Walking Down Memory Lane
The history of folk music is on stage at Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia, with five incredible singers who are creating a flood of nostalgia for those of a certain age.
For Folks Like Us, the back of the stage is decorated with black and white photos of the greats in Canadian folk music – Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte Marie, Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Murray McLauchlan, Stan Rogers, and Gordon Lightfoot. Not only do we travel through the early works of all these amazing artists, we are also taken down memory lane with many U.S. folk singers, too.
Sarah Smith has the perfect voice for folk songs. She handles old favourites such as “If I had a Hammer” with the rest singing back up. She also has a powerful version of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown”.
Aaron Tessis gives a wonderful rendition of “We Shall Overcome”, the old civil rights song. Tessis, an energetic performer, also gives us a very touching version of Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle”.
An audience favourite is Gordon Lightfoot’s haunting and chilling “Edmund Fitzgerald”. Brian Barber, with very smooth vocals, sings it to immediate applause. Barber also presents a Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) favourite, “The Times They are a-changin’” and Ian & Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds”, both crowd pleasers.
Alex Baerg gives us Murray MacLauchlan’s “The Farmer Song” which may be more familiar as “Straw hats and dirty old hankies.” With his father in the audience on opening night, Baerg dedicated a song to him amid laughter — Neil Young’s Old Man.
In addition to the four singers who all play acoustic guitar, Ken Ross plays bass and sings back up. The cast adds harmonica, banjo, mandolin, or spoons as needed.
The show includes many favourites, such as Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” (Paved Paradise, put up a parking lot) and “Both Sides Now” (Ice cream castles in the air). There are geographic favourites, such as “I’se the B’y” and “Farewell to Nova Scotia”. As well, we hear great protest anthems like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” or the songs about making change like Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop Children What’s that Sound”. These are just a smattering of the many songs crammed into this show.
Folks Like Us is truly an ensemble revue. They take turns singing a verse, with everyone joining in the chorus. Their voices harmonize perfectly in the style of the familiar folk songs. If you want a folksy walk down memory lane, go see Folks Like Us. It is only in Petrolia for a short run, so book your tickets now.
Folks Like Us continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until August 12. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca
Photo: Brian Barber, Aaron Tessis, Sarah Smith, Alex Baerg & Ken Ross. Photo Diane O’Dell.
Folks Like Us ~ A Folk Music Celebration
Directed and Created by David Hogan and David Rogers
Musical Direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Alexander Baerg, Brian Barber, Ken Ross, Sarah Smith, Aaron Tessis
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
August 1 to 12, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson