Rockin’ Robyn

When I first heard of the production Robyn Hood from one of my students in Seniors College, I thought it sounded like quite a riot, considering the play had a cast of 75—Charlottetown’s version of a cast of thousands—and the script by Adam Brazier and Graham Putnam wove several stories together with contributions from the cast. One must certainly investigate a claim of that magnitude. After opening night at the Homburg Theatre, I can say with certainty the claim is completely true.

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The Confederation Centre of the Arts kicked off the Christmas season with Robyn Hood, a comic musical adaptation of the legend of Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, except this time, Robyn is a woman out to defeat the power-hungry Prince John of the Kingdom of Charlottetown. Maria Campbell, an alumna of the Confederation Centre Young Company, belted out a charmingly exuberant Robyn Hood supported all throughout by Friar Tuck, played Alana Bridgewater, whose powerful and lovely voice filled the theatre—the two were perfectly matched singing together.

Not to be outdone was Maid Marian, played by Jessica Gallant, who matched the mood with her music as she tried to solve her dilemma: to betray or not to betray? Sarah MacPhee’s signature Town Crier role was resurrected yet once again and given the opportunity to rise in the ranks, thanks to Matt Rainnie’s dastardly pouting Prince John’s machinations. He was joined on stage by his two daughters in the Charlottetown ensemble impoverished by being taxed to the max by Prince John.

The numerous scenes offered multiple opportunities to shift around the cast of 75—filling the stage was certainly not a problem in this production. Although the production was not technically perfect, the minute slips here and there were easily covered up by the ribaldry and jokes that spared no one. A great deal of the humor, however, is strictly local and anyone who is not familiar with PEI culture might not understand why people were laughing. There was a generous dose of tongue-in-cheek wit throughout the play and even the songs were selected from a wide range of sources to provide a lively musical tapestry.

Besides the occasional dancer with lower energy levels, the performance was bursting with rollicking fun. Garnett Gallant’s set design was just right and I wonder if anyone else picked up on the bit of irony with the Bundy clock, guitar, golf cart, and Maid Marian’s selfie during the wild chase through the Christmas-lit forest, not to mention the occasional hand microphone appearing on stage after Friar Tuck declared the play would bring us back to a time before cellphones, iPads, and Netflix! Deliberate or not, inconsistencies aside, it all added up to a great deal of fun that might have started a tad slow but certainly built up to a rousing end.

If you’re in for some Christmas cheer, this is just the performance to see!

Review by Cindy Lapena. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.com.

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Ready! Aim! Robyn Hood!

Robyn Hood and her ‘Fairly Merrily Men’ are riding to the rescue this holiday season. Adam Brazier’s comedy-musical Robyn Hood: This Tale’s Even Fairlier comes to life this week, premiering Friday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. and playing select dates until December 17 at the Homburg Theatre.

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From the comedic minds of Adam Brazier and Graham Putnam, Sobeys LIVE @ the Centre presents a ridiculous musical in the ‘pantomime’ tradition. Expect great music, dancing, and gags in this madcap adventure set in the Kingdom of Charlottetown and Sherwood-Parkdale Forest. Audiences are asked to boo the villain (Matt Rainnie’s tyrannical ‘Prince John’), cheer our heroes (Maria Campbell and Jessica Gallant as ‘Robyn Hood’ and ‘Maid Marian’), and revel in plentiful local humour and holiday cheer.

Robyn Hood features a cast of 75 performers, including Charlottetown Festival regular Alana Bridgewater (Spoon River, Hairspray), Sarah MacPhee (reprising her annual role as ‘the Town Crier’), Putnam (Sketch 22, Annekenstein), and students from the Holland College and Confederation Centre School of Performing Arts. See the full cast list online.

Musical Director Craig Fair leads the production’s many vocalists and community orchestra through an electric song list of musical theatre and pop hits, including ‘9 to 5′, ‘Feel the Same Way Too’, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and many more. Choreography is from Taryn Verkerk, stage management from Anne Murphy, set design from Garny Gallant, and lighting design from Steve Ross.

Starting at just $25, tickets are on sale now. Visit confederationcentre.com/theatre or contact the box office at (902) 566.1267. The official hashtag is #RobynConfed. Appreciation is extended to production sponsor Maid Marian’s Diner and media sponsors The Guardian, Hot 105.5, and Ocean 100.

Calling All Actors

Confederation Centre has announced that three plum roles are up for grabs at The 2017 Charlottetown Festival.

Incoming director of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ Adam Brazier is auditioning for the title role of Anne Shirley and her Avonlea guardians, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. For the past two summers, the parts have been held respectively by Islanders Jessica Gallant and Hank Stinson, and Festival veteran, Charlotte Moore.

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Gallant says it’s been a thrill to represent the Island as ‘Anne with an e,’ “Playing Anne has literally been a dream come true, she remarks. “My childhood revolved around the idea of joining the exclusive club of red heads I’m ready to pass the braids on to the next young dreamer, and to take everything I’ve learned from my experiences at the Festival into the next phase of my career.”

