Get Screeched in With Aunt Minnie and the Gang
Never has an audience been more enthusiastic than they were on the opening night of East Coast Kitchen Party, now playing at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia. Resounding cheers are heard at the end of each song, and loud laughter rings out for each corny joke. Resident Music Director Mark Payne and Co-Artistic Directors David Hogan and David Rogers know their audience and have created a show that their audience loves.
A kitchen with bright yellow cupboards and chairs of red, green and blue gives the stage a down east homey feel. In comes Mark Payne wearing his sou’wester; he tosses a cod in the freezer and starts playing the accordion. We are told that “Cleanliness is next to codliness”, and the fun begins.
Favourite down east songs are sung, one after another, including “Heave Away”, “The St. Johns Waltz” and Hank Snow’s “I’ve been Everywhere”.
The Ballagh sister, Paige and Devon wow the audience with their amazing step dancing. And as if their step dancing isn’t enough, the pair can play their fiddles while they dance. And as if that’s not enough, they sing, too!
The show also features the brother and sister team of Jesse and Leah Grandmont, both singers and fiddlers extraordinaire. Add to that a band that includes the always popular Alex Baerg, Dee Klinger, James W. Bestwick and Dave Robillard, and the east coast sound is fully replicated. A stripped-down piano is wheeled around the kitchen with various members of the band taking turns on the keys. Of course, pots, pans and spoons are added as musical instruments.
Mark Payne’s Aunt Minnie shows up, tells some stories, sings some songs, and dances in her rubber boots. You can certainly see the family resemblance between her and Mark.
The variety of songs is remarkable: we hear everything from haunting ballads to lively jigs. Stan Rogers’ Mary Ellen Carter tells the story of the sinking boat. Salt Water Joys is a beautiful tribute to Newfoundland and Labrador. The Ballagh sisters sing a charming rendition of Anne Murray’s Danny’s Song (Even though we ain’t got money).
As well, specially chosen audience members are screeched in to become official Newfoundlanders – they must wear the mandatory sou’wester, say some phrases in Newfoundlandese, drink a shot of Screech, and finally, kiss the cod. Out comes the ugly stick to really get the party going.
Some familiar favourites are included: “Sonny’s Dream”, “Farewell to Nova Scotia”, and “I’se the B’y”, among many other lively and heartwarming numbers.
The East Coast Kitchen Party ends with a long standing ovation from a full house that has enjoyed every minute of it. This show is incredibly popular with the Petrolia audience. The show runs for the rest of the month, but call immediately if you want tickets. When those happy audience members go out and talk to their friends, this show will be sold out in the next day or two.
East Coast Kitchen Party continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 30. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 or visit www.thevpp.ca for tickets.
Photo: The cast of East Coast Kitchen Party, with Mark Payne, Centre. Photo by Diane O’Dell.
East Coast Kitchen Party
Musical Direction, music arrangements by, and starring Mark Payne
Directed by David Rogers
Choreographed by David Hogan
Performed by Mark Payne, Alex Baerg, Devan Ballagh, Paige Ballagh, James W. Bestwick, Jesse Grandmont, Leah Grandmont, Dee Klinger, Dave Robillard
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
September 4 to 30, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson