BY JAMES FW THOMPSON
There was a time not all that long ago when theatre in Cape Breton was restricted to one venue (maybe a second or third on very rare occasions), and very little happened in the theatre scene in the summer. Flash forward to now—just a few years later—and we have so much theatre happening that we have mid-summer debuts!
First up, on August 1, for one night only, the Highland Arts Theatre, in collaboration with the Canadian Musical Theatre Writer’s Collective presents Blame Canada! a celebration of Canadian musical theatre.
“Blame Canada! began as an effort to promote and celebrate the work of Canadian Musical Theatre writers and composers within and outside of our country. It began as a single concert, performed simultaneously in Toronto and New York,” explains director/producer Wesley Colford. “For Canada 150, they are planning concerts this year in each of the ten provinces.”
Other than being a celebration of Canadian musicals, the show hopes to shine a light on the oft ignored genre. “The audience is so much smaller here that shows rarely get the same kind of attention and consequently disappear. Having a centralized focal point is essential in trying to preserve and promote the amazing work being done all over the country.” The Canadian Musical Theatre Writer’s Collective have taken on that very task, for future generations to enjoy.
Though Colford say that the majority of the show consists of songs the majority of the audience would not have had the opportunity to hear before, there are a number of familiar selections including selections from the Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone, East Coast favourite Evangeline, and the current Broadway sensation, Come From Away.
Local audiences will also remember a number from Heart of Steel, Colford’s own musical about the Sydney steel plant and the women who had to take over the work during World War II.
Familiar faces such as Heather Merril, Katherine Woodford, Ciaran MacGillivray, MecKenzie Sechi, Brandon Carabin, Matt Earhart, Emily O’Leary, and many others will take the best Canada has to offer and bring it to life on the HAT stage, August 1.
Just 24 hours later, Cape Breton theatre fans are treated to the opening of the latest iteration of the Cape Breton Summertime Revue at the Savoy Theatre.
“The Revue is such a respected and well-known institution on the Island,” says Revue performer, Stephanie Hennessey. “It has and continues to be a platform for local artists and it represents a political, economic, and social snapshot of our Island each year it runs.”
If you’ve seen the Revue before, then you know what she’s talking about, and you can look forward to classic bits including The News, and the Coal Tones, as well as some of the most beloved music Cape Breton has to offer. Of course, there will also be plenty of new sketches, characters, and original songs to keep the show fresh and up-to-date.
For Hennessey, working on the Revue is something of a dream come true. “In my first year, I had the opportunity to work with Maynard Morrison, Bette MacDonald, and Heather Rankin. I grew up being a big fan of their work and having the opportunity to work with these people was surreal. That being said, the cast and crew every year has blown my mind with their talent, professionalism, and humour.”
Also included in the cast are even more familiar faces including Jordan Musycsyn, Jenn Sheppard, Margaret MacPherson, Peter McInnis and Stephanie Hennessey, as well as music from Rachel Davis, Darren McMullin, Brian Talbot and Allie Bennett, and band leaders Stephen Muise and Fred Lavery.
The Cape Breton Summertime Revue is happening at the Savoy for four nights only: August 2,3,16 and 17.
And not quite a preview but…
If you haven’t seen the Theatre Baddeck summer season of plays, then you really ought to check it out. “It’s our biggest season yet by far!” says Co-Artistic Director Christy MacRae-Ziss. With two plays happening all summer, and then a third show opening in September, it’s easy to see the truth behind that statement.
A remount of last summer’s successful comedy by Ken Cameron, Harvest, runs through to August 20, and Murder at the Inverary Inn, an absurdist look at the fickle nature of love set in a mystery at Baddeck’s historic inn, runs until August 16. Then, from September 8 – 24, The Young Ladies of Baddeck Club–detailing the historic events behind Marguerite McLeod’s efforts to celebrate the incorporation of the village of Baddeck.
For more information about dates of the Theatre Baddeck 2017 season, check out their website at theatrebaddeck.com.