All In, and the Dog, Too

For five decades and counting, The Charlottetown Festival has always been a tight-knit community, and this year’s cast and company is no exception. Several family connections can be found across this summer’s playbill, including Mamma Mia! star Eliza-Jane Scott and her young son, Ducolon Banville, who joins her as a Child of Avonlea in Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™. David Cotton, who plays husband-to-be Sky in Mamma Mia!, has enjoyed the summer alongside his actual wife, Sarah Vance in both mainstage productions. The Spoon River company featured two husband and wife teams: new ‘Islanders By Choice,’ Matt Campbell and Alicia Toner, as well as Brendan Wall and Mary Francis Moore.

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The greatest link however, connecting three productions and the summer and fall seasons, is the Guy-McGrath/Phillipson clan. Dora-Award winner Stephen Guy-McGrath splits his time playing Aussie funnyman Bill Anderson in Mamma Mia! and Cecil the Farmer in Anne™. Guy-McGrath is joined by daughter Eleanor Guy in Anne™ who plays his on-stage daughter. Guy-McGrath’s wife Melanie Phillipson also arrived on P.E.I. recently and begins rehearsals this month for the final production of the season, Belles Soeurs: The Musical, opening September 13.

“Coming to the Festival together really strengthens the feeling that already exists of the theatre being a family,” Guy-McGrath offers. “I love walking to work with Eleanor and having a little quiet time before the show. It’s nice to be able to talk to your kid about your work and passion — knowing that they understand it and feel the same way. At the theatre I really try to let her do her own thing. It makes me very proud as a father to watch her navigate a professional environment and display such maturity and discipline. Frankly she’s better behaved then I am!”

Adapted from Michel Tremblay’s internationally acclaimed novel, Belles Soeurs: The Musical is an English-language comedy with an all-female cast and comes to P.E.I. following sold-out runs at the Segal Centre and the NAC. “These beautifully-connected, diverse women share deep bonds rooted in decades of friendship but are also flawed and vulnerable,” Phillipson explains. “It has been so well-received in Montreal and Ottawa and it will be interesting to see how Islanders respond. There is no need to be fearful of anything ‘too French!’ Anyone with a mother, a fondness for storytelling with music, and a nostalgia for Bingo will most certainly enjoy this piece.”

Phillipson is reprising her role as Thérèse Dubuc, a comedic turn that includes caring for her elderly mother, Olivine, and in one unforgettable musical montage, recreating the drama of a Bingo game in slow motion with a giant ball in a hopper. Her past credits include several seasons with the Shaw Festival, as well as Tarragon, Drayton, and others.

“I love that my character is very ‘real’ and not vain or pretentious. I get to channel my grandmother from Saskatchewan who was a very strong-willed, hard-working, stubborn woman who made time for sewing, quilting, gossiping and playing Bingo,” she continues. “I love the aesthetic and era of this piece, 1960’s Montreal, and, truly, the whole 12-member ensemble is incredible.”

Fiddler’s Sons Join the Family

No anniversary is complete without a party! Harbourfront’s 20th Anniversary Gala celebration evening will feature well known Island favourites The Ellis Family Band and Fiddlers’ Sons. Both of these groups have appeared at the theatre numerous times throughout the years and we are excited to have them back.

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The Ellis Family Band, comprised of brothers Rick, Brian, Steve and Dave Ellis and Greg MacDonald, has been a household name across PEI since the 1970′s. In 1983 they set out to Nashville to record their first single, Easy to Love, an instant hit across Canada, leading to a Juno nomination for Top Country Group. Over the next four years they toured extensively and recorded two more albums in Nashville. They had a #1 song, Thank You For Being My Friend, and top ten hits with fan favourites like Summer Nights, Why Am I Still Crying, and arguably their most popular song, Mother of Mine.

Fiddlers’ Sons is currently comprised of Eddy Quinn on lead vocals, John B. Webster on guitar and Keelin Wedge on fiddle, vocals, guitar and bass. Since its inception in 1997 (along with original member, the late Garth Matthews), the group has released several recordings, including the popular All the Way to Cardigan, and won numerous PEI Music Awards for their signature Celtic and roots traditional sound. They currently host the popular Close to the Ground Concert Series at the Kaylee Hall in Poole’s Corner.

An evening of great music, lots of memories and a few surprises are in store, and the celebration will continue after the show at a reception in the theatre lobby.

The Ellis Family Band and Fiddler’s Sons are at the Harbourfront Theatre Wednesday August 24 at 7:30 PM

Dance Umbrella Adds Umbrellas

Kylie Fudge-Jensen is the newest addition to the core teaching team for dance umbrella – a program of Confederation Centre – as well as the Holland College School of Performing Arts (or SoPA), presented in partnership with the Centre. Officials at the Centre are also pleased to announce Sion Irwin-Childs as a guest instructor this week for both children’s camps and evening workshops with adults.

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“I am thrilled to be welcoming these new instructors into our programs,” says Peggy Reddin, Director of Arts Education at Confederation Centre. “Whether it is for workshops of shorter duration or long-term commitment, we strive to enrich the local community by hiring teachers with a depth of training and experience. A fresh perspective and new ideas are always inspiring and exciting for our students.”

Originally from Victoria, B.C., Ms. Fudge-Jensen is a graduate of George Brown Dance and has been performing, choreographing, and teaching in the Toronto area for the past five years. Her specialization is ballet and contemporary with experience in jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, and modern dance. She has a strong base in movement improvisation and dance-for-camera work and in addition to creating her own collection of works, she has performed in solo pieces, duets, and a variety of group work including as backup dancer for international touring artists. “I am thrilled to be starting a new chapter with dance umbrella and SoPA,” she offers, “and am very excited to be back living on an island!”

Mr. Irwin-Childs will be teaching with the Centre’s dance camp from August 22 to 26 and also conducting workshops in the local community, with a focus on choreographic practice. He is a critically acclaimed choreographer, performer, and instructor currently on a coast to coast teaching tour. He carries a dance M.A. as well as an English degree from York University. After many years of teaching dance composition for Ballet Jörgen Canada and George Brown, he recently left to pursue equestrian interests and help nurture dance at a grass-roots level across the country. His touring workshop is based on a highly-rated Ballet Jörgen Canada Summer School series, gleaned from 13 years of experience.

“I have designed my workshops to be broadly inclusive and to require only a willingness to participate,” Irwin-Childs explains. “Students do not have to be fantastic dancers or imagine themselves continuing in dance to find a use for the skills that I bring to the table. My students develop a greater sense of confidence and a strong voice when given an opportunity to assert ownership over their respective skill sets. The positive impact of this outcome has been noticed in other classes, by parents and teachers and this is what I would like to bring to the Centre community.”

dance umbrella and SoPA classes begin the first week of September. For more information on summer dance camps and other arts education programs at Confederation Centre, please contact Kayla Shaw at 902.629.1175 or performingarts@confederationcentre.com, or explore online at confederationcentre.com.

Thank You (and Bravo!)

The Confederation Players are wrapping up a very successful 2016 season of walking tours and historic vignettes in front of Province House. These men and women work hard in any weather to bring to life the roles of the delegates during the historic 1864 Charlottetown Conference.

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We want to thank them for their dedication and talent and congratulate them on a job well done! Bravo!

Blooming All Over

Bloom is a collection of paintings inspired by the fresh cut flowers of Island Meadow Farms by local artist Emily Howard.

Emily Howard.

The 33-year-old  Emily Howard is preparing for her new art show at The Guild in Charlottetown. “I began, like every self-taught artist, with Mr. Dressup and watercolour paints,” she said.

Her first paintings were abstract. Now, this collection of bold florals.

“I just wanted to do something that, when you look at it, it’s calm. Everyone loves flowers,” Ms. Howard said.

She always has fresh flowers in the house.

Bloom is at The Guild August 24 through September 5.

Last Spoonful This Weekend

It’s the final countdown for three companies of performers at Confederation Centre this weekend as three productions come to a close. The critically-acclaimed musical, Spoon River has just three performances – two evenings and a Saturday matinee – remaining while the Confederation Centre Young Company and Confederation Players (or ‘the Fathers’) both wrap up Saturday afternoon.

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Spoon River has enjoyed a late summer push at The Mack of late with large crowds and some shows selling out. It was recently announced that the Edgar Lee Masters’ inspired musical will head to New York next summer as part of Canada 150 celebrations playing Off-Broadway.

Sponsored by Scotiabank, the song-cycle is produced in association with Soulpepper Theatre Company. Spoon River features a stacked cast of 11 performer/musicians, including Alana Bridgewater, Matt Campbell, Jonathan Ellul, Susan Henley, Richard Lam, Amanda LeBlanc, Mary Francis Moore, Alicia Toner, Brendan Wall, Daniel Williston, and Sandy Winsby. Heather Lewis is stage manager and Charlottetown’s Mike Ross composed and directed the music and co-adapted the production with Director Albert Schultz.

The Charlottetown Festival is far from over, with four more performances each of Anne of Green Gables-The Musical™ and Glenda’s Kitchen on deck until the end of next week, and Mamma Mia!, sponsored by Tim Horton’s, playing until September 3.

Get ‘Em While You Can

The Victoria Playhouse has an exclusive offer for you to attend The (Post) Mistress and receive a free ticket to se Anne & Gilbert: The Musical in October.

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Martha Irving is the post mistress.

“…if you love what theatre can do, it would be a disrespect to miss Martha Irving’s captivating, comic virtuoso performance.” – Jane Ledwell, The Buzz

“This is amazing theatre; a must see performance by this incredible performer…” – Barbara MacAndrew

Here’s the deal …

Buy two tickets to any performance of The (Post) Mistress

and receive one free ticket to Anne & Gilbert

Pick up your Anne & Gilbert coupon at the Victoria Playhouse box office when you attend
The (Post) Mistress. Coupon can be redeemed for perfromances between October 1 – 18.

Book Now or call 1.800.925.2025

Anne & Gilbert Plays at the Guild in Charlottetown to October 18

Anne & Gilbert is an unusual Canadian theatre story. Since its launch in 2005 at the Victoria Playhouse it has become the most successful and critically acclaimed new musical in Canada in recent memory.

With rave reviews in Variety, The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Citizen, and many other publications, it has accomplished in tiny Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, what few other Canadian musicals have achieved anywhere.

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