Key venues in Edmonton

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ROXY THEATRE

Address: 10708 124th St.

A funky, converted movie house in the 124th Street ’hood, it’s home to Theatre Network, as well as an alternative series by indie companies, and is the HQ for Nextfest.

Capacity: 198

What we like: The warm, unpretentious intimacy, enhanced by wood on the walls and floor. The acoustics are excellent, and you can take drinks in the theatre. The best seats are in the back third, where the slope of the seats gets steeper. Avoid the middle rows, where the rake dips.

What we don’t like: It’s showing its age: Backstage, basement and bathrooms are crying out for renos. The L-shaped lobby and teeny bar can be so crammed, you can barely squeeze out to buy a glass of wine — and yes, my neurotic friends, the entire audience will know if you go to the bathroom.

SHOCTOR THEATRE

Address: 9828 100A Ave.

The Citadel’s mainstage theatre is a vintage ’70s wood-panelled house with a huge proscenium (framed) stage, and the kind of cushy red plush seats that put chiropractors out of business.

Capacity: 681

What we like: Leg room and rake (slope). No matter how big the hair in front of you, you can see the stage.

What we don’t like: A lack of intimacy. If you sit in the back quarter of the house, the action onstage is a long way off. But if you sit at the front, you may be treated to an array of up-the-nostril views.

MACLAB THEATRE

Address: 9828 100A Ave.

The Citadel’s deep-thrust theatre (a stage that juts out into the audience) is a first-class Shakespearean stage comparable to any in the world. Spare and beautiful.

Capacity: 682

What we like: A lively and exciting connection to what’s on the stage — the theatre is big, but doesn’t feel that way. Since the action is so close to the audience, it makes directors, designers and actors especially inventive and responsive.

What we don’t like: It takes real skill to direct on a thrust stage; when done poorly, the audience ends up staring at actors’ backs and struggling to hear dialogue. The seats in the first few rows at the extreme sides have poor sightlines.

VARSCONA THEATRE

Address: 10329 83rd Ave.

A cosy and busy ex-firehall in the heart of Old Strathcona, run by a consortium of companies (Shadow, Teatro La Quindicina, Die-Nasty, That’s Terrific!) and used by many indie troupes. The building is a bit of a wreck and much-delayed renos are supposed to start in November.

Capacity: 176

What we like: A festive air both casual and glam. The intimacy, both in the theatre where you can feel connected to the play even in the last row (there are nine), and in the tiny lobby. The signature cocktail (white wine with red licorice stir stick) that you can take into the theatre.

What we don’t like: The seats at the edges in the first couple of rows can have dodgy sightlines; the tiny, iffy bathrooms with loud flushing; the vagaries of the temperature in the house; the unforgivingly vertical posture required if you sit in the back row.

C103

Address: 8529 Gateway Blvd.

A funky, black-box warehouse theatre abutting jazz venue the Yardbird Suite. Its resident company, which leases from the Edmonton Jazz Society, is Catalyst. Its standard configuration has rows of steep, bleacher-like seating, with the show on the floor. There are no bad seats and no comfortable ones.

Capacity: 134

What we like: Adaptability. Minus the bleachers, it can be a cabaret space. Or, stripped altogether, it’s a warehouse for shows where you follow the actors around. The lobby design and industrial chic bathrooms are downright interesting.

What we don’t like: That tin roof makes C103 an oven in hot weather, and a sauna when there’s a full house any time.

WESTBURY THEATRE

Address: 10330 84th Ave.

A medium-sized black-box theatre in the ATB Financial Arts Barns, which is rarely re-configured from its steep bleacher seating (it takes four people four hours to change it). The largest Fringe venue, it’s also used for indie theatre, dance recitals, wedding parties, CD releases, etc.

Capacity: 315

What we like: Almost nothing but location.

What we don’t like: A badly designed, non-involving, strikingly non-intimate space that feels, from its upper rows, like you’re in a stadium watching tiny people possibly playing football. A particularly good view, however, of millinery and bald spots.

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PCL STUDIO THEATRE

Address: 10330 84th Ave.

