By John Swartz
Mariposa Arts Theatre is celebrating 50 years as a company. It weren’t for the pandemic they would have been celebrating in the 2020 season. The show they put on Thursday night was a revue of the plays they’ve done (several of them three times during that span). I can think of one play they passed over and director Michael Clipperton said there were some others. As it was the show was 2 1/2 hours long.
Each member of the cast of 24 had some solo work. There weren’t any great scene or set changes, most being accomplished by lighting changes playing against a number of giant, translucent and sequined banners and moving around a bench or bringing chairs on stage. There were a few costume changes, but mostly actors added accessories, a hat, a coat, or something like that, to fit with the play any tune was from.
They had a 6 piece band on stage lead by Blair Bailey. Blair played every tune and had the lion’s share of the work. He didn’t skip a page, though I did catch him flipping backwards once (likely to play a repeat that wasn’t laid out well on paper).
The night began with the first words spoken from the first play MAT did on stage, and ended with Always Look On The Bright Side of Life from their spectacular production of Spamalot. Brian Halbot, MAT’s set constructor ace in the hole, even had a moment by video to show off the fantastic facilities MAT has at their Brammer Drive rehearsal hall; you could build a house in there – and sometime he does.
There wasn’t a lot of dance or choreography. If you think of how PBS presents evenings of music from the major plays, with the singers just coming out and doing the tunes with little choreography, more or less a concert, that’s what this production is.
However the Cell Block Tango from Chicago was done with all the dancing and choreography as it was when they did the musical. It was one of the highlights for the audience to cheer.
There were other significant outbursts for Christina Bosco’s Blow, Gabriel, Blow from Anything Goes and When You’re Good To Momma from Chicago, John Jefferies for Oh What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma and his opening solo to Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha and Colleen Greidanus for As Long As He Needs Me from Oliver. The rest of the cast all had their moments to leave marks, which they did, but those above had a little something extra the audience responded to.
Then there was Christina Bosco, Terry Therien and Valerie Thornton who played up the comedic nature of Whatever Happened To My Part from Spamalot. The tune ends with each hitting a higher note, while pushing the others back from the spotlight. Valerie’s final note broke glasses in the Green Room.
Josh Halbot and Michael Abernethy lead the charge, the ensemble, through Hot Patottie from Rock Horror Show – and Josh in Run Freedon Run from Urinetown – but those two have a habit of dominating the stage in any of the plays they’ve been in.
I think the most stunning moment belongs to the ensemble for You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel. They sang like the Cellar Singers and it was kind of moving. That tune was part of a block of ensemble pieces to close out the show which included Edelweiss and Climb Every Mountain from the Sound of Music.
If there is anything I would do differently it would be to reverse the order of the last block of tunes and end with Run Freedom Run set up by You’ll Never Walk Alone.
There are performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday you can go to. Get tickets online.
MAT is also hosting an anniversary party at the rehearsal hall from 1 to 5 p.m. November 11. It’s free but you can still RSVP online.
And, MAT’s Film Night folks got some stage time to talk about the duration and number of films they have presented at Cinema 4 and at the Galaxy. That little program financed the rehearsal hall. The next film night is November 29 with Blue Jean, followed by Jules on December 9. You can only get tickets at the door and hour before showtimes of 4 and 7 p.m.
All Gord, All Weekend
Last weekend’s Lightfoot Days Festival was successful on at least four counts. It attracted visitors from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. It might be others from elsewhere came too, those are just the ones I know of. People told me they were thrilled to be here.
I only got to three gigs and the venues were full. I heard from others who had been at different venues who said it was standing room only where they had been.
I heard Canadian Railroad Trilogy 4 times over the weekend. Three of them by Steve Porter, who sang it at the proclamation of Gordon Lightfoot Day by Mayor Don McIsaac, at the cutting of the birthday cake (they knew it was early), and when he performed with Michael Martyn and Scott Thompson at a standing room only Picnic Sunday afternoon.
The opening night concert by Classic Lightfoot Live at St. Paul’s Centre was sold out. The band (Gord’s nephew Steve Eyers, Erik Kidd, John Stinson, Liz Anderson and Bruce Campbell) covered many of Gord’s better known tunes, plus a number of what are called deep album cuts (the ones not often played in original form on the radio, or covered by others).
John does the singing. There were moments on a few tunes I thought – if my eyes were closed and I didn’t know better, I’d swear Gord was there. Not that John only sounded that way on a few tunes, it’s just I have heard Gord singing some favourites live so many times, how they sounded is burned into my memory. On those tunes Friday night I experienced a bit of transportation through the time continuum.
For others, I’m sure something similar happened with other tunes. Everything was met by applause at the beginning of tunes and at the end, with a standing ovation to close out the night.
John replicates Gord in a natural way. There are some peculiar and unique things about the way Gord sang, his diction, and the way he inflected the rise and fall of the melodies. The melodies are crafted to be memorable and the lyrics to fit the pitch he chose. Gord worked diligently to make the two go together in just the right way for his sensibility. Gord was a musician, not just a songwriter. The notes were important. It may seem like a minor point, but there was a foundational musical sense to why the melodies went the way they did. Gord’s English teachers might be proud of the vocabulary Gord developed. You can tell by the lyrics, using a word or phrase to describe a number of emotions in an economical way. Gord mastered finding the right notes to go with each word and the right word to go with each note he wrote.
One can learn the words and the melodies and have a voice in the range and timbre like Gord, but if you overlook how Gord wrote any line the way he did and the delivery you’ll be just another singer in a rock and roll band.
John isn’t that. He gets how to sing the tunes and does it effortlessly (though I’m sure with a lot of practice) and doesn’t forget the job at hand by inserting himself into the reproduction. Let me qualify that last bit, He’s done it enough times I’m sure it feels he owns the performance and isn’t consciously playing a part.
Others can tell, even if they don’t know how or why John’s renditions come off as being so faithful. I’ve been told before, and many did that night, they can’t believe how well John sings Gord’s tunes.
The band has done a string of concerts all over the province in the last couple months. It’s been quite a road trip for them. This week they played in Cincinnati, so others far afield are catching on to this band. If they aren’t careful they could end up with a touring schedule like Gord had.
The full house, aside from accomplishing the obvious, anchoring the return of the festival on a positive note, also gave the committee some working capital for next year. I know some of the folks who organized it are already talking about next year.
So they became a tourist attraction out of the gate, filled the venues, mounted a great centerpiece for the festival, and have a nest-egg to move forward. Not bad.
It seems the Shorts will be moved on a regular basis to a Part Two of the weekly arts column. Look for it tomorrow.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: The cast of Mariposa Arts Theatre’s 50th Anniversary revue – Photo by Deb Halbot.