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PEI Revue: Shack Happy

Review by David Malahoff

Remember the controversy over the death announcements being dropped from the radio? Now recall the news about the popular musical “Canada Rocks” not being produced this year. Using this as source material for one brilliant sketch, PEI Revue’s “ShackHappy” offered a new musical production for the Confederation Centre stage: Death Notices: The Musical.

Wearing a pelt-like wig of pony-tailed grey hair, Dennis Trainor confidently strolled out and introduced himself as “Terry Hatty, former singer of the Guess Who.” Then, in the funniest moment of the show, he proceeded to sing mock death notices to the tune of Guess Who songs: “American Woman” and “These Eyes.”

“ShackHappy”was a humourous look at people and events in the PEI news in 2006. The show ran for three nights in January and featured sketches, songs and monologues. Not all the material was the calibre of “Death Notices.” There were sketches that showed flashes of inspiration but staggered to limp endings and all the reoccurring segments reoccurred once too often. Still, there were enough laughs and memorable characters to make it a fun evening.

Lorne Elliott started the show. His ability to confide like a local and deliver a well-crafted monologue with off-the-cuff ease quickly revved up an audience that had come out on one of the soggiest Friday nights in memory.

For another highlight, enter Rob MacDonald wearing a black hat, black leather coat and wielding a cigarette holder. If you remember the Gestapo agent in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” or Siegfried, the KAOS agent from “Get Smart” then MacDonald’s character would be a second cousin. Although his “zis und zat” accent sometimes drifted from the Axis to the Allied side and back again, the glint of delight in MacDonald’s eyes couldn’t disguise the fun he was having with the role. As an outsider hired to find doctors for PEI, he ends up delivering his only find, a Doctor of Medieval Studies.

“Nobody has nose hair like Lennie from the Wharf Road.” Just being able to say that line with the straight-faced sincerity she did would make Nancy McLure worthy of note. McLure has always done good kooky. But “ShackHappy” revealed a broader range. Put a housecoat on her and she was the slightly-defeated, always-hopeful wife of couch potato husband (Joey Weale). Stuff a pillow under her shirt and she was an endearing pregnant wife trying to gentle down a dunderhead husband (Dennis Trainor) venting his rage at a public meeting.

Bonnie-Jean MacEachern and Paul Whelan were solid as the news anchor team. Carly Martin showed good versatility. Joey Weale brought a quiet intensity to his characters revealing them as real people, not cartoons.

If the “ShackHappy” team decide to do this show next year, I’d be happy to shack up with them again.

Produced by Derek Martin and Jason Rogerson, with direction by Derek Martin, Lorne Elliott and Rob MacDonald. Ghislaine O’Hanley was stage manager. Select costumes were by Mindy Walker and Graham Putnam was the techie.

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