Smooth Sailing for Theatre New Brunswick’s The Boat


Left to Right: Ron Kennell and Jon De Leon in Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Boat, based on the short story by Alistair MacLeod. Adapted by Ryan Griffith. Photo Credit: Andre Reinders.

Theatre New Brunswick’s world premiere production of The Boat, based on the short story by Canadian writer Alistair MacLeod, is essential theatre for the Maritimes. Adapted by Ryan Griffith, The Boat reminds us that tradition is more than just a way of living, it is the heart and soul of community. And so, what happens when young people reject tradition in the pursuit of opportunity and independence?

Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones, The Boat stages the early memories of a man (Ron Kennell) from Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. He remembers life in the small fishing community where his Father (Ron Kennell) and Mother (Stephanie MacDonald) raised him and his sisters. The man’s father is a fisherman with a strong interest in literature, a great love for books that he passes down to his children. His mother, on the other hand, sees no value in reading books and insists that her children use their time more productively. She persists that her son should be helping his father on the family boat, just as other boys help their fathers once they reach a certain age, but her husband refuses to have their son work with him.

With the support of their father, the sisters become avid readers, find employment with a seafood restaurant (the operators dismissed by the mother as outsiders), and enjoy a social life outside of duties around the house. The sisters eventually move away from home, leaving their brother as the last one in the nest. The pressure from his mother and Uncle (Graham Percy) to participate in the family tradition increases.

The son’s memories are revisited with both nostalgia and mournful meditation. He celebrates the fishing community and their way of life, but also remembers the struggle of those fishermen who worked tirelessly to provide for their families. The sea provides, but also can take away. There is a point where he realizes something new about his father, that perhaps his father never wanted to be a fisherman. He suddenly sees his father in a whole new light, the man who once appeared bigger than life is now exhausted and run down in his mind.

What makes The Boat a compelling story is the fear of irreversible change that motivates the parents to act the way they do. The mother fears the changes she sees in her community and what that means for her family and neighbours, perhaps their way of living will never be the same; the father fears that his children may never have another chance to follow their dreams once they are set on a path. 

And so, New Brunswick audiences may find MacLeod’s family drama, originally published in 1968, still very relevant today. Youth out-migration has contributed to significant population decline in New Brunswick. There are young people who would like to stay, but feel their opportunities in the province are limited. As a result, the province is faced with the challenge of both keeping young people here and bringing people back to New Brunswick. Many would be happy if these goals were achieved, but the thing about change is that once it happens, it’s hard to go back to the way things were.

The small, yet mighty drama is staged inside TNB’s Open Space Theatre. Here, the production embraces subtlety in its design and direction. Mike Johnston’s set is kept simple with four wooden door frames, designed to look as though the wood came straight from the docks, that are mobile and used by the actors to establish new spaces. There are also seven canvases that hang in the back, each full of bright colours. Sherry Kinnear’s costume design is thematically modest with subdued colours and patterns. Morgan Jones’ direction emphasizes distance as a way to establish relationships and the non-verbal – what the characters don’t say, but perhaps want to say. The pace is steady, never too over-the-top unless the moment calls for it (like a big storm). The various elements work well to elevate the elegance of the text.

De Leon’s character has his reasons for doing and saying the things he does, and often he doesn’t feel the need to share them. There is a soft vulnerability under the surface, and De Leon shows it with a muted demeanor that feels more genuine than the jovial act that his character puts on for others. De Leon’s nuanced performance may just cause some men in the audience to phone their fathers after watching the play. And Kennell delivers a fine performance as a son who realizes that his father was a more complex person than he thought. The actor is able to turn on a dime between the character’s youthful naivety and mature reflection as an adult.

MacDonald succeeds at presenting a character whose well-intentioned actions could very well be perceived as antagonistic. The mother’s uncompromising will softens in personal moments, giving us a hint by the actress that her character is really not trying to be a bad person – she just wants her family to stay together. Percy delivers an intriguing performance as a fisherman troubled by too many years working on the open sea. His character speaks frankly about how dangerous the sea can be for fishermen, both physically and mentally, and yet he still goes to work everyday. Of course, he can’t afford not to work since he has to feed a very large family at home. And so what kind of an impact does that have on a person? The weight of such a heavy responsibility is expressed by the actor through brooding movement that conveys defeat, hopelessness, and maybe something darker within.

Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Boat is a must-see.

Theatre New Brunswick’s The Boat runs March 9 – 18 in Fredericton at the Open Space Theatre. The production will travel to Halifax, Miramichi, Bathurst, Woodstock, and St. Andrews starting March 21st. Visit Theatre New Brunswick’s website for full details.

Be…In Outer Space: Next Folding Theatre Company’s Fred Nebula is Purely New Brunswick

Fred Nebula is the latest production from Next Folding Theatre Company, and it’s really something different. The play is set in the vastness of outer space, and yet the characters are purely New Brunswick. It’s New Brunswickers…in space! With aliens, robots, and space cougars.

Presented inside St. Thomas University’s Black Box Theatre, Fred Nebula is a collaborative effort by eight writers, seven of whom also perform on stage. The episodic play, directed by Ryan Griffith, stages life on board a spaceship where the crew are beginning to miss home. Turns out that the novelty of space travel gets old after enough time away from friends and family. And so, the crew try to get along with each other because, well, who else are they going to spend time with?

The play’s opening scene sums up Fred Nebula very well. In it, members of the crew are seated around the table listening to Steve (Madeline Whalen / Rebekah Chassé) share a ghost story. Even in the far future people are not only still afraid of ghosts, but they also still like to tell stories.

Where Fred Nebula succeeds is the humanity at the core of its science fiction setting. Characters like Gabby (Kira Smith / Tilly Jackson) are grounded by common troubles. She is secretly in love with Eric (Corenski Nowlan) and wishes she had the courage to tell him. (Also, Eric is a robot). And then there’s the whole issue of eating the same meal day after day. Gabby doesn’t care if the crew’s meals follow Canada’s Food Guide, no one should have to eat the same meal over two hundred times.

Science fiction is no stranger to social commentary, look at Star Trek or episodes from The Outer Limits. Here, the prejudice is against citizens from Aia’s conflict-ridden home planet. When some of the crew members learn that Aia is from that planet, they suddenly start to see her differently and wonder if she’s just like “them” or an exception. What gives the scene impact is when Steve and Aia, away from the other crew, start to talk about their families. There’s a realization by Steve that they share a lot in common, leading the character to stand up for Aia when she’s not around.

Again, the strength of Fred Nebula is its focus on the human even in extraordinary circumstances. The main theme here is some things never change. Like peoples’ desire to belong or to feel respected, as one crew member shares during a team building exercise. The emphasis on community and ideas about belonging makes us think about where and who we are now, and the direction we are headed in. There’s a lot being said not only about communities in New Brunswick, but also life on our Pale Blue Dot. 

That doesn’t mean that Fred Nebula isn’t also delightfully weird. At one point, a character talks about adding a third samosa stand at the Farmer’s Market; the next there’s a dangerous space anomaly that threatens the crew. There’s even a fresh and hilarious take on the enduring New Brunswick cougar myth – a great scene by Whalen and Melissa McMichael who plays the Captain. So, there’s a refreshing mix of serious commentary and oddball humour.

Alien interference causes the human crew members to have new bodies when the play resumes in the second act, hence the dual credits for certain characters. The crew members, now being played by a different set of actors, are totally not okay with the changes. It’s a fun and clever way of fitting all 19 actors on stage.

Unfortunately, Fred Nebula‘s second act feels less cohesive and engaging than its first. The love triangle that emerges is an interesting development, but potential sabotage by one of the crew members? Oddly placed near the end of the play, so it feels inconsequential. Which really sticks out in a play that runs long at 2h 15min (excluding a 15-minute intermission). It’s too bad since the character dynamics from the first act are worthy of revisiting. 

