Saskatoon Entertainment Center is waiting for the show to start again


The Broadway Theater stands in silence, yearning for the seats to be full, for the lights to shine, and for the curtain to rise again.

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As dusk approaches, a towering, dazzling sign visible from all angles on Broadway Avenue draws crowds.

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Guests walk through bright blue doors into the lobby where they can grab a bag of popcorn or a glass of wine to relax on Monday. Ticket in hand, spectators carefully scan the rows of burgundy seats to locate their seats for the nearly sold-out show. The staff take care of all the last minute tasks while the audience impatiently waits.

It was March 2, 2020. No member of the audience, staff, volunteer, or performer could have known that Molly Sarlé and headliner Andy Shauf were giving the last normal performance the Broadway Theater would host for more than a year. an – and it continues.

Arts, Culture and Community: Since 1946, these are the three words that guide everything 100% community owned and operated theater stands for.

“We could not have existed or succeeded at all if we had remained a one or even three round pony,” says Kirby Wirchenko, artistic director and executive of the theater.

Kirby Wirchenko is the director of the Broadway Theater in Saskatoon.  Photo taken on Monday, December 16, 2019.
Kirby Wirchenko is the director of the Broadway Theater in Saskatoon. Photo taken on Monday, December 16, 2019. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Aiden McRorie was introduced to the versatility of Broadway in her first week on the job over two years ago. Within a week, she worked on a live show with Steven Page, formerly of the Barenaked Ladies, picked up popcorn for a niche movie night, attended a large-scale podcast recording and a few days later saw a whole dance group pass by. .

Today, McRorie is an office manager and community outreach coordinator. She works to find artists, mostly from Saskatchewan.

“We are known to be this uplifting platform and bringing light to people who may not yet be so well known,” McRorie said.

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Heidi Munro grew up rock and roll, with music still played in her parents’ home in rural Kennedy, Saskatchewan. Since then, she has played almost all genres of music for over 30 years.

One of her most successful performances came in 2019 when she produced and performed “Back to Black – The Passion of Amy Winehouse”. After forming his “crème de la crème” group of many Saskatchewan artists, the sold-out show was a huge success, ending with a roaring standing ovation.

“There is a very special atmosphere in this room. You can feel the history. It’s an honor to be a part of it as an artist, ”says Munro.

Saskatoon's Heidi Munro performed at an Amy Winehouse tribute concert at the Broadway Theater in 2019 in support of a mental health services fund.
Saskatoon’s Heidi Munro performed at an Amy Winehouse tribute concert at the Broadway Theater in 2019 in support of a mental health services fund. Photo by Nicole Belhumeur /Photo provided

A performance of her show was slated for spring 2020, but it remains on hold.

Alexis Normand and his group Rosie and the Riveters have performed on the Broadway stage several times, some as opening act for big names. This gave his group the opportunity to attract a larger audience to their hometown. “Soul and seductive, like the breeze of the meadows which beckons”, this is how the artist’s biography describes the voice of Normand, whether it occurs in English or in French.

A diverse range of acts is what the theater promises its fans.

“Someone in the community needs the space to be something for them,” says Wirchenko.

This includes Tyler Baptist, who started renting the theater to show older horror films at midnight. Between 2008 and 2014, he screened over 80 films, from classics like Jaws and The Shining to lesser-known films like Vampyres and Flesh Gordon. Each screening had a mix of newbies and a core of die-hard fans who would attend every movie it presented.

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The interior of the theater features a full stage with a large cinema screen in the back and over 400 seats. These bones are just a small part of what makes Broadway one of Saskatoon’s premier performance venues.

“If people have memories in our building, it’s because of a great first date, or the funniest comedy show, or their niece got married there. This is how you build memories, giving people things that make sense, ”adds Wirchenko.

In the 16 years he lived in Saskatoon, Brad Proudlove has been a few blocks from the theater.

He spent many days and nights going there, taking his new mug of McQuarries coffee from an authentic ceramic mug and – before the new seats were installed – sifting through a box full of cushions on which “hundreds. random tramps ”had stretched out. It would place a cushion on a front row seat, providing optimal legroom and a perfect view of the screen or stage. It didn’t matter what or who was playing.

Proudlove marked many milestones in life there. He remembers coming to the big city in rural Eston, Saskatchewan. when he was a kid with his “cool aunt” to see morning screenings of classics like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

He ticked off an item from his bucket list when the documentary he filmed and edited was shown to a packed audience.

His first date with his wife Colleen was at the screening of a Steven Soderbergh movie on Broadway.

Years later, he watched his daughter’s Christmas and year-end concerts on the very stage where he had already seen so many talented artists.

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Many of the Broadway Theater’s fondest memories were created before the last regular show in March 2020. Like many elements in life, things are different now.

Saskatoon Soap Stars (L to R) Joshua Beaudry, Andrew McDonald, Alphonse Gaudet, Jeff Rogstad, Tim Feschuk and Blaine Hart, in a photoshoot outside the Broadway Theater on December 10, 2007. (StarPhoenix photo by Greg Pender)
Saskatoon Soap Stars (L to R) Joshua Beaudry, Andrew McDonald, Alphonse Gaudet, Jeff Rogstad, Tim Feschuk and Blaine Hart, in a photoshoot outside the Broadway Theater on December 10, 2007. (StarPhoenix photo by Greg Pender) Photo by Greg Pender /Saskatoon Phoenix Star

Jeff Rogstad performs professionally every day as a local meteorologist. As a member of the Saskatoon Soaps Improv Comedy troupe for over 20 years, he is believed to have performed about 400 times on Broadway.

On September 25, 2020, the group gave a special performance. With the low number of COVID-19, Broadway has hosted local acts for a minimal, masked and distant audience. It presented challenges and can feel a bit lonely to flaunt.

“Laughter is contagious and works best when people are close to each other,” says Rogstad.

No one really knows when the laughs and applause will be on Broadway again.

A recent memo from staff and board says the venue remains closed for all public events. The empty Broadway theater resonates with memories of its last big crowd. He stands in silence, yearning for the seats to be full, for the lights to shine, and for the curtain to rise again.

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