Tag Archives: Professional Theatre Network of PEI

Buzzing About the Melville Boys

“The sell-out crowd clearly and audibly enjoyed the show and was hugely appreciative. After the performance, I walked past little groups of theatre-goers happily strolling through the streets of Victoria. Conversations I eavesdropped on were all positive.”


“The Melville Boys is already looking like a hit.”

Ivy Wigmore for The Buzz

The Melville Boys by Norm Foster plays at the Victoria Playhouse through July 30.


Step Right Up to TD Under 30

People under the age of 30 will now have access to special discounted theatre and concert tickets thanks to a partnership between TD Bank and Confederation Centre of the Arts.

“TD understands that investing in the arts can give back significant returns to the communities where we live and work,” says TD Branch Manager Deborah Mercer. “That’s why we believe that supporting ticket access programs with arts organizations such as Confederation Centre will help encourage young audiences to participate, and give talented emerging artists – such as musicians, dancers, and visual artists alike – the opportunity to flourish here at home.”


The new program, TD Under 30 Tickets, will offer youth 30 years and under a year-round $10 discount on tickets for select shows at The Charlottetown Festival and Sobeys LIVE @ the Centre.

“TD’s sponsorship of this special program will make ticket prices more affordable for people 30 and under, encouraging more youth to experience and enjoy the arts,” says Confederation Centre CEO Jessie Inman. “With TD’s generous investment we will continue to enrich the lives of Islanders and visitors through the performing and visual arts, arts education, and heritage.”

In addition to supporting this new ticket access program, TD Bank has been a long-time sponsor of the Confederation Centre Young Company, sponsoring The Charlottetown Festival production since 1999.

TD Under 30 Tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office and ID is required for proof of age. Individuals 30 and under are allowed one discounted ticket per person and one discounted ticket per show. For more information on this new program, contact Kim Devine, director of development, at kdevine@confederationcentre.com or 902.628.6139.

Spoon River Haunts the Mack

In an anthology of character sketches, the poetry by Edgar Lee Masters, & music composed by Mike Ross, the simple folk of a time long forgotten were immortalized by stirring southern stories that delved into old time trials & tribulations with a whole gamut of Victorian sins. For Kimberley Johnston & I this was 1st time back at The Mack, known for its well put together theatre in a small intimate setting since Dear Johnnie Deere 2 years ago as a reviewer team.

The press release about Spoon River gives a very detailed description about the concept & journey of this peice: In 2015, Spoon River (produced by Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto) won Canada’s prestigious Dora Award for Outstanding New Musical. Now in 2016 Spoon River makes its first appearance outside Toronto, at Confederation Centre’s Mack theatre in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The musical is based on the classic Spoon River Anthology, written 100 years ago by Edgar Lee Masters. In this rendition, poems of the dead are brought to life and set to music by PEI’s own Mike Ross. Albert Schultz directs the 11-member cast, as they raise their voices in song, telling of loves, losses, and hard-earned truths. The Charlottetown Festival produced this mystical, dream-like musical in association with Soulpepper Theatre.

First off, we would say music was on point, incredibly talented Spoon River composer Mike Ross talked a little bit in an interview recently about the trend of Music Theatre: a place where concert & theatre meet. Ross, who has spent some time working in Toronto has been very successful, we’re glad to have him back on PEI teaming up with director Albert Schultz of CBC’s Street Legal & Side Effects (a quote someone who might’ve seen that show might remember was, “people die, it’s a side effect of living”) for Spoon River. Poetry in song is beautiful, so rhythmic.

Brendan Wall (Spoon River world premiere; War Horse for Mirvish and London’s West End; Mirvish’s Once) who is making his Charlottetown Festival debut this year caught my attention early in the show with a song that had a bit of a Tom Waits ring to it. His animated swinging of the mandolin with a tic-toc rhythm standing next to a beautiful, vailed, & very ghostly Susan Henley (‘Rachel Lynde’ in Anne of Green Gables-The MusicalTM; Evangeline; Hairspray! 1st U.S. National tour) with a barrage of instruments including 2 pianists joining in on chorus, jumping back & forth from intimate to blown up musical experience with haunting melodies & saloon-type music would’ve been the musical highlight for me on the 4th or 5th song (I should mention we were a little late getting in so, of course we failed to get a program & missed the introduction). Another honorable mention has to go to Alicia Toner (Evangeline; lead in the Centre’s Cinderella; Mirvish’s Once) for her solo piece on violin with the in-coming train featuring a deer in the headlights look which left me absolutely spell bound.

Actors did amazingly well & were very animated. Characters had distinct facial characteristics which the perfect lighting accentuated. A trip back in time with this play, at least I felt like I was in another time & that, to me, is the power of theatre. Their recitals gave an impression of what the epic poems of Homer’s era might’ve been like. Dialects were great, the Scottish & Southern accents especially. The importance of the way the voice executes a monologue is instrumental. According to Stuart Pearce, Voice coach from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, “Your voice is your identity in sound. It is far more than just a means with which to communicate your thoughts & feelings; it is the expression of your integrity & individuality in the world!

Passion is what the actors put into the poems. In the opening monologue, Jonathan Ellul (Forever Plaid; King Lear and Oklahoma! at Stratford Festival) had to look & delivery of a genuine southern playboy. His accent & demeanor actually reminded me a lot of Robert Downey Jr.’s character in Tropic Thunder (a true comedic tour de force in that picture, by the way, for Downey who also shined in the DVD commentary as well).

Fantastic set design convincingly turned the stage atmosphere into a graveyard! Great use of realistic trees & a surprisingly realistic full moon on stage, you could see the craters & everything. All characters were well used & the props were just as well used. In the 1st song, Soulpepper Theatre Company regular, Daniel Williston (Soulpepper’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Death of a Salesman; Mirvish’s Kinky Boots) made poignant use of a casket for drums which might actually have been very cathartic. I loved the scene when those caskets were standing up. There were 2 boards standing upward with couples lying next to each switching pairs each time the lights dimmed. It took a couple of minutes for me to realize, but I got the impression we were watching from a horizontal instead of vertical angle looking down at an open graves. This part quite possibly used old illusionist lighting tactics from the days before Tesla & Edison came on the scene which would’ve been quicker than eyes of those townsfolk seeing as how our more recent generations are so used to the flickering screens of TV, computer, & handheld devices.

Another highlight for me, Matt Campbell, (lead in The Full Monty and Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad; Canada ROCKS!) I am happy to report, is back at The Mack! He’s an old pro of the Charlottetown Festival & he’s someone I’ve gotten a chance to see on stage every year since I started doing reviews. Whenever we see him perform, we want to see more of him, especially in these ensemble pieces. Kimberley’s need to see him this time, however, was sated, he was really well used. His boyish charm is an asset that is right up there with his musical ability, he’s versatile yet he sticks to his niche & he always seems to play roles that suit his style. The extremely gifted vocalist Alana Bridgewater (Hairspray; Mirvish’s We Will Rock You; Gemini-nominated vocalist), Mary Francis Moore (co-writer of Bittergirl and Bittergirl-The Musical; lead in TPM’s The Thing Between Us), Sandy Winsby (four seasons as ‘Matthew’ in AnneTM; Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway; Mirvish’s Kinky Boots), Amanda LeBlanc (lead in Dear Johnny Deere; 2016 National Arts Centre Ensemble), & Richard Lam (Spoon River world premiere; The Crucible and Of Human Bondage (Soulpepper) rounded off the cast of 11 with some shining moments of their own, showing off their singing, acting, dancing, & musical talents.

Some big names were in the house for this special night including Director Albert Schultz, cultural patron of the arts Mike Duffy, Spoon River Composer & former Jive King Mike Ross, reps from the corporate sponsors, & of course, Confederation Centre of the Arts Chair & 2015 Order of Canada recipient Mr. Wayne Hambly.

It was surprising to us (again, we missed out on getting programs) that it was only 1 Act, which was a jam-packed 90 minutes, if it wasn’t mentioned in the intro or program, it would be good to take note. Nice little encore as well.

Other than 2 or 3 songs toward the end that weren’t quite my cup of tea, the show surpassed my expectations & Kimberley said she would see this show again & again & again & that this is the most uplifting thing about the dead she’s ever seen (and Kimberley has seen a lot of stuff from all genres). Kimberley would also like to thank the ushers for their professionalism & stealth. Props to everyone! To put it gingerly, we were not disappointed with Spoon River & to paraphrase actress Susan Henley, who we met after the show: “even though it is set in a graveyard, it isn’t dismal or sad. Our culture should take a second look at death. Only through death can we celebrate life.”

Review by PL Holden and Kimberley Johnston. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.ca.

Laura Smith Lays It On the Line at Victoria Playhouse

Audience Favourite Laura Smith Returns to Victoria Playhouse

Laura Smith will bring her spellbinding vocals and direct honest performance to the Victoria Playhouse on July 18. Smith has been winning lifelong fans as a singer/songwriter for over twenty years. She has been the recipient of two East Coast Music Awards, two Juno nominations, and a Gemini Award.

thumbnail_Laura Smith

Smith has taken the stage in Victoria numerous times and says she is, “thrilled to be playing one of my all-time favourite venues with Kim Dunn”.

Nova Scotia musician Kim Dunn will accompany Smith on keyboards. Dunn was the recipient of the first ever Musician Special Achievement East Coast Music Award in 2003.

“It would be a challenge to find a favourite Smith song, given her catalogue”, said a recent Calgary Herald performance review. “Add in her rapier wit, and she is a force to be reckoned with on stage.”

Jimmy Rankin Brings Cape Breton to PEI

Jimmy Rankin is one of Canada’s finest and most popular singer songwriters. Hailing from Mabou, Cape Breton, he rose to fame as a lead singer, guitarist and songwriting lynchpin for multi-platinum Canadian Celtic-pop heroes, The Rankin Family, who sold over 2 million records and earned five Junos including the coveted “Entertainer of the Year” award. In 1990, Jimmy embarked on a solo career, winning numerous awards and accolades over the course of six CD releases. Jimmy has built his reputation on the power and dynamism of his live shows which, while moving effortlessly between Roots, Country and Celtic stylings and drawing on an impressive catalogue of hits, appeal to fans of all ages.


After cutting his teeth on stages and dance halls in and around his Cape Breton Island home, Jimmy Rankin has established himself as one of the most entertaining and respected artists in the Canadian recording industry. Among others, Jimmy has toured and recorded with the likes of Keith Urban, John Prine, Alison Krauss and The Chieftains. Rankin’s authentic nature and enduring musical career have earned him the status of Canadian cultural icon and ambassador for Cape Breton’s Celtic music sound.

“Rankin isn’t resting on his reputation as Can-folk royalty. If anything, the man behind one of the many Rankin Family songs that defined the East Coast of Canada is working harder than ever.”
– Mike Devlin, The Times Colonist, Victoria, B.C.

“With oodles of raw vocal talent, great stage energy, and a knack for story telling, Jimmy Rankin puts on a stellar live show, not to be missed.”
– Countrified Canada

Jimmy Rankin appears at the Harbourfront Theatre on July 17th at 7:30 PM

‘The Things That We Miss’ a Hit at The Guild

Visual artist Suzanne O’Callaghan is presenting an exhibition of new work at The Gallery at The Guild in July. The show, called ‘The Things That We Miss’, features a series of large acrylic paintings borrowed from the artist’s memories, those of friends on the Island, across Canada and beyond. Since last autumn the artist has been collecting reminiscences and musings and then, as common threads became apparent, documenting them in paint.


Created in the last year, the works deal with a cross-section of things missed. From childhood to the beginnings of independence as teens (as in “Memory of a Girl”), the evolving nature of sexuality, loved and lost places, ageing and, most of all, change, the exhibition strives to draw familiar lines between the transitions and vicissitudes of life.

Painted in the ardent palette the artist has been working with for the last eight years, Miss O’Callaghan’s expressionism-influenced style has been reinterpreted in many of the paintings in what the artist describes as “an allowance for the impression of visual and emotional distance that time imbues”.

‘The Things That We Miss’ is at the Gallery at The Guild from July 5 (the artist’s birthday) – 25. The Guild is located at the corner of Richmond and Queen Streets and is open daily. Throughout the exhibition the artist will be painting in the gallery. Times and days can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

ABC’s of Play Reading

Watermark Theatre Announces Play Reading Series

A classic Canadian play performed in French, an American farce that later became the musical “Hello Dolly!”, and a European drama scandalous in its day, are the three plays included in this summer’s Watermark Theatre Play Reading Series.

The three plays and performance times are:

Une Lune D’eau Salée (Salt Water Moon) by David French – August 6th at 1:30PM

The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder – August 12th at 7:30PM

Miss Julie by August Strindberg – August 20th at 1:30P


A play reading is as simple as it sounds. Actors, with scripts in hand, using minimal movement on stage, act out plays for an audience. “The series is a great way to test out a variety of different plays on our audience and helps us decide our future programming. It also allows me to try new actors that I am unfamiliar with for future casting consideration,” says Artistic Director Robert Tsonos.

Starring Jake McNeil, last season’s Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet”, and Suzanne Roberts Smith, David French’s Salt Water Moon, written in 1985, has had many productions on the Island over the years but this reading marks the first time it appears in French.

The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, written in 1955, is an all out farce and is the play that later became the hit musical “Hello Dolly!”. A number of local and Atlantic based actors are joining our acting company for this very special event. Cathy Grant, Sharlene MacLean, Don Allison, Donnie MacPhee, and Paul Whelan along with our company of six actors will perform in this madcap comedy.

Censored for its shocking content, Miss Julie by August Strindberg depicts a struggle across sex and class lines that reverberated through Europe when it was first written in 1888 and still packs a dramatic punch today. Starring members of the Watermark Acting Company, the play is a dramatic and thought provoking look at Europe at the end of the 19th century.

All tickets are $10.