The production embraces the vibe of a low-budget space opera, almost ideal for the type of stories staged here. Holmes-Lauder’s atmospheric light and sound design produces a feeling of travelling the stars. The cast’s acapella performances during scene transitions give the feeling of an intense serialized sci-fi drama (think Captain Kirk vs. Gorn). The spaceship, prop and set design by Samuel Crowell, feels as though this vessel has seen better, more vibrant days – like a certain province. Costume Designer Katherine Hall (who plays Sam, along with Telina Debly) delivers a great cheesy robot costume for Nowlan. It’s simple black clothing with thin material glued on to give the appearance of a metal body. The crew’s outfits are kept simple, as well, with plain casual clothing, which helps accentuate the more sci-fi elements of the production.

Fred Nebula is a space adventure that manages to be both fun and relevant to our current stardate.

Next Folding Theatre Company’s Fred Nebula runs March 2 – 4 at the Black Box Theatre.

Cast & Writing Team

Amelia Hay…Writer/Aia
Tilly Jackson…Writer/Gabby
Lee Thomas…Writer/Communications
Elizabeth Goodyear…Writer/Garrett
Neomi Iancu Haliva…Writer/Advisor Lexus
Madeline Whalen…Writer/Pilot
Kira Smith…Writer/Gunner
Alex Rioux…Writer
Jenn Flewelling…Ambassador Kardoso
Heather Stuckless…Overseer Jutuun
Rebekah Chassé…Steve
Telina Debly…Sam
Corenski Nowlan…Eric
Arianna Martinez…Jean
Robbie Lynn…Louis
Katherine Hall…Security
Melissa McMichael…Credits Music Composition/Captain
Michael Holmes-Lauder…The Second One

Adventure Awaits in Theatre New Brunswick’s The Snow Queen


Miriam Fernandes and Andrew Broderick in Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Andersen and adapted by Thomas Morgan Jones. Photo Credit: Andre Reinders.

This holiday season, Theatre New Brunswick presents an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. Adapted by director Thomas Morgan Jones, The Snow Queen tells the story of a young girl named Gerda (Miriam Fernandes) who embarks on a journey full of magic and peril to save her best friend Kai (Antoine Yared) from the titular villain (Michelle Polak).

The trouble all begins when shards of a cursed mirror land in Kai’s eye and heart, causing him to become very mean towards his friends and neighbors. And then one day, the Snow Queen appears before Kai and bestows upon him a kiss that makes him forget his loved ones, including Gerda. Kai is soon taken far away from home to the Snow Queen’s ice palace.

Along the way to save Kai, Gerda meets a variety of characters – the actors in multiple roles – from new lands. An evil old woman (Polak) casts a spell on Gerda that traps her in a deep sleep. Later, Gerda meets a Crow (Andrew Broderick) who tells her he may have seen Kai. And then, Gerda’s voyage in a golden carriage ends when she is taken prisoner by The Robber’s Daughter (Eva Barrie).

The magic of Andersen’s fairy tale is in what Gerda discovers out in the natural world, away from the comforts of home. Although somehow Gerda’s epic journey feels very small inside the Fredericton Playhouse. One part of the problem is how barren Jung-Hye Kim’s set looks, especially with a small cast of actors. The stage action is captured inside two large frames that have an ice crystal pattern along their borders. There is plenty of room for set pieces to fly and roll in, although perhaps too much room. Kim’s set works fine for the ice palace, but what about the vast, living world that Gerda ventures out into?

Jones’ direction also feels far too contained for the scope of Andersen’s fairy tale. The staging could be more open so to give a greater sense of the world around Gerda. Really, TNB’s Open Space Theatre might have been a better venue for The Snow Queen than the Playhouse. Perhaps then the set would not feel as empty, and more flourish could have been added to breathe extra life and warmth into the set. Michelle Ramsay’s lighting work does add some dimension and excitement to the production, but not enough to push the show full on towards holiday spectacle.

Sherry Kinnear’s splendid costume designs capture the awe that awaits Gerda outside her front door. The Rose (Barrie) is dressed beautifully in soft green and deep red, making the evil old woman’s act of trapping her underground all the more terrible. The Crow’s sharp, detailed wings look great when Broderick opens his arms wide. Denise Richard’s masks for the animal characters, particularly the reindeer Ba (Broderick), are also visually stunning.

