June 22, 2017

Rockin’ in Memphis

If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song. ~ Carl Perkins

Blue Suede Shoes opened things up. The set was a border of light featuring a recording studio full of gold records & vintage instruments. I couldn’t miss this Opening Night & I was not disappointed with this picture perfect Charlottetown Festival musical celebration last Friday!

Million Dollar Quartet had a great storyline centred around Sam Phillips’ (played by Stephen Guy-McGrath) Sun Records, 4 legends from the 50’s and loyalty to the man who got them to the top of the game when Rock n’ Roll was in its infancy. A young up and coming Jerry Lee Lewis (Jefferson McDonald) was a Real Wild Child and was my personal favorite of the Quartet. He was outspoken and matched his over the edge comedy with high adrenaline musical portrayals of his best known songs. The King of Rockabilly, Carl Perkins (Ed Murphy) had something to prove and played some awesome licks on the guitar, Man in Black Johnny Cash (Greg Gale) walked the line with a heavy heart, & The King Elvis Presley, (who was accompanied by his girl Dyanne (Alicia Toner), was the guest of honor.

Some of my favorite performances included Who Do You Love? By Perkins, That’s All Right by Presley, Fever by Dyanne, I Walk the Line by Cash, & of course, Great Balls of Fire by Lewis.

The players had the moves, the look, and most notably, the musical ability to make me believe I was transported in time to Memphis for an inside look at a session like no other. Great tunes, and a fast paced sentimental journey music fans of any generation can appreciate in a 1 act masterpiece. It is definitely happening at The Confederation Centre in Charlottetown in 2017!

December 12, 2016

Rockin’ Robyn By Cindy Lapeña

15326614_1387857807905520_3953750120893775736_n When I first heard of the production Robyn Hood from one of my students in Seniors College, I thought it sounded like quite a riot, considering the play had a cast of 75—Charlottetown’s version of a cast of thousands—and the script by Adam Brazier and Graham Putnam wove several stories together with contributions from the cast. One must certainly investigate a claim of that magnitude. After opening night at the Homburg Theatre, I can say with certainty the claim is completely true.
 
The Confederation Centre of the Arts kicked off the Christmas season with Robyn Hood, a comic musical adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, except this time, Robyn is a woman out to defeat the power-hungry Prince John of the Kingdom of Charlottetown. Maria Campbell, an alumna of the Confederation Centre Young Company, belted out a charmingly exuberant Robyn Hood supported all throughout by Friar Tuck, played Alana Bridgewater, whose powerful and lovely voice filled the theatre—the two were perfectly matched singing together. Not to be outdone was Maid Marian, played by Jessica Gallant, who matched the mood with her music as she tried to solve her dilemma: to betray or not to betray? Sarah MacPhee’s signature Town Crier role was resurrected yet once again and given the opportunity to rise in the ranks, thanks to Matt Rainnie’s dastardly pouting Prince John’s machinations. He was joined on stage by his two daughters in the Charlottetown ensemble impoverished by being taxed to the max by Prince John.
 
by Cindy Lapeña

by Cindy Lapeña

The numerous scenes offered multiple opportunities to shift around the cast of 75—filling the stage was certainly not a problem in this production. Although the production was not technically perfect, the minute slips here and there were easily covered up by the ribaldry and jokes that spared no one. A great deal of the humor, however, is strictly local and anyone who is not familiar with PEI culture might not understand why people were laughing. There was a generous dose of tongue-in-cheek wit throughout the play and even the songs were selected from a wide range of sources to provide a lively musical tapestry. Besides the occasional dancer with lower energy levels, the performance was bursting with rollicking fun. Garnett Gallant’s set design was just right and I wonder if anyone else picked up on the bit of irony with the Bundy clock, guitar, golf cart, and Maid Marian’s selfie during the wild chase through the Christmas-lit forest, not to mention the occasional hand microphone appearing on stage after Friar Tuck declared the play would bring us back to a time before cellphones, iPads, and Netflix! Deliberate or not, inconsistencies aside, it all added up to a great deal of fun that might have started a tad slow but certainly built up to a rousing end.

