Barbecue King: The Musical

Written on July 4th, 2010

Barbecue King: The Musical


BBQ King 3

Book, Music & Lyrics by Mark Brownell & Steve Thomas
Directed by Sue Miner
Musical direction by Douglas Price
Performed by Mark Brownell, Leah Coombs, David Fraser, Sam Owen, Michelle Piller.
Port Stanley Festival Theatre
June 30 to July 17, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

A Great Summer Show with Sizzle

In keeping with their lakeside location, the Port Stanley Festival Theatre is offering a delightful cottage-country musical comedy, created by Canadians Mark Brownell and Steve Thomas.

Bo spends the entire year looking forward to his two-week holiday at the cottage each summer, where he can shed his Bay Street suit. Along with his wife Barb, they are excited to travel north to Lake Muskagogee, taking along their very reluctant teenage daughter with attitude, Macey. Their happy-go-lucky neighbour Jerry meets them upon arrival, and Bo makes plans to defend his title of Barbecue King. He’s the king of cooking “anything that goes moo”. But then comes the bad news: a new guy, Roger, has moved in. With his fast boat and wild parties, he challenges Bo for Barb’s attention, and worse yet, the BBQ crown. On top of this, daughter Macey tries to screw up her courage to reveal a deep secret to her parents.

This is a neat little story, with a couple of plot surprises, and songs with clever lyrics that move the action along. Suspense is built around the barbecue cook-off. Local audiences will enjoy the humour in the Canadian references. There is also some interesting choreography and the dance moves add to the hilarity.

The show is well-cast. In fact, we know that it is performed the way the author intended with playwright Mark Brownell in the role of jovial neighbour Jerry. He is particularly funny as the emcee for the BBQ cook-off. Brownell’s wife Michelle Piller plays a perfect Barb, the wife who just wants to relax and read her paperbacks, but gets swept up in the intense competition. David Fraser is excellent as Bo, who only wants his 15 minutes of fame. Sam Owen plays the interloper Roger with just the right amount of arrogance and ego. Leah Coombs is delightful as Macey, the daughter who is so miserable about the prospect of being stuck with her parents for two weeks. The role also gave Coombs the opportunity to show her vocal talents with some solo numbers. Kudos to director Sue Miner, for pulling together this good cast.

A great deal of credit goes to musical director Doug Price, for making a key board into a full band and providing sound effects, too. Not only does he look after all the music, he is also a character in the show – he arrives dressed for cottage country, converses with characters on stage, and judges the barbecue competition. Having known this young man for many years, I am confident we will be seeing much more of him both as a musical director and on stage.

This is a relatively new Canadian comedy – I had the opportunity to see it in its early incarnation performed by students at Sheridan College. It’s been nicely tightened up for the professional stage, and the comedic timing has been perfected in Port Stanley. One scene where the Sheridan production was preferable was the big party at Roger’s cottage. With a larger cast, fancy umbrella drinks and dancing, it was more convincing as a wild party in the students’ production. The party in Port Stanley needs more revelry, to explain Bo’s sudden departure.

Another area where this production could be improved is the set. I realize the design is restricted by the small stage, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to create a deck and a dock, some rocks and trees and a lake scene.

Nevertheless, it’s well worth the drive to Port Stanley for this great little satire on the joys of cottage country.

Barbecue King: The Musical continues at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre until July 17. For tickets call the box office at 519-782-4353, or visit

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