Tag Archives: Alex Mustakas

Canadian Legends: Oh Canada – You Rock!

5 Jul
Neil Aitchison and Company in Canadian Legends, 2016 Season

Lee Siegel and Company in Canadian Legends, 2016. Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke.

By Diva Shari Parsons

GRAND BEND – A great way to have celebrated the Canada Day weekend was by attending the opening performance of director Alex Mustakas’ must see Canadian Legends at Huron Country Playhouse. It is a triple-threat production of music, dance and comedy celebrating the wide range of musical talent that this great nation of Canada has produced both in the past and continues to produce.

Neil Aitchison, as RCMP Const. Archibald Finkster, acted as the show’s witty and humorous MC against a backdrop of changing scenery from across this beautiful country. This was the first time that I had seen Neil perform and he was a natural comic who looked like he was thoroughly enjoying himself. I think that my favourite joke was the one about the rosebud tattoo – but you will have to attend the performance to hear it!

The production opened with a high energy song and dance routine to a melange of Tom Cochrane’s hit song Life is a Highway and Hank Snow’s I’ve Been Everywhere. “High energy” and “hit songs” were the theme of the entire production.

A packed house was kept busy tapping toes and clapping hands as we were brought on an historical musical journey, starting with Paul Anka’s Diana and ending with Paul’s song My Way made famous by legendary crooner, Frank Sinatra. In between, we were treated to Canadian musical hits from every decade, including rock ‘n’ roll, country, folk, classic rock, rap, hip-hop and down home East Coast by musical legends such as Neil Young, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, Celine Dion and Michael Bublé, just to name a few. We also heard music from bands such as Rush, The Guess Who, BTO, and The Tragically Hip.

The songs were performed by six multi-talented men and women, who not only gave fantastic vocal performances but also played instruments. My favourite singer was Stacey Kay whose powerful voice could give America’s Kelly Clarkson a good run for her money. All the singers did a wonderful job of sounding like the original artist being featured.

The accompanying “high impact” dance numbers were performed by four lithe and limber dancers choreographed by Gino Berti, who has worked on other Drayton Entertainment musical productions such as Twist and Shout, Hairspray, and Dance Legends. Dance numbers featured styles such as jive, waltz, ballet, country and western and hip-hop.

The singers and dancers had excellent musical accompaniment from a five-piece band under the direction of Brigham Phillips.

The costumes of both singers and dancers reflected the time period of the music being performed. I think that the gentlemen in the audience liked the sexy costume worn by Laura Mae Nason for her rendition of Shania Twain’s I Feel Like a Woman the best.

Both my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this production, so much so that even though my hubby wasn’t feeling well, he didn’t want to leave until the end! Now that is a recommendation!

Canadian Legends is playing at the Huron Country Playhouse main stage until July 16.

Tickets, $44 regular, $36 preview, $26 youth under 20, are available by calling the box office at 1-855-372-9866 or visiting online.

Legends. . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll pays tribute to music greats

17 Aug
Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, in the 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Michael Clark, Michel LaFleche, Gerrad Everard and Yvan Pedneault in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, in the 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

By Diva Caroline Thuss

GRAND BEND – I have been very fortunate to catch every musical offered at the main stage of the Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend this season. I was wondering if Artistic Director Alex Mustakas’ most recent creation (yes, he dreamt up, wrote and directed the Legends . . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll) would be a favourite as it would be hard to top the other shows, especially Chicago. Yet this musical flashback of the tops tunes from the 50s, 60s and 70s had me dancing in my seat on opening night!

The theatre was packed again and as soon as the audience finished the traditional Huron Country Playhouse “one-clap” recognition of the sponsors, the lights dimmed and the audience was taken back to a more simple time with old advertisements and other video footage playing on two retro televisions on either side of the stage to set the mood. The premise of the show is a popular television host, Roy Solomon, is signing-off after 20 years. The “theatregoers become the live studio audience” who get to relive the best moments of the show.

The 13-member ensemble each has superb talent and individuals got the opportunity to shine while bringing back to life moments

Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Laura Mae Nason, Jennifer Kee and Valerie Stanois in Legends … of Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

from music history. One cast member who really stood out to me, Yvan Pedneault, was able to capture so many different musicians beautifully but two that really moved me were rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. My parents used to play Simon and Garfunkel to help me sleep when I was little.

Right away, I was impressed by the vocal strength of Christine Glen in “Proud Mary”. This continued in “Son of a Preacher Man” and my favourite, “Respect”. Jennifer Kee nailed Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and, along with Laura Ma Neson and Valerie Stanois, brought The Supremes hits to a cheering audience.