 
If you’re in for some Christmas cheer, this is just the performance to see!
October 27, 2016

Interview with Gina Mercer

gina-mercer-weaving-nestsRecently, Artists on the Island interviewed the Australian eco-poet, teacher, and editor Gina Mercer while she enjoyed a month-long tenure as a Visiting Writer in Residence at University of Prince Edward Island. In her latest collection of poems, titled Weaving Nests with Smoke and Stone (November 2015), Mercer’s publisher, Walleah Press, says she “reaches across the species divide, a boundary that daunts most of us,” while Siobhan Hodge, in Cordite Poetry Review, states the book “carefully explores love and loss, with an eye to the natural world for support, but also level-headed awareness of human responsibility.” She describes her work, her writing process, and much else to Jeff Bursey & PL Holden in this interview conducted by Artists on the Island. 

Music by  https://geoffwilt.bandcamp.com/  https://soundcloud.com/robert-gaudet

October 20, 2016

Little Shop of Horrors Podcast & Ch’town Festival 2017 Playbill Announced!

 Peter Krauskopf, Steve Bruce, & Noah Nazim talk theatre with Kimberley Johnston!

lsoh-2016-picsHere’s a Hallowe’en treat for the Island: Little Shop of Horrors plays over the end-of-October weekend, staged by ACT (a community theatre) in the grand new Florence Simmons Performance Hall.

LITTLE SHOP of HORRORS, the famous musical comedy and sci-fi spoof, plays October 27 to 30 at the beautiful new Florence Simmons theatre (Weymouth Street, Charlottetown).  This is the first staging of a major theatre production in the wonderful new Florence Simmons Performance Hall of Holland College’s downtown campus, and the Hall has provided significant support.  A bar service will be offered at the evening performances.  A special feature of the Saturday and Sunday performances: a candy treat for audience members who come in a Hallowe’en costume (but no mask).

Evening performances (7:30) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday plus matinees (2:30) on Saturday and Sunday.  See ‘Audrey II’, the 2-metre-tall plant with attitude and appetite!  Tickets $28/25 online only, at www.ticketpro.ca.  Information: ACT (a community theatre) www.actpei.ca , robthomson@pei.sympatico.ca, & tel:902-628-6778. There is no HST charge.  A portion of the price is contributed to Holland College’s Florence Simmons Scholarship fund.  Some tickets may be available at the door (if there is not a sell-out).

 

CHARLOTTETOWN FESTIVAL 2017: A Celebration of Rock, Laughter, and Canada’s 150th Anniversary

2017 playbill features East Coast premiere of Million Dollar Quartet; world premiere of A Misfortune; and return of Bittergirl: The Musical and Glenda’s Kitchen

(Charlottetown, P.E.I.) — Confederation Centre of the Arts has announced a dazzling lineup for next summer’s Charlottetown Festival, presented by CIBC. The 2017 Festival will run June 3 to September 24 and include the 53rd season of the international sensation Anne of Green Gables–The Musical™; the iconic rock ’n’ roll mega-concert Million Dollar Quartet; the return of two beloved Festival-spawned musicals, Bittergirl and Glenda’s Kitchen; and a new Young Company production that will tour the country.

charlottetown-festival-2017

Million Dollar Quartet is a hit musical inspired by the true story of the famed 1956 recording session in which producer Sam Phillips brought together the “godfathers of rock ‘n’ roll” – Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley – for one unforgettable jam session. Set in a Memphis studio, this story-and-song musical brings to light an extraordinary tale of broken promises, secrets, and a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of four friends that is both poignant and heartwarming. Featured are such hallmark hits as Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Fever, Great Balls Of Fire, Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, and many more.

Presented in rep with Quartet is the Island festival’s crown jewel, Anne of Green Gables–The Musical™. For the first time, the internationally acclaimed musical will be directed by Artistic Director Adam Brazier, leading a company of 23 amazing triple threats from across the nation. Having delighted more than 2.5 million people over 3,200 times at the Centre, Anne of Green Gables–The Musical™ remains the quintessential Canadian musical, and Brazier is thrilled to put his creative stamp on the iconic piece.

“2017 is a year to celebrate Canada and being Canadian, and this storied musical rests at the very heart of our national identity,” says Brazier. “Searching for love and belonging in a time of strife and strain, Anne represents all Canadians coming to this country, or those searching for light every day in their own trials.”

