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This article was published 26/12/2015 (547 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It should come as no surprise Odysseo, the $30-million equestrian and acrobatic arts show deemed the largest touring production in the world, is the biggest local entertainment story of the year.
Comprising 65 horses and 45 riders, acrobats and dancers — not to mention a life-sized carousel, a mountain and a lake on stage — Odysseo was truly a show of epic proportions.
Initially slated to run for two weeks, Odysseo raised the curtain on more than 50 performances during a nearly two-month stretch that sold more than 100,000 tickets — 25,000 of which came from out-of-town buyers.
From the time the massive 38-metre-tall white big top was erected at the corner of Sterling Lyon Parkway and Kenaston Boulevard in August, the city was abuzz about the "horse show" coming to town, though no one was really sure what it was about. Regardless, Winnipeg broke pre-show ticket records for Odysseo, buying up 40,000 before opening night Sept. 10 — almost double the pre-sale numbers of larger cities such as Toronto and Montreal.
Odysseo’s success meant good things for the local economy; Tourism Winnipeg estimates as much as $4 million was spent in the city on advertising, accommodations for crew and performers, development of the performance site, food suppliers and locally hired part-time help. In addition, visitors stayed in hotels, took taxis and bought food and gas.
As the tent was being raised a few weeks before opening night, Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd., tour show producer Cavalia Inc.’s partner in bringing the show to Winnipeg, said Odysseo would be the largest entertainment event staged in Manitoba. Turns out, he was right.
Here are some other highlights in Winnipeg’s arts scene during 2015:
Citytv’s sketch-comedy series, shot in and around Winnipeg’s Wolseley neighbourhood, premièred in January, and immediately established itself as the weirdest and best new Canadian-made entry in its genre since The Kids in the Hall and Codco arrived on Canuck TV in the late 1980s.
Created by comedy veterans Dan Redican (The Frantics) and Gary Pearson (Corner Gas, This Hour Has 22 Minutes), Sunnyside featured bizarre characters in a rapid-fire collection of sketch-length scenes and sight gags, with each instalment featuring an offbeat theme (stray ponies, a clown invasion, on-the-loose convicts) that added an extra twist to the episode’s humour.
Oddblock Comedy Festival
Winnipeg comedian John B. Duff and Park Theatre owner Erick Casselman had an idea for a new, late-summer festival in Winnipeg, and it turned out to be quite inspired. Patterned after the long-running Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Ore., Oddblock’s game plan involved creating a focused and funny four-day event involving dozens of shows and more than 50 performers crammed into a handful of venues in a two-block stretch of south Osborne Street.
The festival’s inaugural lineup boasted some of North America’s top alt-comedy names — including James Adomian, Eddie Pepitone, Michelle Buteau, Ron Lynch, Pat Thornton, Drennon Davis and Karen Kilgariff — and the tightly packed schedule attracted full-house audiences to shows throughout Oddblock’s extended-weekend run.
Winnipeg Art Gallery
The Winnipeg Art Gallery made news on two fronts in 2015. It looked to the past with the exhibit Olympus, which opened in April, when it unveiled ancient Greek and Roman antiquities on loan from museums in Berlin.
The gallery then looked to the future, as plans for a new Inuit Art Centre began to come to fruition. The provincial government mentioned the project during the Nov. 16 throne speech, then four days later, Premier Greg Selinger committed $15 million to the centre, which gallery CEO Stephen Borys called a "game-changing contribution."
In December, BMO Financial Group donated $1 million to the project, becoming the largest private donor for the centre, which is expected to begin construction by the end of 2016.
Filming of A Dog’s Purpose
The Manitoba summer became a backdrop for the filming of Disney’s A Dog’s Purpose, a multimillion-dollar adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron’s 2010 best-selling novel. The film, which stars Bradley Cooper, Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton, was shot at locations in western Manitoba, near Lockport, and several spots in Winnipeg.
A couple of streets in Riverview were transformed back to the late 1950s and early ’60s, replete with a platoon of classic cars that matched the post-Second World War homes that are a trademark of the area.
The film, directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat), also put out a call for 2,000 paid extras.
Winnipeg continued to be a hotbed for the world’s hottest rock, pop and country performers. Acts such as Ed Sheeran, Shania Twain, The Weeknd and Luke Bryan performed at the MTS Centre while One Direction played the Investors Group Field in July and AC/DC rocked the football stadium in September.
The Burton Cummings Theatre, already one of the city’s busiest concert halls, promises to be even busier in 2016 when its managers, True North Sports & Entertainment, said it would try to attract more touring Broadway shows to the former vaudeville stage. It got the ball rolling with Dancing in the Streets, a Motown-based musical from London’s West End, which will perform at the Burt on March 11, and A Night With Janis Joplin, with its original Broadway cast, which makes a seven-show stop April 5-10.
A new music festival hit the summer circuit this year, and though it was initially met with some skepticism, Interstellar Rodeo won over the hearts of thousands of Winnipeggers who set up camp at The Forks for a steamy August weekend of great tunes.
Created by Six Shooter Records, Interstellar focused not just on music — though a lineup of headliners included Sarah McLachlan, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Vance Joy and Blue Rodeo — but also on the idea of pairing wine with each performer.
The entire festival grounds were licensed, so servers were able to walk around to concert-goers and offer them wine, specifically chosen to go with the musicians on stage, at their seat. Interstellar was also smaller than many other summer music festivals, but that contributed to a relaxed vibe and general organization that many patrons found impressive.
The only complaint issued was the cost, both of tickets and of the wine, but for those who didn’t mind shelling out a few extra bucks for a more intimate, mature experience, Interstellar Rodeo will be a must-attend event when it returns in August 2016.
The Book of Mormon, one of the biggest commercial and critical successes in recent years on Broadway, brought its touring production to Winnipeg March 17-22 and it didn’t disappoint.
The Tony Award-winning comedy played to packed houses and grossed $1.4 million in box office revenue, a record for a theatre production at the Centennial Concert Hall.
The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival set records of its own in 2015. The 28th annual festival sold 108,706 tickets, almost 4,000 more than 2014’s edition, which held the old attendance mark. There were 237 sold-out shows and the 181 companies — another Fringe record — split over $800,000 in box office revenue.