Tag Archives: mary’s wedding

Mary’s Wedding is comfortable but has classic elegance

13 Aug

marysweddingBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – If the secret to a successful play is for the audience to see a bit of themselves reflected in the characters, then Mary’s Wedding at the Blyth Festival should be a box office hit.

Every senior citizen – that age demographic that is predicted to soon comprise the majority of the population in Huron County – will surely be able to see themselves, or at least wish it for themselves, in the two young lovers whose sweet romance is interrupted by the start of World War I. And certainly, the audience for the matinee performance on Tuesday was a sea of grey-topped heads that hummed and tapped along to familiar-to-them wartime songs that played while they waited for the performance to begin.

The story itself is pretty standard stuff. Girl meets boy of lower social status. They have an adventure and fall in love. They get separated by life’s circumstances, yet continue to try to get back to one another. And yet, playwright Stephen Massicotte has taken this simple story and given it classic elegance, with a crisp script, clever handling of timeline, and repetition of phrases about fear and regret in the dialogue that serve to drive home its messages.

Sophia Walker, as the high-spirited new girl in town, Mary, is an incredible force on stage. She is entirely and equally believable as a precocious young woman who sees every bit of life as a great adventure or as a gruff and compassionate military sergeant. Eli Ham, as the dirty farm boy with a sense of duty to country, Charlie, is a competent actor who’s strong enough to share the stage with Walker, but gets less opportunity in his role to really shine. There are a number of lovely scenes where the two actors seem to be completely in synch with each other, as Mary reads from his letters while Charlie lives war experiences like being shot in a skirmish and riding full throttle into a line of Germans.

Director Gil Garrett has fully and effectively carried the audience through a story in which they could easily become lost if it weren’t well executed.

There are also a few really creative elements on the set, including a unique horse that you’ll have to see for yourself.

The setting for Mary’s Wedding spills far beyond those pieces of polished wood where the drama of this wartime romance unfolds. Although the acting is restricted to the stage only, it’s complemented by the building that is home to the Blyth Festival, a structure called Memorial Hall that was built by the will and spirit of the community to commemorate its fallen during the First World War, and by the nearby small white building that serves as the social centre for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 420 and its ladies’ auxiliary, both of which are sponsors of this theatrical production. This is a play with relevance to the community.

If you want to see a play this summer that allows you dream, then Mary’s Wedding is it.

Mary’s Wedding runs until Sept. 12. Tickets are $30 & $34 for adults and $15 for youth. Tickets may be purchased at the online box office; by phone at 519.523.9300 or 1.877.862.5984 during box office hours: non-performance days 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., evening performance days 9 a.m. -9 p.m.; in person at 423 Queen St., Blyth; or by mail with cheque or credit card information and including a $4 service fee to Blyth Festival, Box 10, Blyth ON, N0M 1H0.

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Blyth Festival Singers concert a fitting tribute to the end of WWII

13 Apr
Artist Director Sharon Poelstra invites the audience to join Blyth Festival Singers in singing The Maple Leaf Forever.

Artist Director Sharon Poelstra invites the audience to join Blyth Festival Singers in singing The Maple Leaf Forever.

heather boaBy Diva Heather Boa

BLYTH – The advertising poster promised a tribute to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II by the Blyth Festival Singers, with special guests The Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band.

But that poster couldn’t possibly capture just how fantastic the carefully crafted two-hour performance of Songs of Wartime and Peace at the Blyth Memorial Hall would be. It wasn’t just a playbill of popular songs like Sentimental Journey, The Maple Leaf Forever and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, or uncovered gems like In Flanders Fields and Distant Land. Instead, it strung together music, solos, sing-alongs, readings and commentary that invited the audience into one big parlour party.

Under direction of Artistic Director Sharon Poelstra, The Blyth Festival Singers brings together a

Cara Stephenson performs Don't Get Around Much Anymore.

Cara Stephenson performs Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

talented collection of 38 voices accompanied by Lori Millian. At the same time, the arrangements highlighted numerous singers, through no less than five solos, a fun and energetic dance performance of Don’t Get Around Much Anymore by Cara Stephenson, and a poignant reading from his memoirs by Tom Hennessey.

The audience was invited to join in singing The Maple Leaf Forever and It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, and a few voices floated up from the audience during other popular tunes.

The Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band, known to many because they play local venues like Goderich’s

The Howlin' Dog Vintage Jazz Band.

The Howlin’ Dog Vintage Jazz Band.

The Park House, subscribed to one of the great jazz cornerstones – improvisation – by winging much of its sets. The musicians held their first practice with the day’s replacement trombone player Paul Dearlove just hours before they were set to take the stage. They strayed from the program, dropping some songs and picking up others. They debated who would lead them into a song, with trumpet player Al Mullin telling the audience, “This is jazz. We gotta figure it out as we go.” And in the end, it all came together beautifully.

Blyth Festival’s artistic director, Gil Garrett, performed two readings from this season’s premiere

Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garrett reads from Mary's Wedding, which premieres in the 2015 season at The Blyth Festival.

Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garrett reads from Mary’s Wedding, which premieres in the 2015 season at The Blyth Festival.

performance of Mary’s Wedding. He read from a letter written to Mary from her love, Charlie, a young soldier who describes the battle scene at France’s Moreuil Wood, jumping his mare over his fallen sergeant and feeling his saber pierce through another man’s body. He also did a reading from Mary’s wedding day, when she weds someone else. The readings gave time for the choir to quietly file in after the jazz band’s sets.

How fitting too that the event should take place in the Blyth Memorial Community Hall, which is home to the Blyth Festival, the Blyth Festival Singers, the Blyth Festival Orchestra and the Blyth Festival Art Gallery. The hall was originally built to commemorate the lost soldiers of World War I.

Coming Up: The Next Generation- Cabaret Concert

When: Saturday, May 30 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Varna Complex, Varna

What: Blyth Festival Singers’ cabaret dinner and concert featuring young up-and-coming soloists from Huron and Perth, which will be the next generation of musicians to perform alongside Blyth Festival Singers. Music at this concert will be more light-hearted and popular in style and theme, to bring its season to a close in true celebratory fashion.

How: Tickets, $25, available at the Blyth Festival Box Office or from Choir Members.