By John Swartz
Last Saturday’s Old Dance Hall Players gig, Love is a Cattlefield, at the Opera House was 180 degrees different than their previous Opera House outing.
The group does improv comedy and by its nature it sometimes hits and sometimes misses, regardless whether it’s Second City or Whose Line Is it Anyway? The first time in the Opera House they performed in Gord’s Room and seating restrictions were in effect, so people were spread out around the main floor. George Carlin wouldn’t have had a good show with those conditions. Comedy needs an audience on side. Audiences get onside more routinely when they are sitting cheek by jowl because laughter is infectious.
This time they were in the Shilling Theatre, all seats were sold. They were able to connect with the audience right away. One of the things which hampered shows in the past was hearing them. When they were in the Geneva microphones were a necessity; it’s impossible to do physical comedy wearing a mic, and a couple of mics hung in front of the stage just didn’t cut it.
Wearing a mic isn’t a guarantee voices will get into the PA system properly either. I’m don’t remember for sure, but the previous time they were mic’ed up but it didn’t help. This time they just used their theater voices, which in the smaller room worked.
One thing they should be recognized for is coming up with their own games. It would be too easy to cherry pick from Whose Line Is It Anyway? But each of their scene setters is unique to them. Of course the prompts they solicit from the audience are a key part, and Doug Ironside’s (MC) ability to snag just the right ones out of the din of suggestions coming from all parts of the room makes the scenes absurd enough for the troupe to work with.
One of the things that really made me laugh, and you have to see it to really appreciate, is a man giving birth. It’s memorable because it’s the second time I’ve seen the same two actors, Murray Rodger and Kevin Scharf replicate it (that I recall) and both times it brought the house down. Timing is everything.
The Players have found the venue that works best for what they do. I suspect as time goes, they’ll end up having to schedule multi-day runs for their shows if they continue to use the Shilling Theatre.
You Have To Hear This
Ronnie Douglas’s new album, Music Is Medicine, is out and you can listen to it on Youtube. This is not the album of ten tunes you’d expect from Ronnie. There is not an electric guitar to be heard.
It’s a solo recording without accompaniment from his band. The first song, Waasnoodenwe, is an instrumental and sets the tone for the whole set. The guitar playing is gentle and with melodic lead lines and chording support. The lyrics have good hooks and the overall sound is consistent until the 6th song, another instrumental, Brothers (a duet with Richie Benson).
Also making the first half different is some conga and shaker playing by Steven Henry on the four tunes with lyrics. The balance of the album has a slightly brighter tonality. Steven also recorded the music at his studio, Vital Sound, and did a great job mixing it too. Everything is subtle, the balance between Ronnie’s voice and the guitar, the upper and lower registers of the guitar and the percussion being just present and not dominating.
Ronnie’s wife, Leanne, carries the singing on Helping Hand (Leanne also has a birthday this coming Friday, so Happy Birthday).
Ronnie is known as the blues guy around here, but this album is more in the tradition of a troubadour with very little blues architecture or scale construction present. The timing of this album is great, if one has a fireplace going, the lights out and a big window to watch the great outdoors through, this music is just right. And in the summer pulling up a chaise lounge and a cool drink to enjoy the stars to this music will work well.
- Here’s an opportunity for local musicians. 89.1 MAX FM and Gravenhurst’s Tall Pines Music and Art Festival are holding a Battle of the Bands May 11, 12 and 13 for the purpose of selecting an opening act to the June 16 and 17 festival. Blue Rodeo, Matthew Good and I Mother Earth are headliners. Find the registration information online.
- St. Paul’s Centre has a different kind of a service happening Feb. 19 at 10 a.m. They’re having a Mardi Gras theme and somehow I don’t think there’s going to be beads. There will however, be music by the Phoenix Jazz Quintet and the service is followed by a New Orleans styled Gumbo lunch ($15).
- The Orillia Public Library unveils their new Maker Space on Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Drop in for the grand opening there is a ribbon cutting the ribbon at 10:30 and there will be cake. They’ll be showing off their new gear from 3D printers, to laser and vinyl cutters, and VHS to digital converters.
- Sam Johnston has a gig of a different kind happening March 16 at the Lone Wolf Café. She’s doing a performance modelled after a radio show, so there’s a story to go with it. It’s the story of women in music. She’ll play some recordings and sing some tunes to illustrate the historical narrative. It’s a fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre. Tickets are $25 and you can get them online. If you can’t go you can still donate to the youth center.
- Roots North Music Festival still needs one more act to have a full deck at St. Paul’s Centre Apr. 21 and 22. Meredith Moon will be on stage with Kellie Loder and Michael Kaeshammer the Saturday night. The Ronnie Douglas Blues Band, Tommy Youngsteen and one more will play Friday night. Get tickets online.
- The Leacock Museum has a couple things happening. The submission period is now open for the K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry contest. You have until May 8 to send something in under three categories – adult, teens and children. The total prize pool is $2,000. You can find the nomination rules and registration online. And, the museum has a new exhibit, A Leacock Love Story. It’s about Stevie and Beatrix, not that other one.You can see it Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May.
- OMAH has new exhibits to see. The main floor has portraits of famous and should be famous women by Amanta Scott called Eyeing Medusa (Paul Shilling also has some work up in that gallery); in the smaller just off the lobby room is work by David Alan Hill and Christine Mack called Beyond the Fence; upstairs see Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward’s Burner Herzog; and in the climate controlled and hermetically sealed room find out the fascinating story of Great Tait: The True Story of Orillia’s First Millionaire. The next History Speaker’s Night is with Dennis Rizzo on the subject of how to research and create your family’s historical story; it’s March 15 on Zoom and you can register online.
- Cloud Gallery has 4 new pieces by a new artist on their roster, Gillian Schultze; they also have a Meet the Artist event February 25th with Eda Brown and Elena Dinissuk from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hibernation Arts guest artist for February is Bob Broom. Peter Street Fine Arts has new work by February guest artist Sue Emily.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Run With The Kittens playing Feb. 18; a music and musicians trivia night Feb. 22; Jake Hammond is in to play Feb. 23; Julien Kelland is in Feb. 25 and Will Davis and Chris Robinson play jazz Feb. 26… Quayle’s Brewery has Cam Galloway playing Feb. 19; Sam Johnston is in Feb. 24; Stephan Barnard Feb. 25 and J J Blue Feb. 26… Mark Thackery plays the Hog N’ Penny Feb. 25; Steven Henry is in Feb. 18… The Cellar Singers are doing Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem Feb. 25 at St. James’ Anglican Church, get tickets online… The Opera House has concerts by Pavlo March 11; Digging Roots March 16; Sean McCann (of Great Big Sea) March 17 and the Orillia Silver Band March 19; you can ticket for those online.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: The Old Dance Hall Players.