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Leacock, A Musical Evening

Review by Carol Little

Hank Stinson and Heidi Jury at Beaconsfield’s Carriage House Theatre.Leacock, A Musical Evening was part of the Sunday Evening at The Carriage House Series at Beaconsfield Historic House in Charlottetown on August 7, 14 and 21. The hour-long performance was written/compiled by Hank Stinson mainly from excerpts of the works of Canada’s most beloved humourist Stephen Leacock. Actor, writer and storyteller Hank Stinson plays Stephen Leacock while singer and pianist Heidi Jury joins Stinson with music and song.

The current performance at Beaconsfield is an homage to the father of Canadian humour that features “Leacock” telling stories and singing on subjects from prohibition to Canadian identity, in a familial way on a small stage decorated as a homey hearth and located mere feet from audience members. Throughout the evening, Stinson interacted warmly with the crowd as Jury accompanied and complemented him with songs of the era. With many, the audience sang along.

Overall, the performance delineated bits and pieces of Leacock’s vast body of work in a format akin to an old school stand-up comedy routine, that included the classics “My Financial Career” and “Boarding-House Geometry” from Literary Lapses, with the idea to give the audience a taste of the clever wit and entertaining spirit of Leacock’s writing, that would hopefully spur audience members on to find and read the timeless fictional works in their entirety.

Stephen Leacock was not only an accomplished and celebrated comedic fiction writer. In his lifetime, he wrote 60 books, some humourous, others on such topics as literary criticism, economics, political science and history. He also toured the world, and taught economics at McGill University in Montreal.

Adding a unique touch to the already intimate feel of the performance, Stinson met audience members enjoying lemonade and cookies on the Beaconsfield terrace outside during a brief intermission. There he pulled up a chair amidst the crowd and read from Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Leacock’s famous account of the fictional town of Mariposa, the chapter “The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias,” in the refreshingly cool evening air. Stinson used the outdoor stage as an almost improvisational addition, fortunate that it was a beautiful summer evening, and the audience casually gathered round “Leacock” as he read. Asked about the reading after the show, Stinson said that without the impromptu reading—that unfortunately cannot be added in an outdoor setting to every performance, as it is dependent on audience interest, weather and location—“it can be difficult to get across the proper feel of a whole Leacock story.”

Stinson and Jury hope to have runs of Leacock, A Musical Evening in the fall.

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