Fernandes plays Gerda with cheery determination, delivering an enchanting performance that makes us root our young heroine. One of Fernandes’ great strengths is the vibrancy of her expression and movement, which fits very well in a story like The Snow Queen. Her stage partners share the same enthusiasm, making the the production a joy to watch. What’s fun about Barrie’s portrayal of The Robber’s Daughter is how she plays the character, who really enjoys waving her knife around, with a cavernous gruffness. It’s just such a contrast to the other fairy tale characters, even the Snow Queen, that Barrie truly shines when she takes the stage. Broderick captures the physical qualities of a crow and reindeer very well. Polak has a big presence as the Snow Queen. Yared makes the switch from good-natured to arrogant feel like a real loss for Gerda.

Although the fantastic charm of Andersen’s fairy tale feels limited, if not underwhelming at times, TNB’s production of The Snow Queen is still an enjoyable ride thanks to a strong cast of actors who are served well by excellent costume and mask design.

Theatre New Brunswick’s production of The Snow Queen runs December 15 – 17 at the Fredericton Playhouse. The production will be touring New Brunswick until December 20th.

For more information, including tour dates and how to purchase tickets, visit:

Irresistibly Charming: A Sunday Affair Premieres at Theatre New Brunswick


Mathieu Chouinard and Miriam Fernandes in A Sunday Affair by Gabrielle Houle, Thomas Morgan Jones and Richard Lee. A Sunday Affair is a co-production by Theatre New Brunswick and Le Theatre populaire d’Acadie. Photo Credit: Matt Carter.

In A Sunday Affair, a new play written by Gabrielle Houle, Thomas Morgan Jones (who also directs) and Richard Lee, there’s no time like the present. Seriously.

Enjoying its world premiere at Theatre New Brunswick, A Sunday Affair is a breezy love story that serves also as a cautionary tale about waiting too long for the ‘right moment’. Father Tom (Mathieu Chouinard) and Josephine (Miriam Fernandes) practice the same morning routine every Sunday before mass. Josephine dances to music on the radio before fighting with her hair in front of the bathroom mirror, while Father Tom makes sure to eat a hearty breakfast and kneel in prayer before running out the door. And without fail, it’s always raining, making for a wet and windy walk to church every Sunday morning.

Here’s the thing, Josephine is in love with Father Tom. No one (except maybe her cat) knows about her true feelings for the shy and awkward priest. Imagine Josephine’s relief when one Sunday, she finally finds the words to invite him over for dinner – the beginning of a long tradition of Sunday dinners and missed opportunities.

The years eventually go by, and nothing has changed except now Josephine and Father Tom are grey and old. Their Sunday morning routines remain the same, only now the pace is slower and they walk together to church. No confession (yet).

The story is about as mushy as a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with Sweethearts. There’s not much in the way of surprise, although the ending is certainly clever. That said, it’s difficult not to be swept away by the irresistible charm of this love story that unfolds over sixty years and through inspired physical theatre.

With little dialogue, the story is told primarily through physical movement. It’s not just the story, but the characters’ emotions and desires that are revealed through movement (like a dream sequence where Josephine imagines her and Father Tom sharing a full life together). Fernandes’ movement is at once delivered with great calculation and vibrant enthusiasm. She brings a sense of genuine joy to Josephine, although that joy is often interrupted by the character’s self-doubt. Fernandes’ soft vulnerability as Josephine is an interesting contrast to Chouinard’s Father Tom. The actor plays more of a ‘character’ than Fernandes, so much so that his performance brings to mind Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean. Through loose and elastic movement, Chouinard portrays Father Tom as someone who greatly lacks awareness and confidence. The difference in movement styles establishes firmly the characters’ different personalities; Josephine is the type of person who serves roast dinner, while Father Tom’s dinner menu includes hot dogs and caesar salad.