Lee Siegel has such a rich voice that he had the audience singing along to “Mony Mony” and “Pretty Woman” to name a few. Gerrad Everad had the audience in stitches over his Mick Jagger portrayal and rocks the keys as Jerry Lee Lewis.

Michel LaFleche does it all from the rockin’ Chuck Berry to softer hits from The Lovin’ Spoonful. He teams up with Pedneault as Sonny and Cher…words can not even describe the comedy when those two are together. Michael Clarke goes from Stevie Wonder one minute to Ray Charles the next. His voice changes ever so slightly for authenticity of the artists.

It is the funny man Michael De Rose who ties it all together as the announcer, Sheldon Lubliner, of this Ed Sullivan style television show that gets the audience laughing throughout.  De Rose brings the audience some great belly laughs – especially in his rendition of “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips with Me.”

A warning to those who end up with front row seats. You may become a part of the show as De Rose selects audience members to be past American presidents and one First Lady. Two lucky ladies were picked out by the performers and became the focus of their amorous songs, which provided the rest of us some great laughs. Fortunately, the audience members did not seem to mind in the least little bit.

The ensemble  encouraged audience participation throughout the show and I did not hold back! Clapping to the rhythm of each song and singing along when appropriate (okay, maybe singing very quietly along with the cast to most of the songs) secretly hoping that I would be pulled up to dance with one of the cast members.

I look forward to seeing what this talented ensemble will be performing in for the 2016 Drayton Season. Did someone say Mama Mia?!

Legends . . . of Rock ‘N’ Roll runs through Aug. 29. Regular performance tickets are $42 for adults; $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Huron Country Playhouse, online or by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000 or 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

 

Chicago brings “all that jazz” and more to Huron Country Playhouse

8 Jul
Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season.Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

By Diva Caroline Thuss

As the lights dim in the theatre, I know that my husband is in for an interesting experience, as he has no background knowledge (other than the quick Cole’s notes version I gave in the car ride to Grand Bend) about the iconic Broadway sensation Chicago.

Boy, was I right.

The opening night of Drayton Entertainment’s Chicago at the Huron Country Playhouse had the audience captured from the start. Lots of long legs, toned abs and barely-there costumes along with amazing musically talented ensemble definitely grab the attention of all in the theatre. This is not a show for young children!

The darker, sultry side of life in the 1920s Chicago comes alive through edgy dancing, strong musical numbers and humour as the cast razzle dazzles its way through the story of the two divas, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, who vie for the spotlight in Cook County Jail after doing away with their cheating lovers. Both Jodi McFadden (Velma) and Jayme Armstrong’s (Roxie) powerful voices demand the audience’s attention from the moment they start singing.

It is hard not to find a soft spot in your heart for Geoffrey Whynot’s Amos, Roxie’s hapless husband, who just wants to be seen but can never catch up to the spotlight. His rendition of Mr. Cellophane captures the sympathy of the audience, as Amos is just pathetic.

Dean Hollin portrayed the sly lawyer Billy Flynn and made me hate how slimy and sleazy his character was but done in such a smooth way. Valerie Boyle gets the audience going as Mama Morton after her opening song “When You’re Good to Mama” that had us cheering for her and her powerful vocals.

HCPgazeboMy husband and I enjoyed some salted caramel ice cream bars during the intermission under the new, large gazebo that has been recently built on the front lawn. It was great to overhear conversations from other viewers about what they thought so far. Many talked about the athletic ability of the ensemble and the vocal talents of the whole cast. Others discussed the costumes (mostly the men) who seemed to be pleased that their wives and significant others brought them to the Huron Country Playhouse.

R. Markus as Mary Sunshine’s operatic voice could possibly shatter glass. I loved the shocker that comes from the character at the end!

The ensemble is simply mind blowing. It demonstrates beauty and strength in its dance routines, and is definitely not hard on the eyes, thanks to Ivan Brozic edgy costume designs that leave little to the imagination. This ensemble is full of talent as its members, especially the men, take on many roles throughout the performance. The murderesses’ “Cell Block Tango” is a favourite of mine along with their performance alongside McFadden in the opening number “All that Jazz”.

I loved the two-storey jailhouse set design that allowed for a very smooth transition between scenes and the orchestra being moved to the second level of the jailhouse just within view.

