The anticipation was evident Thursday night as fans filled the seats of the Savoy for the first of five Summertime Revue Reunion shows. With a twelve year span between the last performance and today, folks have been discussing for weeks whether the 2010 edition could possibly live up to the memory of one of the most successful touring east coast shows of all time. But judging by the crowd reaction on opening night, we can rest assured that no amount of time could erase or diminish the impeccable comedic timing or the precise musical collaboration of this cast. In fact, if anything, it was as if they never went away, as, though the majority of the musical selections were chosen from past performances, it only served to fuel the audiences’ appreciation as everyone jumped on board for a welcomed trip down memory lane.
If I had one disappointing thing to say it would be that the evening ended way too soon. From the moment the lights came up and those familiar faces stepped out front, you knew this was going to be great. With Maynard Morrison, Bette MacDonald, Richard Burke, Matt Minglewood, and Max MacDonald, plus Fiona and Ciaran MacGillivray, the opening number had it all, from “Brothers in the Saddle”, “Go Off On Your Way”, “Plain Old Miner Boy”, and “New York New York”, to a rousing conclusion featuring Fiona on the Rankin classic “Rise Again”. And as if these voices were not enough, the house band also included a who’s who of Cape Breton’s most respected musicians, with Fred Lavery, Allie Bennett, Stephen Muise, Wendy MacIsaac, Brian Talbot, Dave MacKeough, and the latest members of the Cottars, Bruce Timmons and Claire Petit.
The Reunion Show concentrates heavily on the music end of things, and with such a vast Summertime Revue catalogue to choose from, the audience delighted in hearing those familiar sounds, some going back close to twenty-five years. Minglewood belts out “Me & The Boys” and teams up with Fiona MacGillivray for the haunting “Valley of Strathlorne”. There’s the group collaboration on “Going to the Bungalow” and who can forget Max MacDonald’s “Management Trainee Blues”? There was also a lesser known yet appropriate song, “Remember the Miner”, delivered exquisitely by Richard Burke. Interspersed among the songs, of course, were some great old fashioned traditional tunes featuring MacIsaac and Petit on fiddle.
Following intermission, special guests the Cottars own the stage for a set of some of the best work from their award-winning career. “Ready for the Storm” never ceases to send chills through any crowd, and their latest release “Fare Thee Well Northumberland”, which is getting plenty of airplay on local stations. The Cottars cannot leave a stage until Fiona treats one and all with “The Briar & the Rose” which, as usual, resulted in a standing O. They finish up with a fantastic blast of tunes.
Although the musical end of The Summertime Revue Reunion is outstanding, as expected, the comedy segments can match them moment for moment. I won’t spoil any punch lines, but suffice it to say that if you like to laugh, this is the show for you, with Bette and Minglewood teaming up for some cross border hi-jinx and Max MacDonald as Ted Jordon delivering a hilarious spin on local news. But as any Summertime Revue fan knows, you just cannot surpass the “characters” of Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison, especially as “Mary” and “Cecil”. It’s side-splitting laughter each and every time they step onto the stage, speak, or even just stand in costume. Mention must be given as well to the MacGillivrays for their participation in some of the sketches, proving once again that they are a multi-dimensional addition to any stage.
The comedy bits alone are worth every dollar spent on tickets. So when you combine the entire package, the Summertime Revue Reunion stands as an institution in a class of its own. The evening ends with a show stopping “Out on the Mira” finale including all and featuring Matt Minglewood on lead vocals. Phenomenal.
If you haven’t seen the show there may be a few seats open for Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but don’t delay, word will spread quickly that this is the summertime show not to be missed! In his welcoming remarks, Savoy Board member Geoff MacLellan said it best, “nothing defines Cape Breton culture better than the Summertime Revue.”