It’s the morning after the Summertime Revue’s 1998 debut at the Savoy Theatre. Already I’ve heard J.P. Cormier songs on two radio stations and it’s not even 9 am yet. J.P. is musical director of the show this year which means he got to pick the band. The band is good and tight as always, but this year it really seems like a band. There’s an obvious affection on stage among the players (Allie Bennett, Dave McKeough, Brian Talbot, J.P., Jennifer Roland, Richard Burke, and Hilda Chiasson-Cormier). And the songs are entertaining. Cormier’s numbers shine in the reinterpretation, especially “My Life Is Over”, as do Wally MacAulay’s “North Sydney Quay” and Burce Guthro’s “Walk This Road”. My only objection to the music would have Allister MacGillivray’s “Bye Bye My Island” which opens with the same old lament about a lost way of life as the fish are gone and the coal is gone and the dirty, dangerous back-breaking work of a past generation is lost forever. We need to get over it. The sentiment that one can no longer work as his father had has lost its sentimentality for me. I’m not interested in being thankful just to have a job despite the working conditions. Look at where that has got us. As the Revue is seen as representative of our island’s culture, this message has to go.
The brightest comedy is still delivered by Maynard Morrison. The political satire songs are the best, the exchange of stories between he and Mary Colin-Chisholm at the (“Ghosts”) works beautifully, and with Richard Burke, Hughie and Allen’s touch is brought to life for a whole new audience. Mary Colin-Chisholm added a lot to the show, though the talking while inhaling was a little too Bette MacDonald. Of course, her Celtic Obsessive Disorder is brilliantly revealed. The show still lacks a strong female presence of voice and character though. Julie Martell’s singing is less overpowering this year and that’s a good thing, but I still have a hard time believing her characters. Hilda Chiasson-Cormier, however, was greatly entertaining as a broken English hooker.
The first set ends nicely with “Cloggin’”, and check out what they’re reading while J.P. peels off the tunes. I enjoyed the second set much more than the first. The comedy was stronger, the pace was better. The ceilidh set was especially nice. Overall, it was the same old thing: skit, clap, song, clap, another skit, clap, here comes J.P. for another song… but it’s entertaining and there us enough strong material to make it at least as good a show as last year.