Tag Archives: theatre

Kitchen Radio opens Blyth’s 40th Anniversary Season

13 Jul KitchenRadioSet

by Claire Carter
I must begin this post with full disclosure.  I am a big fan of the Blyth Festival.  I love that the performances feature locally relevant topics, and exclusively Canadian plays.  I love visiting Blyth Memorial Hall, sitting in either the upper or lower balcony, and enjoying a world-class show in a Huron County village of 1,000 people.

I have been lucky enough that each of the recent productions I have attended have had bonus events.  Last year, I enjoyed a country dinner before a play (dinners take place Friday and Saturdays at different locations in Blyth, including churches, community centres and the Legion). The meal was lovingly prepared, and ended with so many different types of pie!  This year, the Huron Tourism Association was hosting the evening I attended.  Sweets and appetizers featuring local ingredients were available from local eateries and hotels, including Queens Bakery, Benmiller Inn and Samuels.

I was lucky enough to attend Kitchen Radio at the Blyth Festival on June 26.  The performance I attended was the day before the official opening, but as an audience member, I would have thought the show had been on stage for years.

Written and directed by Marion de Vries, the musical is set in 1968, and features a mainly female cast.  The play examines the relationship that women have with each other and music.  The play was captivating, and seemed to feature each of the four strong main characters equally, developing their personalities through song and dance.  The set and costumes were both fantastic.  Charming and funny, I found myself in good company with the rest of the audience, laughing and grinning at the on-stage antics.  Locally relevant tie-ins were made throughout the play, my favourite being that CKNX was the station being listened to over the radio.  Over a week later, many of the songs are still stuck in my head.  The YouTube clip below shows dress rehearsal of Kitchen Radio, and will give you an idea of the fun music and choreography you can expect in this play.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwBLniZy_PI

The Blyth Festival offers Canadian written and produced plays from late June through early September.  This season, four plays are set on the Mainstage (Blyth Memorial Hall): Kitchen Radio, Billy Bishop Goes to War, Stag and Doe and St. Anne’s Reel.  The Young Company presents Out of this World from August 27-30, and Radio: 30 is on stage at Phillips Studio from September 4-6.

Blyth Festival
Box 10
Blyth, ON  N0M 1H0
519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984

KitchenRadioSet

 

 

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight at the Huron Country Playhouse

10 Jul

HCPlayhouseby Diva Calista Powell
I can confidently tell you two things about myself; 1: Im no theatre buff and 2: I am terrified of horror movies. Despite this, I had an absolutely wonderful time seeing, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight” at the Huron Country Playhouse.

Set in the 1980’s at a spooky and secluded farmhouse, the characters of this play did an excellent job of making their roles believable. I half expected as I left the theatre to see Jan, the neurotic city girl and her geeky inventor husband, Greg, doing the tourist thing out at a local flea market. I could picture Greg’s pretentious sister, Laura, clanking on the boardwalk in her stiletto’s shaded by a parasol. And I most definitely could see George, the hard working farmer stopping into Kate’s Station to meet up for some gossip with the good ‘ol boys.

It is performers like this that bring these stories to life with such vigour and passion that make it such an enjoyable experience. I must admit, it takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud, but the theatrics that these actors presented had me chuckling and I found myself jumping out of my seat as ghouls and ghosts popped out of the shadows.

This may not be a play for the faint of heart, but it is most definitely a unique blend of humour and horror that showcases the amazing talent that Huron has to offer. From the set design, to the 80’s costuming, to the comedic display of pyrotechnics and lighting, I’d recommend this production to theatre-goers and rookies alike. Be sure to check out the show playing in Plahouse II before it closes on July 12th.