A small and adaptable black-box theatre in the ATB Financial Arts Barns. A kids’ theatre Fringe venue used by small and inventive indie companies the rest of the time.

Capacity: 50-100, depending on configuration

What we like: Location, intimacy, flexibility — a lot of possibility for those who can create magic in small spaces.

What we don’t like: A slight hint of institutional classroom in its placement in the building. Instead of a lobby, there’s a hallway with a hidden entrance.

LA CITÉ FRANCOPHONE

Address: 8627 rue Marie-Anne-Gaboury (91st St.)

Edmonton’s only double-galleried theatre, it’s embedded in a francophone cultural centre. Home to L’Unithéâtre, Workshop West, Northern Light and Two One-Way Tickets To Broadway, and a variety of indie theatre and dance troupes. At Fringe time, it houses several BYOV spaces.

Capacity: 207

What we like: The view from the seats, raked steeply in rows, is excellent. An airy and elegant glass-walled lobby opens on to a basin courtyard, with tables in the summer (and a market on Sundays). Le Café Bicyclette is on the ground floor.

What we don’t like: Sightlines from the gallery seats closest to the stage are a neck challenge. The seats are paralyzing if you’re tallish.

TIMMS CENTRE FOR THE ARTS

Address: 112th Street and 87th Avenue

The University of Alberta’s spaciously raked state-of-the-art proscenium theatre is home of the drama department’s Studio Theatre, which uses it half the days of the year. Other dates find the Brian Webb Dance Company, Alberta Ballet or City Ballet onstage, and other indie groups.

Capacity: 289 (can be configured to 321)

What we like: Excellent sightlines and acoustics. For its size vis-a-vis the number of seats (which are cushy and amply spaced), it’s the largest stage in town. Perfect for dance and musical theatre. Has a wide, curved staircase to the lobby that makes you look automatically chic.

What we don’t like: An oddly shaped lobby the floor below the theatre entrance. Purple faux-marble pillars give it a slightly dated over-rouged look.

JUBILEE AUDITORIUM

Address: 11455 87th Ave.

A versatile multi-purpose, balconied hall built for Alberta’s 50th anniversary in 1955 and home to the Alberta Ballet, Edmonton Opera, Shumka and Broadway Across Canada. Musicals, opera, ballet, comedy, concerts — you name it, it happens there. Indeed, it’s the third busiest space of its kind in the country.

Capacity: 2,500

What we like: The 2005 renovations, mostly devoted to re-lining the hall and re-doing the sound baffles, created side terraces of excellent seats. Intermission drinks (you can reserve one at the outset) come in actual glassware! Since there’s an eternal queue for the ladies’ room, go downstairs (and don’t tell a thousand of your closest friends or we’ll be sorry we mentioned it).

What we don’t like: It takes ages to leave the parkade; try one of the nearby university parkades. Since touring companies bring their own sound equipment, it’s hard to blame the Jube for the tinny sound that so often plagues productions. If you sit in the cheap seats, you’re a long way off, and you feel it.

New Wunderbar Hofbrauhaus

Address: 8120 101st St.

Old Strathcona’s friendliest and tiniest bar, run by the mighty Craig Martell.

Capacity: 84

What we like: Wundi, as it’s affectionately called, hosts cutting-edge musicians almost every night of the week. We’ve also heard the beer selection is top-notch.

What we don’t like: Fills up quickly because of the bar’s size. That’s a minor quibble compared to the rinky-dink (and are-they-safe-to-use?) bathrooms next to the stage. “Hey, everyone! I’m heading to the can. Wish me luck!”

The ARTery

Address: 9535 Jasper Ave.

A cosy venue nestled in an old building at the east end of Jasper Avenue.

Capacity: 149

What we like: The ARTery is the Wunderbar of downtown — with great programming and friendly staff, led by the always-smiling Philip Muz. (Plus better bathrooms!)

What we don’t like: First-timers might have trouble finding the spot -— its entrance is actually on 101A Avenue. The ARTery’s uncertain future -— it’s located on land targeted for residential use as part of the Quarters project.

Winspear Centre

Address: 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square

The grande dame of concert halls — and home of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra — situated in Churchill Square.