“My journey as a performer has been nurtured at Confederation Centre for the past 13 years,” she continues. “The Centre has taught me how to be an artist; it is a true Island treasure that should never be taken for granted.”

Adam Brazier, the Centre’s artistic director, has completed casting for the musical’s other lead roles and the Anne™ ensemble, some of whom will perform in Million Dollar Quartet. The full company and the 18th actress to don the red braids at the Festival will be revealed in winter 2017.

“On behalf of everyone at Confederation Centre, I want to thank Jessica for her dedication to this iconic role and production,” offers Brazier. “Jess has a deep love for Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ and a long-standing relationship with our Festival and community, and those passions shine brightly in her performances.”

He adds, “I am thrilled that Jessica is home right now preparing to star as Maid Marian in our ridiculous Christmas show Robyn Hood. I look forward to seeing more of her many talents on our stages in the years to come.”

Build That Wall!

“Build That Wall!” — Matt Rainnie Joins ‘Robyn Hood’ as Wicked Prince John — Local actor, writer, and broadcaster to play chief villain in Centre’s Christmas musical

Enter Matt Rainnie as the artist formally known as Prince. The well-known CBC broadcaster and performer joins a stacked cast this Christmas for Confederation Centre’s holiday musical, Robyn Hood: This Tale’s Even Fairlier.

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Rainnie plays bad boy Prince John, the tousle-haired tyrant of Sherwood-Parkdale Forest, and foil to Robyn Hood (Maria Campbell) and her Fairly Merrily Men. Prince John rules the Island with an iron-fist, taxing the poor and scheming to contaminate their water and construct a wall around the entire province. The Adam Brazier-directed musical is penned by Graham Putnam and Brazier, and plays select dates, December 9 – 17.

“I’m excited to step into this bright and musical and incredibly silly world,” remarks Rainnie, “and to be the bad guy? Oh, it’s the best. Prince John is a sniveling, arrogant bully and that’s so much fun to play. I even get an awful wig, so I’m adjusting to having bangs for the first time in many years.”

Rainnie joins a fun-loving ensemble of theatre pros, Holland College/Confederation Centre School of Performing Arts students, hobby actors, and emerging talent of all ages, including Charlottetown Festival veterans Jessica Gallant and Alana Bridgewater, fellow Islanders Sarah MacPhee, Jordan Cameron, Nadia Haddad, Lexi Durant, Cameron MacDonald, Fraser McCallum, Tamara Gough, Ellen Carol, Al Baldwin, Ken Williams, and dozens more.

“I think with these shows, Adam and the Centre have created a welcome new holiday tradition,” Rainnie continues. “It can be a really busy time of year and these productions offer escape to this colourful and wonderfully ridiculous world, a chance to laugh and sing along to great tunes. Robyn Hood aims to do that again.”

Rainnie is the host of CBC Radio One’s popular P.E.I. morning show, Island Morning. Active in the community, he has also hosted countless charitable events across the province and remained connected to the local theatre scene where he was a founding member of Sketch 22, and cast member with Annekenstein and the improve comedy quartet 4Play.

“Theatre was a rewarding part of my life but I put it on hold the last few years,” he offers. “My daughters were both in Adam Brazier’s holiday show Aladdin last year. That gave me the chance to see this phenomenal crew in action and to see how much fun everyone was having both on stage and off. I knew I wanted to be part of that experience this time around.”

The broadcaster began his career with CBC PEI in 1993. He was a TV reporter and journalist before finding his home in radio. For several years, he hosted and produced the afternoon show, Mainstreet. During that time he was occasionally guest host of Sounds Like Canada and Weekend Mornings, and was host and producer of the national summer program, Lost and Found.

He has also worked as a film reviewer for CBC across the Maritimes, as a writer for stage and screen, and in animation voice-over. He lives in Charlottetown with his wife and three children, two of whom will join him on stage in Robyn Hood.

Home for the Holidays

Adam Brazier’s holiday musical has added a local star, with the pride of Ten Mile House, Jessica Gallant joining the production as Maid Marion.

Robyn Hood: This Tale’s Even Fairlier marks the first time the Charlottetown Festival mainstay has performed in a Christmas musical comedy for Confederation Centre, and Gallant is excited for everything this hilarious adventure will hold.

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“I’m thrilled to be performing at home during my favourite time of year — Christmas!” says Gallant, who spends the fall and winter months in Toronto. “Although the Island temperatures may feel cold, the season is so warm and exciting. I’m expecting nothing but belly-laughs and wit with Adam’s take on Robyn Hood!”

Although this marks her first role in one of Brazier’s holiday farces, which include Cinderella and Aladdin, Gallant has been a Festival favourite for more than five seasons. She first debuted with the Confederation Centre Young Company in Abegweit: the Soul of the Island before making her Homburg Theatre debut as Diana Barry in Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™.

She also appeared in the world premiere of Evangeline, and productions of Mamma Mia! and Alice Through the Looking-Glass. She played Canada’s favourite redhead for the past two Festival seasons while continuing to perform in musicals and workshops in the Toronto area during the year.