Kaitlin Hickey’s minimalist set serves the play, presented inside TNB’s Open Space Theatre, very well. Jones sets the interior scenes inside the white flooring, with exterior scenes (walking to church) taking place along the square’s outside edges.  The precise definition of space is important considering that Fernandes and Chouinard are working without props, creating the world of these characters exclusively through movement. Jones frames scenes, both big and small, with clarity and depth.

White umbrellas hang on the back wall, providing the space with rich texture and colourful illumination, when lit from behind. Hickey’s lighting design is effective at casting the stage in a range of striking emotional tones.

Composer and Sound Designer Jean-François Mallet’s piano score is dynamic and enchanting, light and playful. Some may find that the Mallet’s composition takes some time to settle in, as it does feel just a touch too overly sentimental. Slowly, however, the music feels like less of a backdrop and more of a compelling companion to the story.

 A Sunday Affair is like a cup of hot chocolate after hiking miles through a blizzard. Sometimes it’s just what you need.

Theatre New Brunswick and Le Théâtre Populaire d’Acadie’s co-production of A Sunday Affair ran Oct 13 – 23 in Fredericton. The show is currently touring New Brunswick, with performances in English and in French.

For more information about the show, including tour dates and how to purchase tickets, visit:

Handsome Alice Theatre Looks Out From The Tall Building


Handsome Alice Theatre presents The Tall Building by Jill Connell, September 9 – 17. Pictured (Front to Back): Genevieve Pare, Geoffrey Simon Brown, and Telly James. Photo Credit: Tim Nguyen, Citrus Photography.

A city is threatened by fire and wild coyotes in Jill Connell’s play The Tall Building. For three strangers living high above in an apartment building, however, it’s not the fire or coyotes that concerns them – it’s each other.

Presented by Handsome Alice Theatre, Connell’s The Tall Building is a strange, yet intriguing play about modern life. Boy (Geoffrey Simon Brown) seems more interested in his neighbor Sulla (Geneviève Paré), who lives across the hall, than the fire growing uncontrollably outside. Unfortunately for him, Sulla has no interest in speaking with him or anyone else. The young boy is determined, however, to interview Sulla for his citizen newspaper. Watching them from afar is a boastful Assassin (Telly James) who eventually introduces himself to Sulla and Boy, perhaps only so he has an audience.

Two unnamed radio personalities periodically broadcast lives updates on the developing crisis, until one of them goes off-the-air without warning.

The Tall Building brings to mind Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros as the number of coyotes running wild in the streets seems to increase as time goes on. Where Ionesco was concerned about conformity, Connell’s concern is the isolation and indifference created by urban development – of cities growing taller than communities growing wider. Questions of identity emerge as the situation worsens for the last remaining humans of what seems like the new status quo. Hints of this new status quo can be seen in the way Boy praises the 7-Eleven for how well it provides him with everything he needs, much like a parent. He seems more connected with a corporate franchise than other people; the worst nightmare for anyone who likes independent bookstores and coffee shops.

Appropriately, Hanne Loosen’s set is gritty and bleak. The scenery of a tall, less than glamorous apartment building suggests floors upon floors of broken dreams and failed promises. Lighting Designer Nicole Olson Grant-Suttie casts the stage in glum, moody tones, with few bright colours. There’s a strong sense of urban and moral decay, it’s almost like a film noir movie.

The play benefits from Denise Clarke’s vibrant direction as sometimes it gets too caught up and tangled in its own concerns, sprawling outwards like a city overwhelmed by development. Clarke takes advantage of the space available to her inside the Big Secret Theatre by using movement to express the stress of urban life, loneliness, and melancholy. The use of movement strengthens the play’s introspective nature by providing deeper insight into the psyche of these off-beat characters.

Although much older than the character he plays, Brown takes on the qualities of an inquisitive young boy/citizen journalist very well. It’s fun to watch the energetic Brown play a character who is the complete opposite of Sulla, a young woman hardened by abandonment (although we later learn the two characters have more in common than they think). Sulla’s character arc is well-articulated by Pare who plays her with an aloofness that gradually melts away. James is charismatic as the assassin who everyone knows is an assassin. The actor’s snake-like slithering makes us unsure of what his character will do next. The cast draw us into Connell’s surreal world by embracing their characters’ idiosyncrasies.

