Bell will be performing at the Winspear Centre in Edmonton for an exclusive engagement — one of the only Canadian tour dates this year — on September 24, 2013, which marks his first return to the city since 2008. Playing alongside the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO), Bell’s performance will include Tchaikovsky’s beautiful Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 35.

Bell says he was first in Edmonton over 25 years ago near the beginning of his career “around the time the mall had just opened up”. Ah, the still-defining West Edmonton Mall. “I’m looking forward to coming back to Edmonton,” Bell says. “In the past I’ve been very impressed with the ESO, it’s a very good orchestra for a city of that size. I’ve found that Edmonton’s commitment to the symphony and to the arts is very good, it’s very commendable, and it really stands out in an unexpected way. Playing with the ESO is memorable.”

Bell has spent the summer touring different cities and says playing in a variety of cities is an opportunity to refresh familiar pieces and prevents him from getting burned out. “I may be playing a piece I’ve done a lot of times — I’ve performed the Tchaikovsky concerto over 35 times this summer, it’s just one of the standards of the repertoire that is really wonderful to play — but with a new orchestra to play with and a new conductor, it always allows for a new take on the piece which is good. The audience’s reaction is also very unique and their energy and response adds to the performance.”

Those without a referent to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major Op. 35 may have no idea what such a performance entails, but one need not be familiar with Bell’s style or any classical music to enjoy the upcoming performance. “The nice thing about the Tchaikovsky concerto is that it does two things,” Bell says. “Classical connoisseurs will be familiar with it as a work of genius, it has so much in it and they’ll adore the piece. Then someone who may have never even heard classical music before will be immediately drawn to the piece.

“[Tchaikovsky’s concerto] is engaging, it’s a good entry way pieces because you can immediately fall in love with it. You don’t need any prior knowledge or technical interest to enjoy it, it’s very easily likeable upon first hearing it. It’s a very visceral and exciting and beautiful piece, it’s one that gets the adrenaline rushing and is just so engaging. Even for kids or teenagers who have ever only gone to rock concert before and think this sort of music is boring, I say… come to this one! It’s different than what you might think of classical musical; it’s one that will get you excited and engaged.”

If that still seems daunting, most audiences will be familiar with the music on Bell’s forthcoming holiday album, Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends. Bell says he decided on a holiday theme for the album because the holidays have always been very important to him. “The Christmas holidays were always just a special, significant time for family and friends, we’d get together and exchange gifts and play music together. The album is more than just Christmas songs but it still has a holiday feel.” Bell says he really liked the formula of his 2009 album At Home with Friends where he collaborated with some recognizable artists — and, appropriately, friends of his —   from all different genres to make a “soiree of music”. “I brought that same idea to the holiday album, that lovely collaborative aspect of performance, to play some Christmas songs and some just related to holidays.” The album features performances with Gloria Estefan, Alison Krauss, Kristin Chenoweth, trumpeter Chris Botti, and opera stars Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming.

Joshua Bell performs with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra at the Winspear Centre on Tuesday, September 24, 7:30 pm. Tickets available at www.winspearcentre.com or 1-800-563-5081.

Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends will be available on October 15, 2013 from Sony Masterworks.

— Breanna Mroczek

Edmonton Fall Theatre Guide

The stage has been set for another great theatre season! From provocative, edge-of-your seat dramas to rolling-in-the-aisles comedies, Edmonton’s diverse theatre scene has something for everyone.

The cast of Die-Nasty: An Improvised Soap Opera

The cast of Die-Nasty: An Improvised Soap Opera

Varscona Theatre

September 13 – 15
To preview the return of Edmonton’s legendary Die-Nasty improvised soap opera show, this marathon 50-hour long show features continuous improv performances from cast members (most of them going without sleep!) for an entire weekend. You can come-and-go throughout the performance, though you can bet things get the most zany around the wee hours of the morning!

Whiplash Weekend
October 10 – 20
What do an award winning swimmer, a race car driver, and a serial divorcee have in common? They’re all characters in this hilarious situational comedy! Set in 1966, this play depicts the antics, misguided romantic pursuits, and vengeful plots that unfold during an unforgettable weekend in Cape Cod. Presented by Teatro La Quindicina.

