Some of the biggest acts in these parts will re-live the magic of the beloved Cape Breton Summertime Revue when they take stage this week and next for a special reunion concert to benefit the historic Savoy Theatre.
Starting in two sold-out shows Thursday and Friday, the likes of Glace Bay’s longtime star Matt Minglewood will take stage with some of his former original Revue cast mates, including Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison, in hopes of raising money to keep the aging theatre open.
Three more shows have been added—May 31, June 1 and 2—to handle the overwhelming response for tickets.
The show’s popularity isn’t a surprise for key organizer Stephen MacDonald who was also a big force in the show’s original success when it toured the nation for a dozen years up until 1998, offering a slice of Cape Breton Island life with music and comedy from some of its brightest stars.
“The first night sold out in three hours, and so we added a second, and it sold out in even less time,” MacDonald told WGO Wednesday. “So we added three more shows…there are still some tickets available for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday…we’re about 80 per cent.”
The audience can expect to see some of the famous characters and comedy from the show’s heyday including fan-favorites “Mary” and “Cecil” with a mix of old jokes and new routines. The music to be featured throughout the show will also be some of the most popular ever to rise from the production over the years before its final curtain call.
Besides MacDonald, Morrison and Minglewood, other performers set for stage this week include Wendy MacIsaac, Fred Lavery, Allie Bennett, Richard Burke, Dave McKeough, Stephen Muise, Brian Talbot, Max MacDonald, and newcomers to the Revue – The Cottars.
The Cottars—a group who have not performed with the Revue before it ended in 1998—will perform with original Revue members, plus do some of their own music.
“Rehearsals have been a blast,” said Max MacDonald – one of the original 46 cast members who performed with the Revue before it ended. “This is the largest cast we’ve ever had and everyone is really pumped and having a good time.”
“We’ll be doing a mix of songs from previous shows and popular characters like Cecil and Mary will be making an appearance,” Max MacDonald added. “It’s hard to ignore some of the recent political developments and so we’ll be having some fun with that as well. All that and we’ll be raising a good chunk of cash for the Savoy.”
Stephen MacDonald expects to see a lot of aging faces in the crowd who will go to the Savoy to fondly remember the comedy inspired from a steel and coal generation who called the island home.
“There will probably be a lot of people there who came to the show 20 years ago,” he said.
Much of the door’s $49 ticket sale will go towards the general upkeep and operations of the aging theatre in the heart of Glace Bay. All shows will begin at 8 pm.
Past cast members of the Cape Breton Summertime Revue from 1986 to 1998 include J.P. Cormier, Marcel Doucet, Ralph Dillon, Jamie Foulds, Matthew Foulds, Bruce Guthro, Berkley Lamey, Howie MacDonald, Natalie MacMaster, Rita MacNeil, Laurel Martell, Doris Mason, Cookie and Heather Rankin, Jennifer Roland, Gordie Sampson and Tara Lynne Touesnard.
The original Revue grew out of the success of The Rise and Follies of Cape Breton Island, a satirical sketch comedy show spearheaded by Kenzie MacNeil in the late ‘70s and 1980s. The performers at the time, many of whom went on to perform in the Revue, were heavily influenced by the comedy and acting skills of Harry and Liz Boardmore who always encouraged their students at Xavier College to write and perform their own work. They later taught at what’s today known as Cape Breton University.
The show over the years also produced some of the island’s greatest music from writers like Leon Dubinsky, Allister MacGillivray and Duncan Wells – some of which will be featured in the Revue’s reunion benefit this week.