Robyn Hood: This Tale’s Even Fairlier will be staged at Confederation Centre on select dates, December 9 to 17, 2016. Enjoy an alluring song list of musical theatre and pop hits – including ‘9 to 5,’ ‘Holding Out For A Hero,’ ‘Imagination,’ and ‘The Final Countdown’ – and a cast of dozens of Island school children and community performers.

Artistic Director Adam Brazier will direct and the script is by Brazier and Graham Putnam, with Festival mainstay Craig Fair as music director and Matthew MacInnis as production stage manager. Maria Campbell stars as the female Robyn Hood with Alana Bridgewater as Friar Tuck, and more principle casting to be announced next week.

Island Strong Anne Opens

The curtain lifted last night at 7:30 p.m. on an especially Island-strong edition of the long-running musical Anne of Green Gables. Jessica Gallant of Ten Mile House, P.E.I. stars as the world-famous orphan, with Charlottetown’s Hank Stinson and Aaron Hastelow as Matthew Cuthbert and Gilbert Blythe. This marks the first time an Islander has played Gilbert in the historic production, and thus the first time both romantic leads have been played by locals.

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Festival veteran Marlane O’Brien, of Crapaud, P.E.I. plays iconic busy-body, Miss Rachel Lynde, while Dora Award-winner Charlotte Moore reprises her turn as Marilla Cuthbert. New Island home-owner Katie Kerr returns to the role that first brought her to the Festival, as Diana Barry, and another Festival favourite and ‘Islander-by-choice’, Josée Boudreau debuts as Miss Stacey.

The creative team that brought the Guinness Record-holding musical to life last season has returned in 2016, with Wade Lynch in the director’s chair alongside Musical Director Bob Foster and Choreographer Robin Calvert.

“With a history that has enjoyed success under some of the country’s greatest directors, and that has benefited from the talents of legions of actors, musicians, designers, technicians, and theatre artisans of every stripe, it is no small task to approach a new season with the responsibility of maintaining the high standards of previous productions while attempting to bring something new to the play and the story,” says Lynch, who performed in many seasons of the beloved musical himself.

“That said, we must never treat our production as an antique; Anne is new every time the curtain goes up,” he continues. “When Anne Shirley arrives at Bright River she is not only encountering the possibility of a new family, she is entering a whole new world. As theatre artists it is our challenge and our responsibility to present a musical theatre experience that is new for every performance. With the tremendous talents and abilities of our 2016 company, you can be certain that the Anne of Green Gables experience our audiences enjoy this summer is brand spanking new!”

Anne of Green Gables plays select dates until August 27. Confederation Centre wishes to recognize CIBC as the returning title sponsor of The Charlottetown Festival. The Centre also acknowledges the Department of Canadian Heritage; the Government of P.E.I., and the City of Charlottetown for continued support. Media sponsors are The Guardian, Hot 105.5, Ocean 100, and CTV.

Island Lad Debuts as Gilbert

For the first time in the 52 seasons Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ has run in Charlottetown, an Islander will play Anne’s beau. The Charlottetown Festival has announced that Aaron Hastelow will debut as Gilbert this summer opposite P.E.I.’s Jessica Gallant as Anne. This also marks the first time two Island natives have held the storied production’s romantic leads.

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Hastelow is no stranger to local audiences, having essentially grown up at Confederation Centre and performed in numerous productions, including in Ring of Fire, Anne & Gilbert, two seasons with the Young Company, and as the male lead in the Christmas musical, Cinderella. He recently spent three seasons at the Shaw Festival and is currently performing in Evita for The Vancouver Opera.

“Playing Gilbert is the pinnacle of full circle moments for me,” he remarks. “Having started with the Centre as a child of Avonlea when I was eight years old, to now, finally stepping into Gilbert’s boots — it really doesn’t get much more meaningful. This is the role that inspired me to become an actor, and I can’t tell you what it means to me to be given the opportunity to play this iconic Islander.”

Gallant and Hastelow are both alums of Sheridan College and performed together in the 2010 Young Company. “I am so proud to be from here, and sharing the stage with my dear friend and fellow Islander, Jessica, just makes the moment even sweeter,” he continues. “I feel like we are in for a truly golden summer!”

The Charlottetown Festival is presented by CIBC and Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ begins previews on June 29. Directed by Wade Lynch, Anne™ plays select dates until August 27, 2016. Hastelow will also perform in the ensemble for the ABBA-inspired mega-musical, Mamma Mia!, which begins previews on June 1.

Says the Centre’s Artistic Director Adam Brazier of the latest addition to his company, “It is always so encouraging for us to welcome Islanders back home to our festival. We take great pride in supporting and training the next generation of artists from our province. As one generation exits the stage, another must enter. It is our continued goal to help see that next generation flourish and grow.”

Confederation Centre wishes to recognize Tim Hortons as the title sponsor for Mamma Mia! and acknowledge the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Government of P.E.I., and the City of Charlottetown for their continued support. Media sponsors are The Guardian, Hot 105.5, Ocean 100, and CTV.