Although sometimes it loses its way, Connell’s The Tall Building is an insightful play about city life in these modern times. Handsome Alice Theatre’s production of The Tall Building shines thanks to strong direction and design.

Handsome Alice Theatre’s production of The Tall Building by Jill Connell runs September 9 – 17 at the Big Secret Theatre (Arts Commons).

For information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit:

Theatre of Consequence Stages Brilliant Traces

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Theatre of Consequence’s production of Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces ran August 24 – 27 in the Motel Theatre. Pictured: John McIver and Sienna Holden. Photo Credit: Lauren Hamm.

The thing about storms is that sometimes, they can roll in without any warning. That’s the case with runaway bride Rosannah DeLuce (Sienna Holden) in Cindy Lou Johnson’s Brilliant Traces.

Presented by Theatre of Consequence, Johnson’s Brilliant Traces stages a chance meeting between two lonely strangers who discover that they need each other more than they know. When her car breaks down in the middle of a blizzard, Rosannah seeks shelter in a cabin owned by Henry Harry (John McIver). Henry, wrapped in a blanket, has no time to ask questions as Rosannah, still in her wedding dress, begins to fall apart in front of him. She eventually passes out from exhaustion, as she has just driven all the way from Arizona.

After sleeping for two days, Rosannah awakes to find the storm has not yet passed. She is forced to stay with Henry in the cabin as a result.

Inside the cabin, designed by Troy Couillard, Rosannah and Henry talk about everything and nothing (like alien abductions). Rosannah fears she is indistinguishable, causing her to feel lost in the world. Henry, on the other hand, knows where he wants to be, alone. The isolation of the Alaskan wilderness is perfectly fine for Henry whose grief has caused him to retreat away from the world. He is reluctant, if not afraid, to care for someone again after experiencing loss.

Director Barrett Hileman paces the play in such a way that it doesn’t seem like the characters are waiting for their turn to speak or lay their troubles on the other person. Moments of pause and reflection punctuate Johnson’s sometimes long-winded dialogue, which helps ensure that the play’s wordy speeches are not thrown away or discarded so easily as confused, agitated speech. There is a sense of mutual need for understanding, even if the characters may not say so directly.

McIver delivers an engrossing, layered performance as Henry, a man who feels he is not worthy of love and attention. The conflict between Henry’s awakened sense of self-worth and the isolation he has committed himself to is shown to us marvelously by McIver whose facial expressions visibly process the difficulty of letting go and moving on. The actor is superb in the role of Henry.

Holden plays Rosannah with tremendous energy and discipline. She delivers her character’s speeches as if she were simultaneously challenging the universe and fearful of what it may say in response. There is vulnerability in her performance, as well as subdued anger and frustration that plays well with the stubbornness that McIver brings to Henry.

Couillard’s set is visually appealing, but the cabin seems just a bit too neat and orderly for a grieving person, especially one caught living the same painful scenario in his head again and again. Maybe Henry occupies himself by keeping a clean living space, who knows, but the cabin’s design does not convey any hint of emotional distress. Flashing lights (which run down long, plastic tubes) behind the cabin act as the stars of the northern sky, a nice visual element given that these characters help each other find their way again.

The intimacy of the Motel Theatre truly benefits Theatre of Consequence’s production of Brilliant Traces. This is an intimate piece about two people trying to make sense of where they have been, where they are now, and where they are going. The actors move and play with confidence in the space, giving a rich performance that makes the play’s ending land with impact.

This second production by Theatre of Consequence, one of Calgary’s newest theatre companies, is a great experience thanks to strong, nuanced performances and focused direction.

Theatre of Consequence’s production of Brilliant Traces by Cindy Lou Johnson ran August 24 – 27 at the Motel Theatre. 