Mayfield Dinner Theatre

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline
September 6 – November 3
This musical tribute follows the career of Patsy Cline, one of the biggest legends of country music, from her humble beginnings in small town Virginia to the big time playing Carnegie Hall in New York. Featuring 20 of her biggest hits including “Crazy”, “Walkin’ After Midnight”, and “Sweet Dreams”, this story of a powerful woman with an unforgettable voice is a delight for audiences of all ages.

A Conversation with Van Wilmott, Artistic Director at Mayfield Theatre

Where Edmonton (WE): What is your vision for the production of A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline?

Van Wilmott (VW): To make it as good of a production as it can be. It has all the prerequisites of a great show. Great music, and a good book.

WE: How are you making it accessible for those who might be unfamiliar with her story or her music?

VW: The show is very accessible. If an audience member is not familiar with the bulk of the material that is being presented in the show, they are in for a real treat. The music is bright and catchy with a  lot of tap along kinds of songs, and of course she has the huge hit “Crazy” maybe one of the greatest popular songs of all time!!

WE: What about the show do you think will most intrigue fans of Patsy Cline who have already heard her music and her story?

VW: If on the other hand you are a Patsy fan, you will know every song and will just sit back  and be amazed at how well Sarah Jeanne  Hosie delivers them. That’s no easy task. Patsy Cline has one of the greatest voices ever recorded, and Sara Jeanne nails it !The show is also very well balanced with comedy, resting in the very capable hands of the character Little Big Man, played by the equally amazing Sheldon Bergstrom. The combination of the two make for a great night out!

WE: Do you have a particular favourite song/number in the show?

VW: As far as a favourite song,Im going to have to go with “Crazy”. They just don’t get much better than that!

WE: This year’s lineup of shows features comedy, drama, and musicals. What do you think all good theatre presentations should strive to do well, regardless of genre? What do you keep in mind regardless of whether you’re directing a drama, comedy, musical, etc?

VW: Telling a good story. Every good play of any genre does that. It is our job to make sure that the  production is engaging and entertaining. The audience needs to be invested in it. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a comedy, tragedy, musical  or drama, it comes down to good story telling. It’s very important to get the right people involved. Every production is a different animal , and requires an ensemble with a variety of talents, whether they are actors or designers, directors, or musicians. It’s a bit of a job to get that sorted out at the beginning but it’s a huge step into getting it right!

Citadel Theatre

Long Day’s Journey Into Night
September 21 – October 13
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Eugene O’Neill, this moving, emotional play explores the day in a life of a dysfunctional family affected by addiction, resent, and loss.

Daisy Theatre
September 28 – November 17
Originally performed at Toronto’s renowned annual Luminato Festival, this cabaret-style theatre show blends improv, variety acts, music, monologues, short plays — and puppets! Inspired by underground theatre “daisy” puppet shows that were performed in secret during World War II, the mostly-improvised show means that not two performances will be the same — yet they will all be hilarious, a little bit ridiculous, and a lot of fun.

2 Pianos 4 Hands
October 26 – November 17
This hilariously silly musical comedy details the story of two young boys working towards concert pianist stardom. It has been performed 4,000 times around the world since 1996, and now the shows original stars Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt are back to perform in the farewell tour.

A Conversation with Bob Baker, Artistic Director at Citadel Theatre

Where Edmonton (WE):  The 2013-14 season includes a wide variety of themes and genres. What do you think is one thing that all good theatre presentations should strive to do well, regardless of genre? What do you keep in mind regardless of whether you’re directing a drama, comedy, musical, etc?

Bob Baker (BB): No matter what genre or style of play (comedy, drama, musical, classical, contemporary), it is essential that the play connects with an audience on an emotional level. Everything has relevance if it is truthful. The audience comes to see a story and to see themselves reflected from the stage. If the actors have integrity and emotional honesty, the audience will care about their characters, engage in their journey and experience a variety of emotions.

