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Good Golly Miss Molly

Review by Chris McGarry

Papa (Michael Peters) and Molly (Melissa MacKenzie) play 60s radicalsOn July 13 the Rodd Charlottetown was alive with the sounds of classic rock n roll tunes and uproarious laughs as a large enthusiastic audience gathered to watch the lively dinner theatre production Good Golly Miss Molly.

The spirited, thoroughly engrossing, well-acted story begins in modern-day Charlottetown where family and friends have gathered at the Snappy Lobster Bed and Breakfast to pay tribute to Molly, a former 1960s radical who had died a few weeks earlier in a skateboarding accident at the age of 74. Molly and her husband of many years Papa (Michael Peters) had opened the well-known B&B after putting their activism behind them and settling down in the mid-1970s.

Present at the memorial are Molly’s granddaughter Alex (Melissa MacKenzie), her friend Chris (Alex Kelly), Papa, long-time employees of the Snappy Lobster, Stan and Rosa (Branden Kelly and Helen Killorn), as well as Ted Stone (Ryan J. Burda), a dodgy, scheming realtor who wants to tear down the historic B&B so that a multinational designer clothing company can build an outlet on the property.

The second part of Good Golly Miss Molly transports the audience back to the 1960s, when Molly (played flawlessly by MacKenzie), Papa, Susan (Killorn) and the goofy, cowardly Dale (Kelly)—all hippies—are immersed in protesting against the Establishment, not all of it peaceful. Molly had been quite a prominent (albeit notorious) activist in her day and had even been friends with John Lennon, whom Burda does an excellent job of portraying in the production.

To say that Good Golly Miss Molly is a good production would be a grossly unfair understatement. Everything about the dinner theatre—from the colorful stage props to the actors’ overall performances—was first-rate.

The performers, who had a solid chemistry among themselves on stage, had an even stronger rapport with the audience, to whom they served a delicious meal.

The six cast members truly went out of their way to make the most of their varied, comical roles. Michael Peters was excellent as Papa as a radical though peaceful hippy and an old man in the present-day whose mind is gone from decades of heavy drug use. Melissa MacKenzie—no stranger to the theatre herself—shone as the somewhat militant Molly who, like so many activists of that turbulent era, eventually matured and went on to live a fulfilling, interesting life.

But what is probably the most exciting aspect of Good Golly Miss Molly, written by Garry Williams and directed by Sherri-Lee Darrach, are the musical performances by the cast members who sang and played their own instruments.

From beginning to end, the audience was treated to classic songs spanning five decades from artists as varied as Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, Fleetwood Mac, A-Ha and Emili Sande. All in all, Good Golly Miss Molly is a total pleasure to watch and is one show not to be missed this summer.

Good Golly Miss Molly plays from Tuesdays to Saturdays at the Rodd Charlottetown until the end of August.

Sisters of Mirth


Review by Chris McGarry

Sister Mary Hubert (Marlene Handrahan), Mother Superior Mary Regina (Robin Craig) and Sister Mary Amnesia (Natalie Sullivan) in the skit “Baking with the Blessed Virgin Mary” during Nunsense at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside (photo: ©pixbylorne)The near-capacity crowd who flocked to the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside on August 14 were treated to an evening of spectacular performances and hilarious fun as they watched legendary American writer/composer Dan Goggin’s megahit off-Broadway musical comedy Nunsense.

The production, directed by Catherine O’Brien, centers around five nuns who spend their days as members of the religious order Little Sisters of Hoboken. Though a fairly original concept, the five main characters fit popular stereotypes. There’s strict though comical old Mother Superior Mary Regina; Mistress of Novices Sister Mary Hubert; tough, streetwise, Brooklyn-raised Sister Robert Anne; ditzy though lovable Sister Mary Amnesia, (she cannot remember her past after a crucifix fell on her head); and innocent, saintly novice Sister Mary Leo.

In the story, Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally poisons 52 of the convent’s 71 members with the tainted vichyssoise she cooked. The remaining 19 nuns start a greeting card company to make enough money to pay for the burials of their deceased sisters. Believing there was enough money from the profits Mary Regina uses some to buy an Xbox. As it turns out, there is only enough money to bury 48 of the 52 dead, so the remaining four are put in the freezer.

Desperate for cash, the Little Sisters of Hoboken put on a variety show at the Mount Saint Helen’s auditorium. What follows is a smorgasbord of meticulously rehearsed dance numbers, angelic, beautiful singing and side-splitting, zany skits—some with a tinge of off-coloured humor. Nunsense, in my humble opinion, is one of most sensational, over-the-top productions to grace the shores or our little island in a long time. Though not for all tastes, the play is a fastidiously constructed piece of art that is almost flawless in every way.