He continues, “Million Dollar Quartet is an electrifying true story perfectly built for our Homburg Theatre and our Island audience. Presley, Cash, Lewis, and Perkins — this is one unbelievable studio session that changed rock’n’roll forever.”

Back at The Mack is the howlingly funny cabaret show on getting over getting dumped — Bittergirl: The Musical. This Canadian-made comedy virtually sold out its entire run when first premiering at the Festival in 2015. Having now played Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre and headed for Winnipeg and a tour of British Columbia, it will return in 2017 with new songs and scenes, and the same great soundtrack of doo-wop favourites, including I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, I Will Survive, and Too Many Fish In The Sea.

Also playing The Mack, will be the world premiere of a new Canadian musical, A Misfortune. The story follows a young lawyer and a married woman in pre-revolutionary Russia on a walk through the woods; their friendship has reached an impasse. Soon they gather with three friends for a night in the country, discussing the inanity of their lives over an evening drink—and with each drink, more sordid secrets are revealed. Adapted from a short story by Anton Chekhov, one of the world’s most celebrated and enduring writers, A Misfortune is a romantic, bittersweet musical about small moments and momentous decisions.

Returning to the intimate Studio 1 theatre is Glenda’s Kitchen offering curious patrons a taste of the Island, literally and culturally! Festival icon, Glenda Landry and The Charlottetown Festival Orchestra lead this charming musical, exploring the many bounties of P.E.I.’s people, deep-seated traditions, and world-famous food. This afternoon cabaret is a must-see for Islanders and travelers alike and will feature new tunes and tales from Glenda and cast.

The Centre has already announced a new national touring production for the Young Company — Dream Catcher. With support from the Canada 150 Fund, the Centre will engage youth from across the country to create a new musical inspired by their dreams for Canada’s future. Around 20 young professional artists, who reflect the country’s cultural diversity, will be cast in two Young Companies – one touring and one on P.E.I., supported by TD. Participants will meet with Indigenous artists who will speak to them about the symbolic importance of dreamcatchers in their cultures. Small dreamcatchers will be created and integrated into an immense visual that will be on display outdoors at the Centre in 2017.

“We are thrilled for the 2017 Young Company to hit the national stage to celebrate the dreams of our nation’s founders, those of our youth, and those of the Indigenous Peoples in Canada, with a Canada-wide tour and original musical theatre project,” says Jessie Inman, CEO. “Continuing our long history of national touring, Dream Catcher will seize the momentum of Canada’s sesquicentennial and engage young people from every province and territory, channeling their bold hopes and dreams for our nation’s future.”

Additional announcements will be made in November centering on more special anniversary programming for Canada’s 150th birthday, held across the Centre and including visual arts and heritage programming. See addendum for full show calendar for the Festival.

 

The Charlottetown Festival is presented by CIBC. The Centre wishes to acknowledge the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Government of P.E.I., and the City of Charlottetown for their continued support. Media sponsors are The Guardian, Hot 105.5, Ocean 100, and CTV.

N.B. The Pick 3 Pass is back!  Pick three Charlottetown Festival shows and pay only $129. The Pick 3 Pass and Festival tickets go on sale to members of CCOA October 20. Public tickets go on sale October 22. Patrons can choose three shows from all those listed below, excluding Dream Catcher —

  • Million Dollar Quartet: June 15 – September 23 (1:30/8pm). Previews: June 15 & June 16 | Opening June 17 – Homburg Theatre.
  • Anne of Green Gables–The Musical™: June 26 – September 23 (1:30 pm/ 7:30 pm). Previews: June 26, June 27, June 30 | Opening July 1 at 1:30 pm – Homburg Theatre.
  • Bittergirl: The Musical: July 5 – Aug 26 (7:30 pm). Previews: July 5, July 6 | Opening July 7 – The Mack.
  • Glenda’s Kitchen: July 13 – September 1 (1:30 pm). No Previews | Opening July 13 – Studio 1.
  • A Misfortune: September 7 – September 22 (7:30 pm). Previews: September 7, Sep 8 | Opening September 9 – The Mack.
  • Dream Catcher – Confederation Centre Young Company: June 21 – August 19 (12 noon) – Outdoor Amphitheatre.

 

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