Cruisin’ Classics

Written on June 30th, 2018

Nostalgia Trip Back to the Diner   

A row of shiny, colourful automobiles was parked in front of Huron Country Playhouse on opening night of Cruisin’ Classics:  a 1960 Pontiac, a 1956 Chev, and a 50s DeSoto, among several others.  They were sitting there, gleaming in the sunshine, waiting to take patrons on a nostalgia trip.

Inside the theatre, a 1950s diner fills the stage.  But it’s seen better days with windows boarded up and a “For Sale” sign on it.  Out comes the diner owner and tells us about his memories of the fifties, and how he knew everyone in town who hung out at his diner.

Then the nostalgia trip begins.  Six performers sing the old hit songs, backed by an excellent six piece band, and two backup singers.  Fifty songs of the 1950s are packed into various medleys.

Act one covers songs of summer love and hooking up, while act two is breakups and getting back together again.  The audience knows all the tunes: “Rock around The Clock”, “One Fine Day”, “Maybe Baby”, “It’s My Party” and more.  Hit makers like Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Dion and The Belmonts, Connie Francis, Leslie Gore, The Shirelles, Neil Sedeka, Elvis and more, are covered.

Singer Kyra Mastro is a standout, as she belts The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”.  Despite being hidden behind her glasses, she has a powerful stage presence.  Meghan Shanley and Josh Warren sing a showstopping version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”.  Warren also shines when he sings Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou” and Del Shannon’s “Hats off to Larry”.  O’neil Watson sings the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace” with great energy, and his vocal talent shows in Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me”.  Conner Meek gives a good performance of “Runaway” by Del Shannon, and Brooklyn leads in Shelly Fabares’ “Johnny Angel”.

Two excellent backup singers, Madelaine Champagne and Lloyd Lawrence, provide all the necessary doo-wop sounds and blend the harmonies.

The band is excellent, and it is nice to see them on stage for a change, rather than in the orchestra pit.  Rob Asselstine on piano, Rob Christian on keyboards, Rich Levesque on bass, Eric Mahar on guitar, Ken Post on drums, and the especially talented sax player Robert Martin re-create the fifties’ sound.

Just a couple of things left me wondering – why are the backup singers sitting at the back of the stage with the band?  Why aren’t they part of the cast, since they seem to play an important role?

Also, why isn’t there any choreography?  There should be some high-flyin’ jivin’ in those poodle skirts.  In fact, all the movement on stage should be better coordinated.

Paul Lewis, as the diner owner, entertains us throughout the show, and we look forward to his stories between the song sets.  Finally, he decides to take the diner off the market and the “For Sale” sign comes down.  We will always have a place to go, because this nostalgia trip is a great ride.

Cruisin’ Classics will be on stage at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend until July 7.   Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: Joshua Warren and Company in Cruisin’ Classics.  Photo by Darlene O’Rourke.

Cruisin’ Classics
Conceived, Created and Produced by RGA Media Inc
Performed by Paul Lewis, Kyra Mastro, Connor Meek, Brooklyn Roebuck, Meghan Shanley, Joshua Warren, O’neil Watson, et al.
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 17 to July 7, 2018.
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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