Tag Archives: grand bend

New leadership, subtle changes enhance Oakwood’s off season offerings

5 Oct

 

Dave's PubBy Diva Jennifer Mossop

GRAND BEND – I recognized him instantly, and my jaw dropped as I took in the scene before me. Mark Craft, the owner of the renowned Church Restaurant in Stratford was clearly giving directions to the dining staff at the Oakwood Inn Resort in Grand Bend.   My curiosity well peaked, and the former journalist roused, I made it my business to find out the story.

overheadshotofpatioAfter about three decades at the helm of one of Stratford’s flagship fine dining establishments housed in a stunning old Baptist Church, Craft has sold the business. And, now he is at the helm of the food and beverage operations of this 130-room resort on the sandy shores of Lake Huron.

Under his care are three main services – the conference and event business, the Oak Dining Room, and Dave’s Pub and Grill. Sitting in the Pub there is no visible indication of a change. The airy room is pleasing and welcoming with plenty of wood, stone and massive windows overlooking the picturesque golf course. The server is cheerful and efficient. But there is more change. Craft is not the only new face. The kitchen is now under the culinary baton of Chef Chris Howard.

Opening the 4-page menu, it’s evident the new leadership understands change doesn’t have to be dramatic. The offerings have a Dave's Pub and Grill Oakwood Resortfamiliar feel but there are enhancements and a few new offerings in the generous list, which make it easy to find something for everyone. The new California Burger, colourfully adorned with a swirl of rich guacamole, is moist and flavourful. The return of Fish Tacos is a welcome favourite.

Food and drink come together each weekend in the Chef’s Table Menu, where ever-changing kitchen creations are well paired with new wine list options. For example, the most recent weekend offered Mediterranean Pasta with sundried tomatoes, green olives, artichokes, arugula, red onions, rosemary olive oil, served in multigrain olive bread, paired appropriately with Ruffino Chianti. Duck Breast with orange maple glaze was married with a Jackson Triggs Merlot, and the Grilled Mahi Mahi brought a Ruffino Pinot Grigio.

While the new fall and winter menus provide plenty of choices to test over the coming cooler months, it should be noted that Oakwood will be hosting its annual traditional Thanksgiving buffet ($37.95 per person, $17.50 children five to 12, free four and under – plus taxes and gratuity) in the Oak Dining Room on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 5 p.m. to p.m. It’s a great option for those who’d rather not spend the long weekend in the kitchen but perhaps, instead, on the golf course or at the Lakeside Spa. Maybe even a dip in the indoor pool, which is now open for seasonal memberships and one off visits.

And then maybe, just maybe, the pace will settle down just a bit for the new food and beverage guru. Craft admits that things are going so well he has yet to make the one block walk to the private beach to take in one of Lake Huron’s legendary sunsets. But perhaps he’ll get there before the winter winds transform the aquamarine waves into an Alaskan landscape, and the torches outside Dave’s Pub and Grill once again beckon winter wanderers to cozy up by the fireplace for a satisfying sip and sup.

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).

 

Theatre in a uniquely beautiful setting

3 Jul

By Diva Jennifer Mossop

According to NASA, Jupiter and Venus are a “jaw dropping few degrees apart” right now and clearly visible at sunset in the Western Sky. Venus is all about love and beauty. Jupiter is the planet of the abstract mind, ruling higher learning, and bestowing a yen for exploring ideas, both intellectually and spiritually. A perfect analogy for the experience that awaits you on the shores of Lake Huron, at the Huron Country Playhouse on the outskirts of Grand Bend.

There is something quite precious and picturesque about an evening at the Huron Country Playhouse.   The farmers’ fields are very green now, and filled with promise. The sky is big, blue and endless. And nestled in the midst of all this natural delight, is a seat of culture – an iconic member of the Drayton Entertainment family. For over 40 years, generations have been coming to this renovated barn to be treated to the entertaining, mind expanding, soul searching and soul satisfying delights of live theatre.

We drove along the B line from Highway 21, feeling the lush summer country landscape engulf us. My daughter sat beside me – 12 years old now, and dressed in crisp white shirt, black pants and a scrubbed clean look ready for her first “real job”. At age 12, children in the surrounding area are invited to usher at the Playhouse. Ushering is now ranked as a tradition and an honour, shared by generations in the Grand Bend area. These are the eager young faces that meet you as you arrive. Eager to serve and eager for the chance to watch professional live theatre!

Photo Credit: Kevin Kruchkywich and Daniela Vlaskalic in Last Chance Romance, 2015 Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

Photo Credit: Kevin Kruchkywich and Daniela Vlaskalic in Last Chance Romance, 2015
Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

There are two theatre options, with the main productions housed in the old barn and the smaller Playhouse II accommodating lighter fare.   Last year, Les Miserables met with ecstatic reviews, as did a pantomime version of Peter Pan. This year, Anne of Green Gables has already stolen many hearts, and now Chicago is just ramping up. This was the production my daughter took in as she helped hand out programs in the main theatre. I, on the other hand, had tickets for the Playhouse II, for the comedy, Last Chance Romance.

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

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

Sets and costumes are always creatively, meaningfully and well done, and the calibre of performer and performance continually meets with approval from seasoned theatre-goers and critics, alike.

Intermission brings the chance to step out into the fresh country air, and gaze at the magnificent sky, ablaze in setting sun glory. Collecting a refreshment, we ventured out on to the lawn to see the new gazebo and met up with the Chicago goers, gushing about the production next door. Note to self, buy tickets now.