Capacity: 1932

What we like: The understated lavishness. The acoustics. The pipe organ. The UFO-like structure hanging from the ceiling over the stage. The intimacy, which encourages fans to utter declarations of love, devotion and inappropriate nonsense at non-ESO shows.

What we don’t like: Those declarations of love, devotion and inappropriate nonsense. And, as spectacular as the acoustics are, they don’t always work for rock acts.

Shaw Conference Centre

Address: 9797 Jasper Ave.

The glass-encased cavern overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. Home to most of the city’s electronic dance music parties, such as Pure or Frequency.

Capacity: 5,000 or less

What we like: One of the only venues of its size in Edmonton.

What we don’t like: The muddy acoustics. The vast expanse between the stage and the beer gardens. The long line -— usually snaking up the stairs, through the front doors, and down Jasper Avenue — to get into shows.

Union Hall

Address: 6240 99th St.

A former-club-turned-event centre, located just off Argyll Road in what was the HQ of some of Edmonton’s most famous nightspots. (’Member Goose Loonies?)

Capacity: About 900

What we like: The circular, two-storey layout -— with the stage at one end -— evoking a Mad Max-Beyond-Thunderdome vibe.

What we don’t like: The sightlines can be atrocious if you’re standing in the outer circumference.

The Starlite Room

Address: 10030 102nd St.

One of downtown’s première music venues; plays host to some of the top (smaller) touring acts, including MGMT, Mac DeMarco, and Sharon Van Etten.

Capacity: About 500

What we like: The history of the 89-year-old brick building. (Former home of the Salvation Army, the Citadel Theatre, Marvel School of Beauty, and the Rev Cabaret, where Nirvana once played pre-Teen Spirit.) Brixx Bar & Grill, a separate 150-person venue in the basement.

What we don’t like: The floor slopes the wrong way. (As in down from the stage.) The $5 annual membership, thanks to the venue’s antiquated business licence.

McDougall United Church

Address: 10025 101st St.

A 104-year-old brick building right downtown. Former home of the Edmonton Opera and of the precursor to the ESO.

Capacity: 1,000

What we like: A smaller, cosier and even more reverent alternative to the Winspear -— perfect for introspective acts such as James Vincent McMorrow, the Milk Carton Kids and The Tallest Man on Earth. Plus, no assigned seating.

What we don’t like: The wooden pews can get a wee bit uncomfortable after an hour or two.

The Pawn Shop

Address: 10551 82 Avenue

One of Whyte Avenue’s oldest haunts, specializing in punk and metal acts.

Capacity: 243

What we like: The L-shaped layout. The booths. The venue’s secrets ­­— a locked library in the backroom, an abandoned apartment behind the sound booth. The monthly ’80s music DJ nights.

What we don’t like: Not much, ’cept we get a little freaked out when the floor shakes cuz everyone is jumping/dancing around so much.

Rexall Place

Address: 7424 118th Ave.

Edmonton’s (soon-to-be-outdated) hockey arena. Originally called the Coliseum when it opened in 1974, it hosts more than two dozen major concerts a year. It will be replaced by a downtown arena in 2016.

Capacity: 16,839

What we like: The history — Oilers and otherwise. (ABBA, David Bowie, Bob Hope and The Carpenters are just a few of the acts who played the venue.) The deflated purple (Barney?) balloon stuck in the rafters for the past 15-plus years.

What we don’t like: The crowded concourse. The $15 price for parking. (Free spots are ready for the taking, if you don’t mind the 10-minute stroll from Borden Park.) Some people despise the acoustics, but the audio mix can be decent — depending on the sound technicians touring with the act.

Yardbird Suite

Address: 11 Tommy Banks Way

THE destination for Edmonton’s jazz lovers and one of the city’s oldest music institutions, founded in 1957. Moved to its current Old Strathcona location in 1984.

Capacity: 150

What we like: The way it honours some of the city’s jazz greats — from the club’s address, 11 Tommy Banks Way, to the bust of singer Big Miller outside the venue.

What we don’t like: Not enough non-jazz artists use the Yardbird.