The many faces of fun

Take some old-time music, add a dash of rib-tickling humour and you have the right recipe to satisfy thousands of entertainment-starved Albertans.

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Take some old-time music, add a dash of rib-tickling humour and you have the right recipe to satisfy thousands of entertainment-starved Albertans.

People in their 60s and 70s are making a bee-line for Patio Theatre, 12 km west of Red Deer, because few other opportunities exist to hear the gentle humour and nostalgic music that older people crave, said Richard Popovich, who runs the one-of-a-kind venue with his wife Deborah.

The couple’s patio dinner theatre is located in the Popovich’s sprawling and scenic yard on the Red Deer River.

“So much of today’s entertainment caters to youth culture,” said Richard, and that leaves out a whole bunch of folks who aren’t keen on hip-hop music and profanity-laced humour.

You won’t catch the Popovichs spouting four-letter words, unless they run along the line of ‘gosh’ — all Patio Theatre jokes are strictly G-rated. Richard said he and Deborah trade witticisms reminiscent of Red Buttons or Carol Burnett.

But “I guess it must be OK to talk about something other than sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” he added — considering how many audience members are repeat customers, often returning with friends.

Patio Theatre was inspired by venues in Branson, Mo., where entertainers run their own theatres.

The Popovichs had been travelling across the province for two decades to entertain at various functions, including Stettler’s Prairie Steam Train Tours, conventions and office parties. Richard said they grew tired of always being on the road. “We liked the liked the idea of spending our summers at home.”

The covered theatre, with heater and rain-proof curtains, has caught on since opening in 2007, with many bus tours arriving in the Popovichs’ yard from all over Alberta.

Besides the couple of shows that are scheduled weekly are additional special performances done for bus tours and other groups, said Richard, who is used to selling out the 84-seat theatre.

The couple perform music along different themes — the Roaring ’20s, Hillbilly, Western with Hee-Haw-style humour, gospel and Grandpa Bond’s Campfire Show, featuring the talents of Deborah’s father, Albert Bond. Some well-loved tunes are Five-foot-Two, Eyes of Blue, Ghost Riders in the Sky, I’m My Own Grandpa and Sons of the Pioneers, as well as selections from The Messiah for gospel shows.

Patio Theatre performances are scheduled to Sept. 25. For more information, call 1-888-856-9282 or visit www.RichardandDeborah.com.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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