Bring Your Clapping Hands
Reviewed by Sookie Mei
It was good timing that I went to see The Grand Theatre’s East Coast Kitchen Party on the same day that the lineup was announced for this year’s Home County Music & Arts Festival. Watching and listening to the musicians on stage felt like I was at that fest, enjoying some great Canadian music with an eager crowd. And just like Home County, there was a lively camaraderie between the performers and the audience, some special hometown surprises, and a whole lot of smiles.
East Coast Kitchen Party premiered at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre in 2018, and celebrates the East Coast experience through music. The show is not a play, but a gathering of people playing music on stage, with the idea being that we are all at a kitchen party in someone’s house. Some special guests even drop by, and every night this role is filled by different performers who play for about 15 minutes on stage. These same guests also play a set after the show in the lounge upstairs, a nice way for The Grand to give local acts more exposure.
The performers at this party – Karen Lizotte, Celia Owen, Malia Rogers, and Ian Sherwood – are excellent, each with a fabulous voice, seemingly able to play any instrument invented, and with special talents including song writing and tap dancing. They take turns telling an anecdote or introducing a song, and work together beautifully, with gorgeous harmonies and fluid movement creating a tight, polished performance that is also fun and friendly. These are people you genuinely like and want to hang out with, with the huge bonus that they are also extremely talented!
As with the Grand’s production of Once a few years ago, a working bar on the stage serves drinks to audience members who want to get up close and personal with the set. And it is a fine set to see. Cutaway walls made of painted wood slats suggest a down-home cottage or rustic house, with the exterior door coming right into the “kitchen.” Mismatched chairs around a few tables seat some lucky viewers who get to participate in the show from the stage, adding to the kitchen party atmosphere. Various knickknacks are displayed beside instruments used by the performers throughout – a tambourine, a guitar, even a clarinet – and the whole set feels as cozy and lived in as a party at the neighbours’ place.
The lighting is simple for most of the show – a dusty blue sky can be seen overhead, studded with beautiful hanging lights that cleverly recreate the buoys that are everywhere on the east coast. The stage is nicely lit, and the performers are highlighted when they are soloing or speaking to the audience. The house lights also come up quite often when the audience is involved, whether singing or answering questions from the performers, adding more to the party atmosphere. Subtle fog adds an Atlantic feel, and striking spotlights make for a dramatic number in the second act.
Just like at Home County, London loves a show where the audience is encouraged to sing and clap along, and East Coast Kitchen Party is a great example of that. Bring your best singing voice, your toe-tapping shoes, and maybe some moisturizer for your hands after you clap along for most of the performance!
East Coast Kitchen Party continues at the Grand Theatre, London, until May 7. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593, or visit www.grandtheatre.com
Photo: (l to r) Ian Sherwood, Celia Owen, Malia Rogers, Karen Lizotte. Photo by Stoo Metz.
East Coast Kitchen Party
Conceived and created by Jeremy Webb and Ian Sherwood
Musical Direction by Ian Sherwood
Directed by Samantha Wilson
Lighting Design/Tour Technical Coordination by Vicky Williams
Set Design by Andrew Cull
Stage Management by Suzanne McArthur
Performed by Karen Lizotte, Celia Owen, Malia Rogers, and Ian Sherwood
The Grand Theatre, Richmond Street, London
April 21 to May 7, 2023
Reviewed by Sookie Mei