Executive Director Haley Zavo talked about the stellar Summer 2016 ‘Coming Home’ schedule & thanked all of their supporters before the stage was lit up for this “Love Letter of Songs & Poetry”. King’s Playhouse may be older than your great grandparents (build in 1897, there was a fire in 1983 that took the entire building. It was rebuilt within 2 years, showing just how valuable the space is to the community) but as far as I can tell it is in its prime this summer with this Ceilidh-themed labour of love If These Shores Could Talk among a stacked deck of a line up including The Four Tellers on Mondays, Tuesday Night Ceilidhs, If These Shores Could Talk on Wednesdays, the Dinner Theatre, It’s Good to Be Home on Fridays, & Salt-Water Moon (which I’ll be attending on Opening Night this weekend) on Sundays.
In a show that transports the shores to the stage & the audience to the shores, this revue wastes no time getting kicked into high-gear nostalgia with the opening song courtesy of Sherri-Lee Darrach on lead vocals, who is no stranger to the Island stage with credits for acting, directing, singing, & playing multiple instruments in productions of The Drowsy Chaperone & Boy Meets Girls just to name a few. Her ability to connect with audiences is so impressive. I’m sure most audience members would’ve almost felt like the only one she was singing to.
The essence of If These Shores Could Talk was, from my point of view personified by Kevin Ryan, whose resume as a Canadian singer/songwriter/musician was definitely above average. Even more remarkable was his ability to match that knack for bringing out the best of song with his ability to tell a great story. I was reminded throughout the night of The Songs & Stories of Lenny Gallant & I think that Ryan’s performance is right on par. I really enjoyed his straight up rockin’ second set opener “Oh, Oh, Oh, n’ Up She Rises”.
Jennifer Carson, the darling & true triple threat of the show hit lots all of the right notes with strong vocals, well-timed comedy, & explosive footwork in her step dance routines. She was reunited with talented & accomplished fiddler, the lovely Allison Ling Giggey for the first time since their University days (how long ago it was, according to the performers after the show, remains debatable/undisclosed)
Everyone in this cast had their chance to shine! It’s always heartwarming to see people doing what they love & you could tell the cast loved every minute of it. On “Stranger in My Place” Ben Aitken & hometown boy Garrett O’Brien earned huge rounds of applause for their skills on keys & vocals respectively. The mother-daughter combo of Sherri-Lee & Dakota Lee Darrach (she’s also performing on stage at The Guild in The Little Mermaid Junior this summer) was sweet, especially when joined by Carson for harmony on The Rankin Family cover for “Tell My Ma” (I bet Heather, Cookie, & the late Raylene would be dazzled).
It’s apparent that boredom was not in the vocabulary of this time & place we were blessed enough to sneak away to for an evening of story & song on Randall Fletcher’s no frills rustic set design in a room with acoustics right up there with Harmony House (my personal favorite on PEI) & a surprisingly killer light show in Georgetown. Stories about Cofflin’s Coffin, the Islander who goes out west to work (everybody knows at least one) while dealing with the personal struggle with missing home on that heroes journey, & of course the phantom ships (a story PEI musician & actor Adam MacGregor, who was part of the opening night crowd, shared with me his personal connection to) with their ceaseless ability to bring about a childlike fascination, were intermingled with a great list of songs, flawless acting/storytelling (notwithstanding the fact that most of the 7 member cast was very young, as pointed out by fellow audience member, musician & UPEI student Gabriel Vizcaíno), & some very well recited poetry (they saved the best for last in that respect, but I’m not about to post any spoilers) were all part of a winning hand for what may very well be Down-East’s Ace of Stage in Georgetown.