Nunsense pokes fun at modern Catholic culture but in a harmless, insightful way. Brieonna Locche did an excellent job as Sister Robert Anne when she told of her childhood in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood in the skit “Growing up Catholic.” The audience near collapsed with laughter as Mary Regina (Robin Craig) promoted her book Baking with the BMV (that’s the Blessed Virgin Mary for all you Protestants in the audience).

The chemistry between the performers was so strong it truly enhanced the story. To get the audience involved, the sisters, who had been operating a leper colony on an island in the south of France, got them to take part in a quiz.

All of the characters excelled in their roles. Sister Mary Hubert (Marlene Handrahan) was likable while Sister Mary Amnesia (Natalie Sullivan) wowed the audience with her ventriloquist skills portraying the cranky nun Sister Mary Annette. But it was the eager young novice Sister Mary Leo (Natalia Gracious) who, in my opinion, shone the most. Her cabaret-style performances were nothing short of impeccable.

Nunsense plays at the Harbourfront Theatre on Tuesdays and Thursdays until August 30.

Island Relationships

PEI Love Story

Review by Chris McGarry

The lighthearted, comedic-drama P.E.I. Love Story made its debut in front of a large audience at the St. Peters Courthouse Theatre on July 6. P.E.I. Love Story, the premiere play by the Charlottetown-based theatre company Manne Productions, follows a couple of days in the lives of four lifelong friends—Andrew (Adam MacGregor), Karen (Alicia Altass), Mark (Shawn Arsenault) and Ellie (Sherri-Lee Darrach)—as they cope with the ups and downs of romantic relationships.

Andrew and Karen, who were married rather young, don’t exactly have the perfect marriage. She is frustrated, desperately wants to start a family and cannot stand Andrew’s immature ways; he’s more interested in playing video games than spending time with her. Their matrimonial existence is empty and sexless. Karen sees Andrew more as a “glorified roommate” than as a spouse.

While Andrew and Karen are struggling through a calamitous marriage, their friends Ellie and Mark are living quite fulfilling lives as singles. Mark has a rewarding career as a youth counsellor and Ellie, a writer, is currently working on a book about the trials and tribulations of relationships on PEI, which paradoxically is to be titled P.E.I. Love Story.

What Mark and Ellie have in common is that they both have tremendous difficulty finding the right people to have good relationships with. Ellie is fed-up with the bar scene and Mark refuses to invest a lot of time into women who are not serious.

One evening, Andrew and Karen decide to invite their friends over for a dinner party where they reminisce about their university days. After a while though, things take a turn for the worse when Mark and Karen, who had indulged in a brief fling years earlier, feel that they still have chemistry between them.

As to be expected, this causes animosity among the members of the group, who refuse to talk to each other for about a day. Through feelings of anger, sadness and eventual happiness, the friends learn to work out their issues in time for the play to close with a thoroughly joyous, satisfying ending that was worthy of a thunderous standing applause by the members of the audience.

P.E.I. Love Story doesn’t purport to be a romantic love story in the traditional sense but is instead a realistic tale of relationship challenges that the average person can relate to. What makes the production so unique is its emphasis on Island culture.

Throughout the play, there are references (often done quite comically) to PEI place names (Clinton, Stanhope) and famous institutions such as “Anne of Green Gables” and the now-closed Rainbow Valley.

In what is probably the most famous PEI stereotype, Andrew, a native of Toronto, is funnily reminded by his wife that he will never be a true “Islander.” Interspersed between the well-acted scenes are musical numbers in which the actors played stirring acoustic versions of songs by well-known artists such as Gene MacLellan, Sarah MacLachlin and Adele.

Although all of the performers excelled in their roles, it was Alicia Atlass, as the distraught wife, who shone the most.

P.E.I. Love Story was written by Alicia Altass and directed by Adam MacGregor. It plays every Friday at the St. Peters Courthouse Theatre until August 10 and from August 29 to September 1 at the Victoria Playhouse.

It’s a Mystery

Hickory Dickory Dead

Review by Chris McGarry

Chris Sodaro’s darkly comedic, intriguing murder mystery Hickory Dickory Dead premiered at the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown on July 8. This most enthralling, slightly sinister whodunit begins on a stormy night when estranged sisters Connie Girard (Ceri Davis Fletcher) and Regan Tasker (Quinby Barrows) meet at the Victorianish Hickory Dickory Inn for a weekend reunion.

The sisters wait in the living room for assistance and when none arrives, Regan enters the inn administrative office and stumbles across a shocking discovery—the body of co-owner George Mason. The women scream for help and in minutes George’s sister and inn co-owner Essie Mason rushes into the living room.

It takes no time at all for the strict, belligerent Essie to suspect that the sisters may have murdered her brother. The commotion soon attracts the attention of other guests including the cranky, extremely wealthy Clark Curtis (Paul Hopskin), his much younger, ditzy trophy wife Keeky (Tanya Jory) as well as Nigel Grimm (Tim Wartman), a famous horror novelist who ironically is scared of everything.