At end of the evening, we collected our daughter, her eyes wide and shining with the new experience. Climbing into the car, we looked over the fields at the rising full moon to the East, and enormous Venus and Jupiter in the Western Sky. Natural beauty and human experience in a satisfying balance. If you haven’t been to the Playhouse yet, or yet this season, don’t miss the chance. Check its website here.

Sexy Laundry: A mid-life attempt to rekindle romance

12 Jun
Gabrielle Jones and Sheldon Davis in Sexy Laundry, Huron Country Playhouse II, 2015 Season. Photographer: Darlene O'Rourke

Gabrielle Jones and Sheldon Davis in Sexy Laundry, Huron Country Playhouse II, 2015 Season. Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

By Diva Christine Harris

I was pleased to be one of the lucky Divas assigned to check out one of the plays at Huron Country Playhouse.

Last year I went to see a British farce called Look, No Hans at Playhouse II, and the classic Les Miserables on the Mainstage.

HCPgazeboThis theatre truly is a gem in our backyards, with outstanding performances and great ticket prices. I was given a warm welcome by the staff at the box office and offered VIP cards that treated my date and me to refreshments after the show. This year the Playhouse is celebrating its 44th season and is enjoying the new addition of a beautiful large gazebo at the front of the property. General Manager, Peter Black has invited us to picnic there before seeing one of the shows. In the crowd were special guests during opening night, South Huron Mayor Maureen Cole and Deputy Mayor David Frayne. After the show as with any opening night, we are invited for a luncheon and to meet the cast.

I have to say, this is probably the funniest show I have seen yet! With a packed crowd, there were lots of laughs and even a few gasps of surprise! I can tell you a little bit about the show, but I don’t want to give it away because you really need to see it for yourselves. This Canadian comedy, written by Vancouver’s own Michele Riml is about a couple that has been married for 25 years. Henry, played by Sheldon Davis, and Alice, played by Gabrielle Jones, are getting away for the weekend in a swanky hotel to try to reignite the flame that is their marriage. Armed with the book “Sex for Dummies” Alice is determined to spend the weekend spicing up their love life, and Henry keeps getting distracted by the cost of the hotel and all of its additional amenities. The constant banter back and forth between the couple had the audience in stitches, Alice always having to be right and Henry being reluctant to try new things. It makes them evaluate where their marriage has gone in those 25 years, and how they’ve changed throughout the years.

Regular performance tickets are $42 for adults; $25 for youths under 20 (although this show is not recommended for children), groups of 20 or more are $34. Sexy Laundry runs until June 27th. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Huron County Playhouse, online a or by calling the Box Office at (519) 238-6000 or toll free at 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

 

Life is a Beach in Huron County

23 Jul

by Diva Calista Powell

It is easy to take for granted the beautiful beaches that we have available to us in Huron County. I have traveled around the world and lounged on some of the most incredible seashores; From Frasier Island’s champagne pools in Australia to Elafonisi’s pink sands in Crete, Greece. As wonderful as these exotic sands are, there really is no place like home.To me, there is nothing better than the freshwater Great Lakes and watching the sun set over the West Coast horizon. Here are a few favourite beaches of mine that I recommend you visit this summer:

The Stegall sisters performing at Summer Sunset Sounds for a crowd of beach go-ers.

The Stegall sisters performing at Summer Sunset Sounds for a crowd of beach go-ers.

Beach #1: Grand Bend Beach

Whenever I have to explain to city folk where my hometown is, I usually say, “45 minutes from Grand Bend”, because everyone is familiar with this lively strip and beautiful waters. From the night life to the soft stretches of sand, Grand Bend never disappoints. After a 27-degree day of sun tanning and water frisbee, I packed up my beach bag and strolled up to the observation deck stage to see one of my favourite bands, Stegall, perform for Summer Sunset Sounds. Summer Sunsets Sounds is a series of free live concerts that happen every Sunday night at 7pm on the main beach of Grand Bend. The sensational sunset and laid back atmosphere complimented the Stegall sisters beats in the most perfect way. To see the line up for the rest of the summer visit: http://grandbendtourism.com/events/summersunsetsounds

The waters of Grand Bend shining at sunset.

The waters of Grand Bend shining at sunset.

Beach #2: Bayfield South Beach (Howard Street Beach)

The sleepy town of Bayfield is one of my favourite places to be in the summertime. This season, I made a point to stroll through Patina Studios to see the fine art and pottery by artists Joan Bailey and Tony Eyamie, stop in to see my friend Jean-Anne Hamilton at The Black Dog Pantry for a snack and then take the trek down the long wooden staircase on Howard Street Beach to soak up some rays. What I like about this beach is that it is fairly secluded and has a much quieter pace, so it is perfect way to recharge and take a mini-vacation from the hustle and bustle of work life.

The Bayfield sunset lights up the South Street Beach shoreline.

The Bayfield sunset lights up the South Street Beach shoreline.

Directions: At Brandon’s Hardware store on the square, take a right onto Howard Street and follow it all the way to the very end lot.

Beach #3: Port Blake Park

This was the first year I have ever visited Port Blake Park, and thanks to Best Host West Coast (a Huron Tourism Association training program) I now know about this Lake Huron gem. Port Blake is a serene, yet lively conservation area equipped with a picnic pavilion and BBQ areas. Over the years, this location has attracted guests from urban centres such as Kitchener and the GTA. Port Blake Park is a great place to bring the whole family for the day, and is dog friendly (as long as they are leashed). Admission is $4 per person or $10 a car load and is most definitely worth checking out this summer.

Address: 71155A Bluewater Highway 21 at Highway 83 (Dashwood Road)

For more information on beaches and to discover many more summer destinations, check out Ontario’s West Coast publications at http://www.ontarioswestcoast.ca/beta/news/publications-brochures/

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