Director and choreographer Mike Jackson has a hit with Chicago. Alex Mustakas, the artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, calls Chicago “…the hottest ticket in town this summer” and both my husband and I agree! As we walked to the car, my husband was humming “All that Jazz” and was discussing how many of his friends would enjoy seeing it.

The Playhouse was packed on opening night and I am sure tickets will be limited so I would suggest clearing an afternoon or evening in your calendar to catch this show before it’s gone.

Chicago runs until July 18.

Tickets are $42 for adults and $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances and groups of 20 or more are $34. Tickets may be purchased online, in person at the Drayton Entertainment Box Offices, or by calling (519) 238-6000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

 

Diva moved to tears by this memorable performance

18 Jun
Colin Sheen, Danielle Wade and company in Anne of Green Gables,  2015 Season at the Huron Country Playhouse near Grand Bend. Photo credit: Darlene O'Rourke

Colin Sheen, Danielle Wade and company in Anne of Green Gables, 2015 Season at the Huron Country Playhouse near Grand Bend. Photo credit: Darlene O’Rourke

By Diva Caroline Thuss

Watching freckle-faced, red-haired, melodramatic orphan Anne (with an E) brought back so many wonderful memories for me as I attended the engaging opening night performance of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical at the Huron Country Playhouse. This was an excellent choice to open the season as it offers so much for all theatregoers and also holds a special place in the heart of Artistic Director Alex Mustakas, who performed the role of schoolteacher Mr. Phillips in the Charlottetown production back in the 1980s.

Based on the classic Canadian novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables will have you humming and singing (quietly) along to songs like “Ice Cream”, “Gee, I’m Glad I’m No One Else But Me” and “Kindred Spirits”. Danielle Wade (you might remember her from the CBC reality series Over the Rainbow) brings the energy and the spunk needed for the character of Anne and an exceptionally strong voice that brings together all the laughter, frustrations and tears that Anne experiences throughout the musical.

Joining Wade is an extremely talented cast composed of Susan Gilmour (Marilla Cuthbert), Ted Simonett (Matthew Cuthbert) who really add heart and comedy to the production as they play off each other with friendly banter.  Jade Repeta as Diana Berry, Anne’s best friend, and Colin Sheen as the rival Gilbert Blythe steal the show at certain points. When Diana joins Anne for afternoon tea that includes what is thought to be raspberry cordial, it turns into what has to be one of the most comical scenes. As Diana downs the bottle leaving Anne to deal with her strange behaviour.  I am sure many of us have had to deal with a friend like that at one point in time. When Blythe puts the frog down Anne’s dress and, along with the rest of the male chorus, imitate all of Anne’s jerky moves as she tried to get the frog out, that it is impossible not to laugh a good belly laugh.  Wade and Sheen are able to capture the many frustrations that school-aged pre-teens and teens have with each other and I swear that I remember feeling the same frustration when I was young that Wade’s Anne does to Gilbert’s teasing and silly behaviour. The choreography that accompanies the great egg-on-spoon race at the church picnic was high energy and defied all the laws of gravity.

One song, sung by Simonett towards the end of the performance, brought many members of the audience to tears (including me) as you could truly see the beautiful relationship that his character developed with Anne.

The creative team under the direction of Max Reimer, has create a performance that is sure to be a winner in the hearts of all theatregoers.  Anne of Green Gables charmed its way into my heart, as I am sure it will for many others. Make sure you get tickets before the show ends its run on June 27th.

Tickets are $42 for adults and $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances and groups of 20 or more are $34. Tickets may be purchased online, in person at the Drayton Entertainment Box Offices, or by calling (519) 238-6000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

 

HCP’s Les Miserables blew this Diva away!

15 Aug

by Diva Christine Harris

It was an amazing treat to be able to see Les Miserables on opening night in our own backyard, Grand Bend.  This was my first visit to the Main Stage at the Playhouse and I really enjoyed being up on the balcony.  The view was great from above; and it was also really neat being able to see the conductor throughout the night.  The evening started out with an introduction by Alex Mustakas, the Artistic Director of Huron County Playhouse (Drayton Entertainment).  He told us how long and how hard he had been working at bringing this musical to his theatre and welcomed us for the evening.

