Review: “Waiting for the Parade” at Alberta Theatre Projects

Vicki Trask 

  • Calgary Critic

Go and see “Waiting for the Parade” at Alberta Theatre Projects. 

I really shouldn’t need to say more but if you insist…

In 1978, the world premiere of this John Murrell play was presented at the Canmore Opera House by ATP. Now, in celebration of their 45th Season, this tale of the women left behind in WWII is brought to the stage once again under the brilliant direction of Kate Newby (a woman dedicated to bringing forth female-centric shows). This is a Canadian piece of art through and through. Told from the perspective of five Calgarian women during the Second World War, we’re transported back to a time of uncertainty, intolerance, and hope as these women work hard to keep the home fires burning.

I am absolutely drawn to shows featuring powerful leading women and this script features five in varying degrees of certainty, status, and confidence – if that is something that interests you, then this is your show.

One by one, these women come out to tell their story; not as characters or actors but as women with a history and connection to the lives they’re about to present. During the Afternoon of September 24th, I was mesmerized. These women were powerful and real. I felt their pain and sorrow, their hope and laughter; their fears.

The cast was brilliant; dynamic, honest, and lively. I loved the spark they brought to their stories. From the uptight, patriotic leader Catherine; to the vibrant, down to earth Janet; to the unassuming, naïve school teacher Eve; to the tired, lonely Margaret; to the kind, heartbroken German tailor Marta. These women wove a beautiful tale. 

The actresses, presented in the program as:
Janelle Cooper – Janet
Allison Lynch – Marta (also the Vocal Director)
Sabryn Rock – Catherine
Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan – Margaret (also the Choreographer)
Selina Wong – Eve

Should be judged individually on the merit of their talent but if I had to use a word to encompass their performance it would be: rooted. This play is not memorably funny, or tear-jerking, or overtly thought provoking, but it is passion rooted in truth.  It is real. The women presented are imperfect and not everything is resolved with a pretty bow in the last ten minutes of the show. It is a photograph of a life presented in two acts.

Set and costume design by Gillian Gallow were perfectly matched with Harry Frehner’s lighting design which highlighted the women’s features – their look, and emotions – but never outshone them. Paired with Anton de Groot’s soundscape stroll down memory lane, the stage was set for the next two hours of beautiful storytelling. 

I am still humming the tunes, longing for Janet’s dress and Marta’s hair, and wondering where I can find that many lamps. 

If you are looking for a show with passion and sincerity, then I suggest you head to the Martha Cohen Theatre downtown. Calgary, this is who you were (this is who the world was); limping, blind, and bigoted but still standing tall. 

“Waiting for the Parade” will run until October 1st at the Arts Commons so get your tickets.