January 20th, 2021

New West’s ‘Dear Johnny Deere’ opens

By Bobinec, Greg on March 5, 2020.

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald


New West Theatre is bringing the tunes of Fred Eaglesmith to the Lethbridge stage with the Canadian production of “Dear Johnny Deere,” running until March 14.

Written by Ken Cameron, “Dear Johnny Deere” has established itself as a new Canadian musical theatre classic since its debut in 2012, with more than a dozen songs by alternative country singer/songwriter Fred Eaglesmith, woven through heartwarming action, is a tough-minded piece of entertainment that is said to resonate to theatergoers, Fredheads and southern Albertans alike.

“‘Dear Johnny Deere’ is a musical based on the songs of Fred Eaglesmith,” says Kelly Reay, director. “Written by Ken Cameron, who based it off of these Fred Eaglesmith songs because he has a really hardcore following, small but mighty, and all of Eaglesmith’s songs tell these really evocative stories. Ken Cameron, a Calgary playwright, thought he could craft a play with these songs and he created one long narrative.”

The story follows Johnny and his wife Caroline who fall on hard times to keep their farm afloat when the banks, the government, technology and nature itself all seem in collusion against them. When an old high school classmate, a now handsome land speculator, returns to town , Johnny and Caroline’s marriage is at stake as well.

“It is a show that is set against the background of the agriculture and farm industry and the play is a love story, but it is set against that background and we thought it would really resonate with the community of southern Alberta,” says Reay. “The songs are fantastic songs and are performed really well by our cast of locals, and it really shines a spotlight on how talented homegrown talent is in our city.”

With a smaller cast than a regular New West Theatre show, there is still plenty of variety in songs and skills on the stage. Reay says it is a really strong cast who are able to take the songs to a new level.

“Doug MacArthur is playing the title character; Kathy Zaborsky is playing the female lead; Andrew Legg is the narrator character; Justin Michael Carrier has multiple roles throughout the production; and then we have two of our resident musicians Scott Mezei and Keenan Pezderic who each play a multitude of instruments.”

“Dear Johnny Deere” is running until March 14, at the Yates Memorial Theatre. Tickets are available online at enmaxcentre.ca, in person at the Ticket Centre at the Yates Memorial Centre or Enmax Centre, or by calling 403-329-7328.

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