Meanwhile Regan, an organic food shop owner who is heavily involved in the occult, believes the loud noises she hears in the house are being made by George’s angry spirit. The drama increases when it’s discovered that the inn’s phone lines have been deliberately cut and before long, the paranoid cast members are pointing fingers at each other, desperately searching for clues that will reveal which one of them is the killer.

All of a sudden, to the surprise of some audience members, the stage went completely dark. Then a shot rang out. By now, I was totally engrossed in the story. When the lights came back on, Sara Dane (Melissa Heald), a guest who had been outside for a walk and another guest, the articulate, somewhat snooty Englishman Edgar Hill (Keir Malone), are standing in the living room, Hill with a pistol in his hand.

By this point in the play, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Accusations led to deeper hostilities which quickly morphed into fisticuffs. The entire time, the only real voice of reason was Connie, a police dispatcher who, to the disbelief and suspicion of the others, had a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding crime scene investigation.

Near the end, with the heinous crime still unsolved, Regan convinced the other characters to take part in a séance in order to contact the deceased as a last resort. During the dark, chilling séance, George spoke to the characters through Connie, who exposed the murderer(s) and motives for committing the atrocious act.

Colorful sets as well as sound effects that included howling winds and the chilling ringing of a bell truly enhanced the shadowy, slightly unsettling atmosphere of Hickory Dickory Dead. While the props were great, the characters’ distinct personalities are what made this routine murder mystery such a treat to watch. All in all, despite a few slight innuendos, Hickory Dickory Dead is a fantastic production which the whole family will enjoy.

Hickory Dickory Dead was written by Chris Sodaro and directed by Melissa Heald. It plays on Sundays on the King’s Playhouse throughout July and August with the final performance on September 2.

Perfect Recipe

The Great Ice Cream Scheme

Review by Chris McGarry

On a particularly hot evening in early July, a large crowd of all ages gathered at the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown to watch the hilariously, sweet, comedic melodrama The Great Ice Cream Scheme.

The setting for the play is somewhere in small-town Canada in the late 1950s. It’s no secret that Pop Sicle’s Ice Cream Parlor serves the best ice cream in town. The respectable, no-nonsense 50s businessman Pop (Owen J.W. Parkhouse), his sister Nana Peel (Elizabeth Parkhouse) as well as his son Robin Baskins (Dalton MacKenzie) are the only three people who know the recipe for this amazingly delicious treat.

On a quiet summer evening, while Pop Sicle, Nana Peel, Robin and teenage employees Candy Sprinkles (Amanda Mullally) and Walt Nutz (Tristan Lewis) are hard at work and loyal customers Etta Lotta Spumoni (Peggy King) and Alec DaSpoon (Melvin Ford) are stuffing their faces with ice cream, the devious, cold-hearted villain I.C. Custard (Marcus King) is cunningly devising a plan to steal the sanctified recipe so he can become rich selling the product all over North America.

Custard recruits the clumsy ex-showgirl Parfait Deluxe (Toby Murphy) to help him carry out his dastardly scheme. While her job is to seduce Robin so that he’ll reveal the recipe, the eager young man has already developed a fondness for the parlor’s newest employee, Marsha Mallow (Annie Bungay).

Later that evening, Parfait manages to get Robin alone on a street bench where she begins hitting on him in a failed attempt to get the recipe. When that plan goes horribly awry, the always scheming Custard plots another ploy: have Parfait act desperate in order to wrangle a job at Pop Sicle’s Ice Cream Parlor where stealing the recipe will be cinch.

A few nights later, Marsha and Robin are enjoying each other’s company in the park. When Marsha goes for a walk, Parfait sneakily seduces Robin. They kiss and she steals the parlor key from him. The goofy, laugh-a-minute play wraps up in the parlor where the good characters engage in the showdown with the villains in an attempt to gain control of the recipe.

Being a melodrama, everything in The Great Ice Cream Scheme is over-exaggerated, in many parts to the point of being downright silly and inane. This, of course, evoked heaps of laughter from the audience.

The actors themselves did a superb job. But in my opinion, the character who stood out the most was I.C. Custard, with his evil though hilarious persona, stone-cold eyes and villianous moustache. A funny addition to the play was the irksome Ann without an E (Bethany Parkhouse) who resembled “Anne of Green Gables.”

A colorful, classic ice cream parlor as a set, 50s-style dress, expressions and good old rock ’n’ roll truly enhanced the atmosphere of the production, which is definitely worth watching for people of all ages, but particularly children.

The Great Ice Cream Scheme was written by Billy St. John and directed by Toby Murphy. It plays on Wednesdays at the King’s Playhouse until the end of August.

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