Cast of 2014 production of Les Miserable at Huron Country Playhouse Photographer, Hilary Gauld-Camilleri

Cast of 2014 production of Les Miserable at Huron Country Playhouse Photographer, Hilary Gauld-Camilleri

I really don’t know where to start, I was completely blown away.  The set was ingenious with how it moved and how they were able to quickly and easily change the feeling from a small quaint room to a large battlefield.  Props for the set like tables were easily slid into place with the system they used, so it took very little time and very little attention away from what was going on.  The costumes were beautiful pieces from the era that took you back in time, so you were able to get completely lost in the story.  The music and the singing by far was the most spectacular part of the evening.  A seven piece orchestra lead by conductor Robert Fraser did not disappoint.  With cello, keys, bass, percussion, reed and french horn the orchestra sounded beautiful together and complemented the amazing voices on stage.  I enjoyed the duo played by Eddie Glen and Kristen Peace as Madame and Thenardier who were both comical and crude; they lightened the mood and brought laughter to the audience.  Lee Siegel who played Javert had a strong and commanding voice; he was one of the performers I enjoyed the most.  My very favorite of the evening was “On My Own” by Ma-Anne Dionisio playing Eponine, that one will be in my head for days.

David Rogers in Drayton Entertainment's Les Miserable, playing at Huron Country Playhouse until Aug.30/14

David Rogers in Drayton Entertainment’s Les Miserable, playing at Huron Country Playhouse until Aug.30/14

At the end of the evening we were treated to a meet and greet in the lobby with the full cast and a midnight buffet.  Fans were able to talk to their favourite actors, and some even got autographs.  I was very happy that I was able to enjoy this whole experience and be a part of such a big production coming to such a wonderful theatre.

Les Miserables runs at Huron Country Playhouse until August 30th.

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

 

It’s World Theatre Day

27 Mar

Created in 1961 by UNESCO, World Theatre Day is celebrated annually on March 27 by theatre communities around the globe.  UNESCO’s goals were to

1)  Celebrate the power of theatre as an indispensable bridge-builder for mutual international understanding and peace.

2)  Promote and protect cultural diversity and identity in communities throughout the world.

Here, in Huron County, we’re fortunate to have two professional theatres.   I asked the artistic directors to share their comments on World Theatre Day.

Artistic Director - Peter Smith, Blyth Festival

Artistic Director – Peter Smith Blyth Festival

Blyth Festival‘s, Artistic Director Peter Smith ~ I believe there are two stories. The first is our experience; the second is relating that experience to another. There are many ways to relate a story about something that happened. I’ve heard terrific tales on a long prairie car ride, from someone at the front of a classroom, late at night around a kitchen table, coming from a radio on the windowsill, or on a small or big screen. I’ve also had experience related to me while gathered with a collection of others in one of the many theatres from across our blue planet.

Theatre is a live event – it’s people together in a room, or maybe somewhere outdoors, that has another crowd relating an experience back to them. It is shared.  It’s like being at a wedding. So many generations represented, so much anticipation, so much joy. Life is theatre and theatre is life. I encourage those who haven’t been to a play to check out the original 3D story this year. And for those who have, to head up or down the road and check out a theatre they’ve never been to before and witness the experience being related there.

World Theatre Day is every day for me. Theatre is simply the best of story.

_ _ _ _ _

Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director, Drayton Entertainment

Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director, Drayton Entertainment

Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director of Drayton Entertainment, including Huron Country Playhouse ~

Today, Drayton Entertainment proudly celebrates World Theatre Day in each of the unique southwestern Ontario communities in which it operates:  the original Drayton Festival Theatre in Drayton, Huron Country Playhouse and Playhouse II in Grand Bend, King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene, Schoolhouse Theatre in St. Jacobs, St. Jacobs Country Playhouse in Waterloo, and the new Dunfield Theatre Cambridge, located in the heart of Galt.

At its core, Drayton Entertainment has always understood that good theatre doesn’t just portray life – it encourages us to participate and experience it at a much deeper level. It encourages us to think, to cry, to laugh, to learn, to form a sense of the purpose of life, to be sympathetic with others – the list goes on and on.

Theatre is one of the cornerstones of a healthy, vibrant society. It is a conduit for the convergence of community, commerce, and creativity, building new synergies between the traditional and innovative … enhancing the lives of all Canadians in the process.

_ _ _ _ _

Watch for details of the 2013 season’s in upcoming blogs at OntarioTravelDivas.com or visit these websites today.

Blyth Festival Drayton Entertainment’s
Huron Country Playhouse
P.O. Box 10, Blyth, ON R.R. #1, B Line, Grand Bend
519.523.9300 519.238.6000
1.877.862.5984 1.855.372.9866
www.blythfestival.com www.draytonentertainment.com