For tickets, visit:
Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, RR 1, 70689 B Line, Grand Bend, Ontario N0M 1T0
GPS coordinates: N 43° 18.834 W 81° 43.549
Box Office: 519-238-6000 Administration: 519-238-8387 Fax: 519-238-6587

 

Look, No Hans! – Huron Country Playhouse II

28 Jun

by Diva Christine Harris

This was my first visit to the Huron County Playhouse II.  I was quite pleased with the seating, being a short person I sometimes have difficulty seeing over people’s heads.  There was a gentle slope to the floor and the stage was just high enough to see everything, but not strain the neck.  There really isn’t a bad seat in the house.  The set was well decorated, and presence of many rooms off of it gave it much more depth and allowed the play to expand. The actors worked very well together especially with some of the coordination they had to perform with timing and props.  Overall everything came together very nicely and it was easy to get lost in the story.

Synopsis: Peter Fisher is posing as the head of a British car company located in Berlin.  There he is to await the arrival of a top industrial spy from East of Hans with a special package.  His plans of a quiet birthday go out the window as he tries to keep his cover by juggling a wife whose plane is delayed, his mistress, a singing telegram girl and a senior inspector.  Join this six crew cast in the cozy Playhouse II and find out how Peter gets himself out of this predicament.

Susan JohnstonCollins, Kevin Kruchkywich,Jacob James and Steffi D iDomenicantonio

Susan JohnstonCollins, Kevin Kruchkywich,Jacob James and Steffi D iDomenicantonio

Huron Country Playhouse & Playhouse II
Grand Bend, ON  N0M 1T0

Local Box Office: 519-238-6000 | Administration: 519-238-8387 | Fax: 519-238-6587
Open June 2 to August 31, 2014.  Please call: 1-855-drayton (372-9866)

Kevin Kruchkywich, Kaitlyn Riordan, and Jacob James

Kevin Kruchkywich, Kaitlyn Riordan, and Jacob James

Production photos from www.draytonentertainment.com

Falling: A Wake

5 Sep
image by Alyzen Moonshadow taken from Blyth Festival website.

image by Alyzen Moonshadow taken from Blyth Festival website.

by Diva Trista Russell

Falling: A Wake is the last production of the Blyth Festival’s 2013 season. Written by Gary Kirkham and directed by Peter Smith, the play follows retired couple Elsie (played by Catherine Fitch) and Harold (played by Tony Munch) as they discover the body of a young man on the front yard of their farm one autumn night. I had heard that this play was going to be quite comedic, but I was also surprised at how emotional it was as well. This play is actually inspired by the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy over Lockerbie in Scotland. Kirkham’s friend was on that very plane, and he wrote this play many years later.

Elsie and Harold are awakened one night by the sounds of banging and crashing, and come to realize that a plane crash occurred. Surrounded by luggage and debris, they discover the lifeless body of a 20 year-old man, sitting in a plane seat. Elsie, who loves to talk, decides to keep the young man company until the authorities arrive. Much to her husband’s dismay, she carries on a conversation with the victim, which is actually quite comedic.

Aside from the comedy, the discovery of the body reminds Harold and Elsie of their unresolved loss of their son, and is symbolic of the profound impact of grief. The couple’s lack of closure about their son and their resolve to move on was a reminder to me that we’ve all experienced loss in our lives in some way, and the healing power of letting go. I didn’t realize until I was writing this post that the title is “Falling: A Wake” not “Falling: Awake” as I had thought, which is quite fitting considering Elsie’s determination at staying by the side of the young man’s body.

Held in the intimate Phillips Studio, there was no stage set when I arrived. The props were very minimal. I learned that Elsie and Harold are a couple in real life too, which is not surprising considering the great chemistry and quick comebacks they have on set.

Falling: A Wake plays until Saturday, September 7th, including afternoon and evening performances.  The Phillips Studio is located at 209 Dinsley Street in Blyth.

For tickets, call 1-877-862-5984 or visit www.blythfestival.com.

Catherine Fitch

Catherine Fitch

Tony Munch plays Harold

Tony Munch plays Harold

Photos of Elsie/Catherine Fitch and Harold/Tony Munch are from the Blyth Festival’s website.

