The Cape Breton Summertime Revue returned to the stage over the weekend for three shows at the Savoy Theatre in Glace Bay.
Max MacDonald was the special guest. In the first set, he did a version of “Workin’ At The Woolco” with just the right mix of bass, drums, guitar and saxophone (Allie Bennett, Tom Roach, Dave McKeough and Richard Burke) to make it fresh. His contribution to the second set was a reading of the news, preceded by a little editorial comment on how things were done “in the old days” and who are the cheapskate producers this year, anyway, who didn’t even provide a prop news desk for his bit.
A couple of the skits fell short on opening night, but it’s obvious that the chemistry is there for them to work. Howie MacDoanld, in particular, has the potential to steal the show. “Is This Cape Breton Or What?” is a wonderful glimpse into Howie’s world and his characters in “Better Than Nothin’” and “Three Hour Tour” had the place roaring. The musical comedy works well this year with “Frank”—a send-up of Dr. Hook’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone”—and “Atlantis”, as performed by Martin MacKinnon.
Overall, the music really rocks. From the selection of material to the segues, Musical Director Gordie Sampson has done a great job. The strength of local songs shines through with their treatment by the cast. Maynard Morrison, Richard Burke, Maura Lea Morykot, and Julie Martell do well to perform songs more often associated with other Cape Breton artists. And with just the right dose of fiddle tunes, by Lisa MacIsaac and Howie MacDonald, the band proves itself arrangement after arrangement.
Just before the final musical number, Maynard Morrison and Richard Burke pay homage to the comedy of Hughie MacKenzie and Allan MacDougall. The whole theatre shook with laughter at the timeless material, which was first delivered before many in the audience were. When it was announced that Allan MacDougall was in attendance, everyone immediately stood up, respectfully applauding the contribution Hughie and Allan have made to the development of Cape Breton comedy.
The night ends with a traditional song listed as “Purple Heather” which features Gordie Sampson on vocals and guitar. The song is also known as “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” and Sampson’s arrangement of it is attracting as much attention as his enormous talent. As the song finishes, Sampson picks up the fiddle and joins Lisa MacIsaac, Allie Bennett and Howie MacDonald in tribute to the Cape Breton Symphony to close the show. Despite sound problems, which may have been more technical than can be expected even on opening night, and the occasional missed cue and flubbed line, the cast and crew received a well-deserved standing ovation. Now we know why everyone was so excited.