When the iconic roots rock group The Band decided to go their separate ways, their final concert in November 1976, in San Francisco was filmed by Martin Scorsese and immediately became one of the great concert films of all time.
“I attended a performance of ‘The Last Waltz’ a few years ago in Halifax. It was a great show, and I thought that would be something we could do in Inverness County with the talented musicians we have,” recalls Beth Ryan of the River Hill Players. “It turns out Neil MacQuarrie, who is the music teacher in Inverness, was at the same show and had the same thought. About a year ago we talked about it and now it’s happening.”
The River Hill Players production of “The Last Waltz” take splace Wednesday, December 28, 7:30 pm, at Strathespey Place in Mabou and the concert is sold out.
The original concert, along with the Band, featured such musical luminaries as Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins (their first mentor), plus Bob Dylan (who made them his tour band and musical collaborators), Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Van Morrison, among many others.
The Mabou show features onstage Neil MacQuarrie, Jesse Fraser, Seth Fraser, Brian Doyle, Mike Murrdock, Isabel MacEachern, Lawrence Cameron, Jeannie Beks, Christine Campbell, Keegan Campbell, Rory MacEachern, Mike Ryan, Jesse Ryan, and Glen MacEachern. Behind the scenes, Cindy O’Neill is the director, Neil MacQuarrie is musical director, Dave McGregor handles the technician duties, and Beth Ryan is in charge of costumes as well as being the show’s producer.
“No one in the group has seen the Band perform,” Ryan says. “We would love to find someone who actually attended the original Last Waltz.”
For this show, all the musicians will be dressed and styled to resemble the original performers, and will recreate the feel of the original concert as closely as possible. Audience members are also encouraged to dress in their best 1970’s togs.
The Players started auditioning for the show in October and have been rehearsing since then, and, along with entertaining music lovers, their chief objective is simply to cover the production’s expenses.
The River Hill Players started out, in spring of 2007, as the Centre Stage Players with the goal to involve Inverness County residents in a number of community theatre performances throughout the year, and promoting the artistic development of both its members and their audience.
Their first production was “The Mumberley Inheritance”, and they continue to perform two or more productions a year. In 2008, they performed “Cobbler Stick to Thy Last” by Kay Hill at the Liverpool International Theatre Festival. They also discovered another group in the province using the same name and that brought about the change to River Hill Players.
In 2010, they performed “Her Wake” by Frank Macdonald at the Liverpool International Theatre Festival, and won the award for Best Canadian Production.
After getting “The Last Waltz” onstage, the River Hill Players will start make plans for their next projects in the new year.
“The only thing I would add is that this is the first musical event we have done,” Ryan says. “Hopefully there will be more.”