Prairie Nurse

26 Aug
The Hunt

Photo submitted by Blyth Festival

by Diva Nicole Olson

On Tuesday this week, I had a lovely evening out at the Blyth Festival theatre. I went to see Prairie Nurse, by Marie Beath Badian and directed by Sue Miner. As described by the playwright, it was a “fictional play based on real-life folks.” It was set in 1969 in a small town hospital in Saskatchewan, where two nurses from the Philippines came to work. The lab technician falls in love with one of them, but can’t tell them apart and thus, comedy ensues.

The show has a tough-as-nails head nurse, a hunting and fishing crazed doctor, a sweet but meddling candy striper, a caring and fatherly custodian, hockey star goalie/goofy lab technician, along with the two sweet, but home sick Filipino nurses. Combine all of these quirky characters and you get an enjoyable show full of laughs. I definitely enjoyed the fun, light hearted nature of the performance. They found ways to incorporate common stereotypes and make it tastefully funny.

Photo submitted by Blyth Festival

Photo submitted by Blyth Festival

There was hardly a spare seat in the theatre, and lots of chuckles could be heard from the audience! To see this show, or other fantastic productions at the Blyth Festival Theatre, check out their website http://www.blythfestival.com/ or call the Box Office.

Blyth Festival
423 Queen Street
Blyth ON N0M 1H0
Toll Free: 1-877-862-5984
Local: (519) 523-9300
Fax: (519) 523-9804
Email: info@blythfestival.com

Photo submitted by Blyth Festival

Photo submitted by Blyth Festival

Too Many Cooks

21 Aug

Too Many Cooksby Diva Susan Pye

On a beautiful Huron County summer afternoon earlier this month, a friend and I went to see “Too Many Cooks” atHuron Country Playhouse.  On the drive down to Grand Bend,  we wondered a little what we were doing, going inside to sit in the dark on a glorious sunny day.  However, we were well rewarded (and cool!) as we laughed, and occasionally guffawed, while we watched this very entertaining fast-paced farce.  Various characters popped on and off stage through 4 different ‘doors’ including my personal favourite a swinging door (you just know someone is going to get it in the face to comedic effect!). Those characters included a ‘Dudley DoRight’ mountie, a Chicago rum-running gangster,  a confused singing (not really) chef, a diligent though lonely government agent, and an embattled would-be restauranteur struggling to open his upscale establishment in Prohibition-era Niagara on the Lake.  What was truly impressive was the actors’ abilities to keep up the pace, manage the tricky timing of the dialogue, as well as the very physical aspects of the show…. and make us laugh!

While “Too Many Cooks” has finished it’s run at the Playhouse, Mary Poppins is now showing until August 31.  This is of course the wonderful musical, and  will be a huge hit with families as well as oldies like this Diva, nostalgic for Julie Andrews airborne via umbrella, and the  60′s.  What a wonderful way to wind up the summer, singing along with Mary, Jane and Michael Banks! Huron County is particularly blessed to have this quality of entertainment so readily accessible, providing a yet compelling reason to visit Ontario’s West Coast-  we’re not just another pretty  beach!

Huron Country Playhouse
RR 1, 70689 B Line, Grand Bend, Ontario N0M 1T0
GPS coordinates: N 43° 18.834 W 81° 43.549
Box Office: 519-238-6000 Administration: 519-238-8387 Fax: 519-238-6587

Dinner and Theatre makes for a Golden Summer Evening

20 Aug

2 Faux HeartAttackby Diva Susan Pye

Last Saturday evening, we went with some friends to beautiful downtown Blyth, to dine at Part II Bistro and attend the current offering at the Blyth Festival, “Garrison’s Garage” by Ted Johns.  It was a particularly  golden summer evening drive through some of the prettiest countryside in Huron County, where we who live here congratulate ourselves for not living in say… (name your least favourite city).  We don’t have to  fight traffic, construction (coz we’re not on Hwy 21), testy drivers and robber-baron parking attendants to enjoy a fabulous dinner and great theatre, at non-city prices.

