Cheatin’ Hearts

Book & Lyrics by Paul Ledoux
Music by David Smyth
Directed by Robert More
Choreographed by Nicola Pantin
Musical direction by Danny Johnson
Performed by Desrée Beausoleil, Naomi Emmerson , Danny Johnson, Erin McGrath, Ralph Small, Brendan Wall.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
August 16 to September 3, 2005
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Cheatin’ Hearts makes great end-of-summer fare

Victoria Playhouse Petrolia is closing out their summer season with a light musical Cheatin’ Hearts. Don’t let the name fool you – it’s not really heavy-duty country music. Not being much of a country fan, I went to the show with trepidation, but I was pleasantly surprised – it’s easy country, with some numbers just a little bluesy.

In fact, it’s very new millennium with songs written just for this show. And the show itself centres on a relatively new theme – reality TV.

Canadian playwright Paul Ledoux has written a story about The Golden Horseshoe, a country & western bar facing tough economic times. In order to save it, the owner, Bobby, has arranged to be part of a new TV talent show contest. Country singers will be in regional play-offs at his bar, and all the singing will be broadcast on live TV, the country equivalent of Canadian Idol. Three local women form a group to compete, but after the hint of some contest rigging (thus the Cheatin’ Hearts) and the mandatory love story, they become solo acts. Musical composer David Smyth has written several good numbers that enhance the show.

The script is well written, and VPP director Robert More took the liberty of personalizing it. News is reported in the Sarnia Observer, crowds are lined up as far as the Oil Rig, and other Petrolia references are scattered throughout, much to the audience’s delight.

Ivan Brozic has designed a wonderful set – neon beer signs, the stage for the band, and the rustic posts – the audience feels they really are at the local bar.

Brendan Wall is excellent as bar owner Bobby Curtis. He’s one of those comfortable, natural actors, who looks completely at home on stage, and doesn’t seem like he’s acting at all. The three singers all handled their parts well and are all familiar to the VPP audience – Desirée Beausoleil (Danielle) was seen earlier this season as “The Woman” in Dads, Erin McGrath (Linda) was Beth in Little Women last Christmas, and Naomi Emmerson (Kelly) was Jo in Cowgirls.

Ralph Small is also back, having appeared in Looking in June. You’ll also recognize Small as the guy in the Clubhouse ads on TV who doesn’t recognize his barbecue guest. In this show, Small plays a developmentally disabled character, affectionately called Hoss Cartwright. He handles the difficult role well, creating just enough empathy for the character without becoming pathetic. He’s an audience favourite, but at times he over-exaggerates the enunciation of his final consonants, which can distort his message.

Completing the cast is musical director Danny Johnson, as bandleader Stan the Man. Johnson shows talent as both an actor and musician. Don Mehagen on drums and Jacqueline Sadler on bass round out the band.

Overall, Cheatin Hearts is a good night out – some laughs combined with good singing, using a script and music provided by Canadian talent.

Cheatin’ Hearts continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 3. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or (519) 882-1221 for tickets.

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