By John LeBlanc
Rumours of the Summertime Revue’s death are greatly exaggerated. After last year’s revamped format failed at the box office, Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison—this year’s co-directors—have returned to the Revue’s original strengths: strong traditional music and broad comedy delivered by talented actor/singers. The ’97 Summertime Revue, despite some minor flaws, is one of the best Revues to date.
The music is, as always, first rate. There is much traditional music in this year’s Revue, and the band (led by Gordie Sampson) has a great time showing their versatility: everyone gets a crack at the instruments during the show. “The Stepping Song” is a guaranteed toe-tapper. Howie MacDonald’s fiddle was used often, and rightly so; his playing is unmatched for energy, technique and just plain fun. “Joseph” is another great ballad from Bruce Guthro and Gordie Sampson. A definitely welcome addition to this year’s show is Julie Martell. Her clear, strong voice was absolutely marvelous, especially her duet with Richard Burke, “The Water is Wide”. My only complaint is that Maura Lea Morykot, returning for her second year, was underused. Maybe she could sing the Gaelic lyrics to “The Stepping Song”?
I enjoyed the sharp political edge in last year’s Revue, and I was disappointed by the lack of bite in the sketches this year. Maynard gave a well-deserved tribute to Hughie and Allan. Good jokes never go out of style. Howie MacDonald’s “Is this Cape Breton or What?” was a terrific send-up of all those Cable 10 shows that showcase local culture: call it “Wayne’s World meets Island Echoes”. The Alanis Morrisette parody was good too. “I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is rolling up the rim to win.” However, apart from a sketch where Maura Lea and Julie play overworked nurses watching over patients having to operate on themselves because of health-care cutbacks, the humour mostly came from watching our favourite characters up to their old tricks. The rule of thumb? If you enjoy Cecil and “Good Dear, Good”, you won’t be disappointed.
Overall, the ’97 Summertime Revue is a keeper. The second half is one of the tightest sets the Revue has put on in years. So tell your friends from away to go see the show when it goes on tour, and book your tickets for its return in August.