This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

January, 2010. The decade began with the 7th iteration of the Ontario District Barbershop Harmony Society’s The Best of Barbershop show at the Opera House. The show grew out of their annual winter convention held at Geneva Park. Chick Alexander had the idea to move their entertainment night into the Opera House and make it qave public performance.

I went to all of them until they ended the run a few years ago. In 2010 the North Metro Chorus, women in this case, were the headliners doing a show built around Irish tunes. They had previously been headliners and did a stunning 20 minute version of Les Miserables. For entertainment value, the barbershop show always was a winner.

Also in January, Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux, of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, were at the Opera House in January performing Paradisum, choreographed by James Kudelka. At the other end of the decade, Lemieux and Kudelka were back for an Orillia Centre for Arts & Culture show at the Opera House doing Elvis and The Man in Black.

Leslie Fournier

The summer of 2010 was all about guitars. The first version of the Streets Alive public art project featured 7-foot-tall guitars. Leslie Fournier, who had the idea to do the project tracked down the company that made the moose for Charles Pachter’s Moose in the City (you can still see one of them on the east side of Highway 400 on the roof of one of the business along the way) to make the guitars.

The exhibit, 50 Guitars, was meant to help celebrate the 50th version of the Mariposa Folk Festival and it proved to be extremely popular and successful enough to continue on to this year, well, 2020, when the sculptures will be camper van/mini busses of the VW variety.

And, Jowi Taylor was in town for the 50 Guitars kick-off. His project was the Six String Nation guitar he made from 64 pieces of material he collected from famous and important Canadians like Maurice Richard’s 1965 Stanley Cup ring.

With Susan McTavish and the Six String Nation guitar (Photo by Jowi Taylor)

Jowi was also at the Mariposa Folk Festival and people were lining up to have their pictures taken with the guitar.

Also at the 2010 MFF, Gord. He was the headliner for the Saturday night show and Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy did a set without Blue Rodeo to warm up the stage for Gord.

Here’s how 2010 ties into the last year of the decade. The MFF line up included Rick Fines and Suzie Vinnick in 2010 and Rick was here this fall for a Mariposa Echoes concert, while Suzie was here to open for the Downchild Blues Band’s 50th anniversary show at the Opera House in November. Downchild was also part of the 2010 MFF festival.

If you are sharp you might have noticed something about Mariposa’s 50th in 2010 and extrapolated 2020 must be the 60th. Congratulations. Yes, they are planning a big show to mark the occasion (they are promising 60 artists) and they have John Prine as a headliner. There are 4 other acts booked and you know there will be more. Anyone want to take a bet Gord is going to be on the main stage? You can get festival tickets right now for a reduced price – they go up January 1.

I’d like to say the Mariposa Arts Theatre started the decade with a bang, but with plays like The Odd Couple (with a female cast), and Barefoot in the Park in the little theater at the Opera House they had their usual competent productions for us.

Sweeney Todd Cast

However, In April 2010, they did Sweeney Todd in Gord’s room. Without spending a ton of time going back through old columns to verify, it seems to me it was the first time in many years MAT did a play in the big room. What is notable about it is they were starting to put their cards on the table for what the rest of the decade would hold, which was increasingly better productions each year. By the time we all got to November of this year, they were riding a wave of 3 or 4 seasons of plays that were produced and performed every bit as good as you’d get in the big theatres in Toronto.

Valerie Thornton, was the Sweeney director. It was her first time. This past November MAT did Urinetown, and despite lower than anticipated ticket sales it was their finest outing. Guess who the director was. Yes, Valerie Thornton.

Another tidbit, I referred to MAT’s 40th season when I wrote about Sweeney Todd, so that makes this their 50th season. I don’t think they realize it.

End Of The Year/Decade Stuff

The Brownstone has Space Quaker and Sam Johnston (plus others) to play New Year’s Eve with a $10 cover. Lake Country Grill has Even Steven playing. Dinner is included in the $100 charge and you need to make reservations at 705-329-0303.

The Quality Inn has Yuk Yuk’s comics Chris Quigley and Kevin McGrath for a 9 p.m. show. Dinner/Show/Dance tickets are $85. Call 705-326-7343. The Mariposa Inn has a Jimmy Buffett themed NYE party. Dinner/Dance tickets are $110. Call 705-325-9511 –part of the proceeds go to Orillia Soldier’s Memorial Hospital.

The City of Orillia once again has their family NYE party at Rotary Place from 5 to 8:30 p.m. It’s free and there will be a shuttle bus from Costco (where overflow parking is) every 15 minutes.

That Thing You’ve Been Meaning To Write

The Orillia Museum of Art and History is looking for submissions for the Mulcahy Publishing Initiative. Relax, you have until January 15 to finish writing your book about local history. You can do it. OMAH will select one submission and put their resources behind publishing preparation, a limited print run and promotion.

Historical fiction counts, as do poetry and children’s books – but they have to be about local history.  Go here and look for the pdf links for more information about what qualifies and how to submit.

And, the annual Sir John A. Macdonald Dinner is January 11. It’s actually on his birthday this year. The keynote speaker is Dr. Kevin Kee. He is the dean of the faculty of arts at the University of Ottawa and he’s going to speak about how digital technology is being used to find and preserve the past. The event is at Hawk Ridge Golf Club and you call call 705-326-2159 to get tickets.

Hindsight is 20/20

Happy New Year everyone. Unless you stayed indoors all through 2019, I know you had a good time. I did. Of course, if we’re going to talk about things beyond entertainment, well, it can always be better, can’t it?

I hope the next trip around the sun brings the best to you. Good luck, and we’ll see each other next year.

The Shorts

*  Did you catch the Free Label’s Christmas video? Probably not. I didn’t find out about it in time last week. Week late, $6.38 short. Cole Mendez is a member of the band and you can see it here.

*  Coming up… the Hog ‘N Penny has trivia night with Bill Dunlop every Thursday evening; Mark Thackway plays Saturday night… the annual Mudmen concert at the Opera House is Feb. 1; the Banff Mountain Film Festival is Jan. 9 to 11 (this sells out every year – 3 dates this time around); the Simcoe Contemporary Dancers  have a program called Confluence Jan. 17.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)

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