By Jessica Lovell
There was no mistaking the delight in cultural development general manager Colleen Clack’s voice when she announced that Jann Arden would be performing in Guelph as part of the 2014-15 season at the River Run Centre.
“I’ve been trying for years,” Clack told an audience of volunteers, sponsors and community members at the centre’s season launch event on Tuesday.
“We on our own could never entice Jann to come to Guelph,” she said, explaining that it was only by working with other area cultural venues to offer the star multiple bookings that Guelph was able to score the big-name act. “I’m very pleased,” she said.
Arden, a multiple Juno Award winner, will play the main stage on Feb. 28, 2015. The date itself is a victory for Clack.
When working with other performance arts venues, “we always fight over who gets the best date,” she said. “I won. I got the Saturday night.”
Arden’s show is clearly expected to be popular. It is the only show that fans cannot rush out and buy tickets for right away, and it is excluded from a 30 per cent early bird discount available to anyone buying tickets for four or more shows before Aug. 31. Arden tickets go on sale Oct. 1.
But Arden, who will be part of the Richardson GMP Music Series, is not the only big name in the River Run’s upcoming lineup.
“This is a season of a lot of headline acts for us,” said Clack.
In the same series as Arden, audiences will have the chance to see Jim Cuddy, of Blue Rodeo fame, Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle performing in a solo show, and singer-songwriter Sarah Slean.
In keeping with the season’s theme, “WOW! Headline acts all season,” the launch event featured a performance by Slean to give people a taste of what to expect from the upcoming season.
“I put on a fancy dress and painted my nails to come to Guelph and play three songs at 1:30 p.m.,” Slean joked with the audience between the moody songs she sang while playing on the piano.
When she comes to Guelph in February, Slean will be playing some music from a recent symphonic album, she said, promising there would be some strings joining her on stage.
“Maybe one day, we’ll convince the Guelph Symphony Orchestra that we need to do a show together,” she said.
The orchestra does figure into this season, returning for the Wooly Kinderconcerts – which introduce young children to live performance – and performing as part of the Linamar for the Performing Arts Series – a school program that brings 14,000 students to the River Run Centre each year.
Other season highlights for children include the return of DuffleBag Theatre doing a version of A Christmas Carol; Ballet Jörgen performing the Velveteen Rabbit; and children’s entertainer Fred Penner – who parents may actually get most excited about.
“All the people who are my age grew up listening to Fred Penner,” Clack said.
Another potentially nostalgic act is The Official Blues Brothers Revue, produced by Dan Aykroyd and Judith Belushi and based on the band founded by Aykroyd and John Belushi in the 1970s.
The show is part of the RBC Showcase Series, which also includes the Toronto Dance Theatre and choral group The Vienna Boys Choir – an announcement that was met with sounds of approval from the audience.
There is also more Canadian music coming with the Borealis Music Series, a series that “is about celebrating Canadian singers and songwriters and musicians,” said Clack.
The series will bring repeat performances from Justin Hines, known for his international charitable work, and local singer-songwriter Tannis Slimmon, who played to a sold-out crowd on her last visit to the River Run, said Clack.
The series also includes up-and-comer Jenn Grant, as the River Run also works to book those acts that are expected to become big names, said Clack.
Although musical acts seem to dominate the season, there are also quite a few big names coming as part of the Guelph Infiniti Comedy Series.
These include the return of the Second City, with its The Meme-ing of Life show, and the popular Just for Laughs Road Show. This season, the “Veterans of SNL” – Rob Schneider, Tim Meadows and Chris Kattan – will also be making an appearance, as will Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder of This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
“We’re very excited to have him coming to Guelph for the first time,” said Clack.
People wanting to take advantage of early-bird deals, or just check out the complete season, are encouraged to visit the River Run’s updated website, riverrun.ca. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 519-763-3000.