Stage West Turns Back The Clock With Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll

Neil Diamond

Gaelan Beatty (centre) plays Neil Diamond in Stage West’s Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Left to right, background: Tiera Watts and Chelsey Duplak. The Band: Konrad Pluta (Musical Director/Keyboards), Jeff Fafard (Drums/Percussion), Brad Steckel (Guitar), and Rob Vause (Bass). Photo Credit: John Watson.

Playing now at Stage West until September 4th, Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll is a fun reunion of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll history. Created by director/choreographer Liz Gilroy and musical director Konrad Pluta, the show brings rock legends Buddy Holly (Al Braatz), Neil Diamond (Gaelan Beatty), Tom Jones (Luke Marty), and Elvis Presley (Matthew Lawrence) together under one roof for a dazzling reminder of why these artists and their music have endured for decades.

Before each rock legend enters onstage, the show presents a brief highlight reel of their personal life and professional career. It is a nice touch and chance to learn something new about these household names.

The funny thing about rock legend Buddy Holly is that he was a little bit of a geek, although his thick-rimmed glasses remain popular today with young men. Braatz delivers Buddy’s sweet, sorta dorky southern charm very well in songs like “That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue.” And yes, there’s a whole lot of Buddy’s signature hopping from Braatz who came ready with his proverbial dancing shoes.

Neil Diamond takes the stage next with “America,” an anthem for immigrants landing in the land of opportunity. Beatty’s big voice really delivers the rousing feeling that the song’s lyrics aim for. The performer truly makes the stage his own with his cool persona and winning smile. The audience jumps at their opportunity to join Beatty in singing “Sweet Caroline.”

Sharing the stage with the rock legends are backup singers and dancers Chelsey Duplak and Tiera Watts. Beatty performs “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore” with Duplak in what is an absolutely stunning duet. The song, which Neil famously sung with Barbra Streisand, soars thanks to Duplak’s gorgeous, powerful voice that brings a lot of weight to this tale of estranged lovers.

Opening the second act is Luke Marty as Tom Jones. Marty plays Tom with real gusto and vibrance, ideal for numbers like “What’s New Pussycat” and “Love Me Tonight.” The performer’s big stage presence and dance moves really light up the stage, along with his very funny banter with the audience. Marty’s delightful performance of “It’s Not Unusual” has the audience ready to bust-a-move in their seats.

Elvis is the final legend of the night, and the only artist to have a costume change during his act. Dressed in a leather jacket, Lawrence brings out Elvis’ bad boy charm for songs like “Hound Dog / All Shook Up” and “Jailhouse Rock.” In between these two animated songs, he shows the King’s softer side with “Love Me Tender.”

Duplak and Watts perform “Amazing Grace” as a duet while Lawrence changes costume backstage, and no doubt catches his breath after an energetic first half. It is a beautiful duet that makes us want more from Duplak and Watts, both of whom are simply fantastic in their roles.

The second half starts strong as Lawrence not only comes out dressed in Elvis’ signature white jumpsuit, but also performs “Viva Las Vegas” with the kind of high roller enthusiasm such a fun number deserves.

Introduced back to the stage one at a time by Duplak and Watts, who start the final number off, all four legends come out for an ensemble performance of “Johnny B. Goode” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” to finish the night. It is an electric conclusion to this journey through rock ‘n’ roll history.

There’s something special that happens when an old, familiar tune comes on the radio. Memories of people and places, sights and sounds burst with life again as the drive home from work suddenly becomes a trip down memory lane. Stage West’s latest production captures this nostalgia with its stellar musical direction and talented performers.

Costume Designer Rebecca Toon has an eye for costumes that truly pop and reflect the character of each rock artist. Set Designer Sean D. Ellis has created a set that frames the action very well, giving the performers a chance to truly stride across and take the stage as needed.

Gilroy’s lively direction injects a lot of energy and humour into this showcase of rock ‘n’ roll legends, making for an enjoyable night out at the theatre.

Stage West’s Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll runs July 1 to September 4.

For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit:

Only a handful of songs from the performance were mentioned here. The full song list is available on Stage West’s website via the playbill for Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll.