Review by JoDee Samuelson
In one of Georgetown’s many cemeteries is a tall gray headstone with the following inscription: MEYRICK LALLY. DIED DECEMBER 15, 1847, AGED 5 YEARS 5 MONTHS. A CHILD OF SINGULAR AMIABILITY AND INTELLIGENCE.
The citizens of Georgetown have always had a healthy respect for intelligence and good humor. In 1887 they built a beautiful theatre and named it the King’s Playhouse. In 1983, after providing a venue for cultural activities for almost a hundred years, the theatre burned down; but the next year the community upped and built an even bigger one. That Georgetown spirit is noteworthy and continues to this day.
At opening night of If These Shores Could Talk lovely executive-director Hayley Zavo in her eye-catching black and white polka dot dress greets us at the front door, and front of house crew Sammy D, Samantha, Randall and Phil give us a warm welcome. Inside, photos of famous visiting artists (Buffy St-Marie, Jimmy Rankin, George Canyon) hang straight and true; the bathrooms are squeaky clean; the popcorn (you can bring it into the theatre) is hot and buttery.
A good-sized crowd of young and old soon fills half of the 300-seat theatre, eagerly awaiting what is advertised as “a lively musical revue featuring the music and poetry of the east coast.” Lights dim, fiddler Allison Ling Giggey enters silhouetted against a tranquil seascape, and seasoned stage veteran Kevin Ryan opens with a monologue about displaced Islanders working in Alberta (a recurring theme), before launching into the song “Lighthouse Keepers Dream” by Jim Moffatt: “Old sailors will tell you the sea’s no easy life, and if you don’t believe them then go and ask their wife.”
Song follows song, interspersed with jokes (which unfortunately fall flat), poems, more monologues, and the occasional step dance by Jennifer Carson. We would like to see and hear more from Jennifer who, with her natural voice and delivery, single-handedly provides a kitchen party energy to the show.
Younger cast members Garrett O’Brien and Dakota Lee Darrach come into their own in the second half when Garrett belts out a Canadian Idols-type rendition of some pop song – which has nothing to do with the show’s theme but gives him a moment in the sun; and Dakota sings a sweet ballad that concludes with a waltz around the stage partnered with her mother, Sherri-Lee Darrach. The sparkling Sherri-Lee provides a stabilizing force to the production with her strong voice and calm delivery, while Ben Aitken on the keyboard and guitar adds a professional touch to the whole event.
At the end of the show first-time director Justin Simard takes a bow with the cast, no doubt relieved that everything has gone off more or less as planned. In his next foray into writing he might try to provide more storyline; avoid clichés about beer-drinking and baseball caps; dress the actors in something colorful; rehearse the jokes; and throw in a few sing-alongs, for audiences like ours are dying to sing. Also, provide us with a list of songs and composers: I’ve never heard many of these songs and might like to locate the original recordings.
All in all, a good time is to be had at the King’s Playhouse. So I say, lovers of local culture, hie thee to Georgetown. It’s a mere hop, skip and a jump from Charlottetown. Enjoy its restaurants, funky art store, historic churches, Mair Museum (featuring Bea Mair’s collection of fossils and miscellany galore), extraordinary public gardens with giant ship’s wheel, and boardwalk alongside the iconic sea.
Now what doth hinder thee from partaking of such history, beauty and joy?