We all had tasty, beautifully presented appetizers and dinner at the Bistro, as we told the chef when he came out of the kitchen to see how his creations were received by the happy diners. Clearly the word is out on this comfortable but classy dining spot, as it was packed.  Reservations are definitely a good idea.  My only complaint- dinner was so good, no room for dessert! Next time.

Garrison’s Garage was a hoot! Originally presented in 1985, the play stands the test of time, perhaps due to the timeless central theme- Canada Revenue vs. us poor schmucks, I mean Taxpayers.  We can all relate, or at least I can, as how to complete my Income Tax is an abiding mystery to me. As is how my car works and why is doesn’t (usually at the most inconvenient moment possible) is another central theme of the play.  It was a full house who frequently LOL’d, so clearly other Huron County residents and visitors share my bemusement re: the inner workings of the CRA and automobiles.

We are really are blessed in Huron County!

Garrison’s Garage runs in repertory at the Blyth Festival until August 31.

Blyth Festival
P.O. Box 10, 431 Queen Street
Blyth, ON  N0M 1H0
519-523-9300 / 1-877-toBlyth (862-5984)

Part II Bistro
Queen Street
Blyth, ON  N0M 1H0
519-226-FOOD (3663)

Buddy Holly Rocks!

22 Jul
Image from Drayton Entertainment website

Image from Drayton Entertainment website

by Diva Nicole Olson

Last week, my Mom and I went to see the Buddy Holly Story at the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend. I had never been to this theatre before, and I was pleasantly surprised at the size and overall atmosphere. The Buddy Holly Story was performed in the larger of the two playhouses and we had the best seats in the house! We were seven rows from the front and  in the middle of the row. I felt like Buddy was singing exclusively to me the entire show. The details in set design, costumes and props are what helped to transport you back to the late ’50s, where it all took place.

The show reenacts key aspects of the short, but incredible career that the Rock ‘n Roll singer/songwriter had. The talented cast depicted how he got started in the professional music business with his band the Crickets in Lubbock, Texas. They describe how he met, and fell in love at first sight with his wife Maria Elena Santiago. The show shares personal stories from his life and offers insights into the inspiration for several of his hit songs. What he was able to achieve, by the age of 22, was nothing short of extraordinary.

To say the cast has talent, is such a huge understatement. They all sang amazingly, especially Andy Christopher who played Buddy. In addition, they played instruments (some actors played several) and they danced. The double bass player put on an unbelievable performance of stunts with his instrument, and that in itself was worth seeing. They wanted to make the audience feel as though they were at one of Buddy’s concerts, and that is exactly what transpired. People were literally dancing in the aisles.
This show is all about the music. It’s full of hits like “Oh Boy,” “That’ll be the Day, and “Peggy Sue.” They also include songs from a few other artists from that time period. I grew up listening to eight tracks at my grandma’s house from the likes of Elvis, Patsy Cline and others of that generation. In the days since taking in this performance, I have found myself humming along to some of the songs and watching Buddy Holly performances on YouTube. I love the classics from that time period, and I absolutely loved this show.
Huron Country Playhouse
70689 B Line  South Huron, ON N0M 1T0
Box Office: 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866) or Buy Online www.draytonentertainment.com

Beyond the Farm Show in Blyth

5 Jul
l-r: Marian Day, Tony Munch, Rylan Wilkie, Jamie Robinson, Catherine Fitch.  Photo by Blyth Festival

l-r: Marian Day, Tony Munch, Rylan Wilkie, Jamie Robinson, Catherine Fitch. Photo by Blyth Festival

by Diva Trista Russell

I grew up on a farm, so I thought it would be interesting to see a play at the Blyth Festival called Beyond the Farm Show. It was different than I expected, and I realized that there is a whole other dimension to farming that I had never been exposed to. I grew up on a cash crop farm, so there was no cows to milk or chickens to feed. My exposure to raising livestock was very limited. Yet, I still could relate to many of the characters in the show like my neighbours or others in the area while I was growing up in Huron County, and I’m sure many in the audience felt the same way.

The history of the original Beyond the Farm Show dates back to 1972 when a troupe of actors spent a summer on the farms of Huron County. For the 2013 show, the five actors visited and interviewed over 15 farms and their families, as well as some local businesses to learn their stories. You can view a video of how Beyond the Farm Show came to be online.

This was the first time I had been to the Blyth Festival. The collective play tackled some controversial issues including wind turbines, increasing government regulations, municipal politics, family relations, and cultural divides between Mennonites and the larger farming community. These are all tough subjects that often don’t get voiced in theatre productions. So it was nice to see that a small local theatre was able to successfully tell the stories (and frustrations) of those in our rural communities.

The production wasn’t all serious, as the cast was very entertaining with their jokes, songs, yodelling, and funny animal impressions. If you see the show, you’ll even get to see a real farm animal on stage! For me, the play was both educational and entertaining with some good local history mixed in.

Beyond the Farm Show runs until August 16th.

For tickets, call 1-877-862-5984 or visit www.blythfestival.com.

IMG_3357

 

Tuesdays with Morrie in Grand Bend

4 Jul
Mitch & Morrie.  Photo by Darlene O'Rourke

Mitch & Morrie. Photo by Darlene O’Rourke

by Diva Trista Russell

Last week I headed to Playhouse II at the Huron Country Playhouse to watch Tuesdays with Morrie. I have to admit that I didn’t know much about the play before I saw it, but I had heard of the book. I had a feeling that the show would cause a few tears, so my Mom and I both brought some tissues—just in case.

Tuesdays with Morrie is based on a true story about a sports columnist, Mitch Albom, and his sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz. The two form a close bond in university, but lose touch after Mitch graduates. After Mitch (played by Jeffrey Wetsch) happens to see Morrie (played by Ian Downie) on television, he decides to to visit his old professor after 16 years. He discovers that Morrie, now in his late seventies, is battling ALS, to which there is no cure. With limited time left, Mitch resolves to spend each Tuesday with Morrie contemplating life, love, and death.

This show was definitely different from others I’ve seen at the Playhouse: it wasn’t a musical, there were no flashy sound effects, no intermission, or impressive sets…but I still enjoyed it because of the raw emotions expressed between Mitch and Morrie. While the subject matter was sad at times (those tissues came in handy!), there was also lots of opportunities to laugh with Morrie’s feisty wisecracks. I think we often take life for granted, so this play was a great reminder of the importance of embracing life while you can. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, as you have to see the play to truly understand the strong connection between the two characters.

Tuesdays with Morrie is very simple play featuring only a two-man cast with very a basic set and props. The simplicity made it easier to focus on the heart-warming interaction between Mitch and Morrie. Playhouse II was the perfect setting for this play, as it is smaller and more intimate than the main auditorium. Both actors would often speak to the audience, which made it easier to get absorbed into the story, and at times I almost forgot there was an audience beside me!

IMG_3353Opening night featured a reception afterwards, including a beautifully decorated cake. We realized after the play that Morrie was a familiar face. You may have recognized him as one of the grumpy old men featured on the TD Canada Trust commercials!

This touching and uplifting play is great for all ages and is one of my favourites from the Playhouse. I have also added the book to my summer reading list!

You can watch a 5 minute clip of the play on Drayton Entertainment’s YouTube channel. You can also find a great review on Huron News Now. Tuesdays with Morrie plays until July 13th.

Tickets: Call the Box Office at 519-238-6000 or buy online at www.draytonentertainment.comTickets range between $20-$40.

Playhouse II is located at the Huron Country Playhouse at 70689 B Line, Grand Bend.

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