WE: In regards to the first play of the season, Long Day’s Journey Into Night: This play has won prestigious Tony and Pulitizer awards for excellence in writing and performance. What about this makes it easier and/or more difficult to direct — how do you preserve what is perhaps inherently excellent about the play while still allowing room to make it your own unique adaptation?

BB: Our job is to bring life to the playwright’s vision. Initially, it is daunting to take on a Great Masterwork because of its history and massive preconceptions. But these plays are great because the author, with great skill and humanity, has told a compelling story and created emotionally and psychologically complex characters. If we, the interpreters, passionately commit ourselves to truth and honesty in portraying these characters, we will have created a unique and relevant experience.

Jubilations Dinner Theatre

Best of Friends Reunion
September 1 – October 27
What if Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross — the characters from the beloved TV show Friends — reunited, 10 years after their show ended? Set to hit songs from the 1990s, this fun musical is your chance to catch up with the gang!

In the time since we last saw six of our favourite “Friends,” Monica’s decided to buy Central Perk and turn it into a restaurant, Joey and Phoebe are married (or so they say), and Rachel is not convinced Ross is putting his best effort into the relationship. The humour characteristic of the popular 90s sitcom is revived in this musical with “flashback” re-creations of classic Friends moments (including the time Monica and Rachel lose their apartment), new silly shenanigans, and plenty of catchy 90s songs (I was hoping to hear a Spice Girls number and, to my delight, there were two!) Dinner is served one course at a time, starting with soup, salad, and bread, followed by a choice of one of four entrees, and finishing with dessert. You may recognize some “friends” wandering around the dining area before the show begins; don’t be surprised if Rachel wants to gossip about Monica, or if Joey attempts to get your phone number. The actual stage show takes place in between courses, which makes for a nicely paced evening of good food and entertainment. Fans of the series will enjoy how well the actors convey the mannerisms of the characters (they must have watched several episodes of the show in preparation; hard work!), and love the throwbacks to favourite episodes. If you weren’t familiar with the original sitcom, this show has a lot of situational humour and a lot of quirky, fun moments that can be enjoyed without further knowledge of the show.

Walterdale Playhouse

October 16 – 26
This lyrical adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel is provocative, whimsical, and chilling. The vengeful creatures in this story are definitely not the Twilight kind of vampires!


Canadian Country Music Awards and Country Music in Edmonton

Canadian artist Brett Kissell will perform at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Edmonton on September 8, and host the CCMA Legends Show: A Tribute to Yesterday & Today on September 6. Photo courtesy of Warner Music Canada.

Canadian artist Brett Kissell will perform at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Edmonton on September 8, and host the CCMA Legends Show: A Tribute to Yesterday & Today on September 6.
Photo courtesy of Warner Music Canada

Country music fans takes over the city with dozens of events that celebrate talented Canadian country music artists. Meet your favourite musician during FanFest, watch intimate songwriting and guitar sets, party with nationally recognized talents during Rock’n Country Cabaret, and cheer on the top artists during the prestigious televised Canadian Country Music Awards ceremony. You don’t have to be a country fan-atic to enjoy the festivities! With 24 events, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during Canadian Country Music week! Visit www.ccma.org for a complete schedule of all Canadian Country Music Week events that will take place in Edmonton.

See all your favourite country music superstars in one show! The broadcast-live CCMA Awards on Sunday, September 8 will feature performances by national talents Gord Bamford, Dean Brody, Emerson Drive, Autumn Hill, Brett Kissel, Tim Hicks, Deric Ruttan, Tebey, Bobby Wills Autumn Hill, Jason Blaine, Chad Brownlee, George Canyon, High Valley, Kira Isabella, Small Town Pistols, and Dallas Smith.The impressive lineup of Canadian artists will be accompanied by performances from international stars The Band Perry, Hunter Hayes, and Darius Rucker (yep, the singer from Hootie & the Blowfish. You know you still have his catchy hit “Wagon Wheel” stuck in your head!)

Tickets for the Canadian Country Music Awards are available via Ticketmaster. Discount packages that include accommodations and tickets to 5 CCM Week events (including the awards show) are available via Destination Edmonton.

Country music fanatic? Here are 8 more country music concerts set for Edmonton this fall: