There's a certain satisfaction in being the hometown boy returning home after making good. Especially if the hometown boy has been traveling for nearly ten years giving highly acclaimed performances around the globe. Even more so if the hometown boy is actually a traveling musical theatre group virtually unheard of at home, yet returning as an international success.
Barage is that boy. Featuring a troop of seven talented fiddle players dancing, singing, jumping, and twirling to the accompaniment of a four piece backup band, the project has grown beyond its modest southern Alberta beginnings. Founded by three Calgarians in 1996, Barrage grew out of a Mount Royal College fiddling project and combines elements of theatre, music and dance into a stageshow that has seen the curtain rise more often in the U.S., Europe and Asia than in its own home country.
"Touring in Canada is a very difficult thing for us to do," says Tony Moore, one of the three Canadian producers who originally began the project. Moore explains that because the show has not had the widespread media coverage or cable TV exposure of similar off-broadway touring acts, it's not uncommon for even the castmembers' families to be as curious about the show as the public.
"Beyond the obvious issues of geography, there's also the lack of large touring opportunities in Canada," sighs Moore. "Calgary is our hometown, but it's more about the pride in showing the cast members' families who are from Calgary just what Barrage is all about."
So, then, what is Barrage all about?
That question may not be an easy one to answer. Featuring original music and choreography borne out of and blended with standards from all over the musical spectrum, the show refuses to be pidgeonholed. It may be difficult to avoid analogies to Stomp and Riverdance, the Barrage experience remains a completely singular one. Fusing the seemingly disparate elements of big band, jazz, swing, bluegrass, pop, worldbeat and blues with complicated dance routines and an involving narrative, Barrage stands apart as more than just another Celtic show.
"People don't know how to describe this stuff," says director/choreographer Brian Hansen. "We have vision in our heads and we try to bring it out. It creates a completely unique thing."
Barrage hits Calgary with the debut of Vagabond Tales, a story the group has long worked on and finally perfected. Now, they're ready to show off their work to their hometown.
"We've done different versions of that show for five to seven years," explains Hansen. "We are gypsies anyways. We travel around the world, we're vagabonds."
Undergoing various cast changes since its Canadian inception, Barrage opened the doors to international auditions and now is a home to cast members from at least five countries. But Moore remains excited to making new inroads into Calgary.
"It is our hometown," he says. "And we do always try to make a presence in the arts community, but we're not too good at selling ourselves to advertisers. We all treat it first and foremost as an artistic expression of what we want to do."