Glory

An Inspiring Story AND Hockey Choreography

A heart-warming, all-Canadian hockey story is now on stage at Playhouse II in Grand Bend.  Some feisty young women on the Preston Rivulettes baseball team lose to their arch rivals, the Port Dover Sailorettes.  With the end of the baseball season and winter coming, they need a way to get even with the Sailorettes, so they form a hockey team to take them on.  Set against tough odds and hard financial times, this new play which is almost a musical, offers a message of resilience.  The team plays their first game at the end of the season and still manages to win.  But 1930 isn’t the time to be starting up a new team in a new sport.  The young women and their families are losing jobs, and team sponsors are hard to come by.  They miss out on national championships because they can’t afford to travel to the games.

Nevertheless, they are the top female hockey team in the country, and manage to persevere in that role for a decade.  Two pairs of sisters are featured in this show — Hilda and Nellie Ranscombe (Katie Ryerson and Morgan Yamada) and Marm and Helen Schmuck (Advah Soudack and Kate Dion-Richard).  Hilda loves hockey and plays better than the boys on the frozen river.  When she hears about a women’s league, she pushes to create a team, convincing her unwilling sister Nellie to be the goalie.  Marm is a feisty player who learns the game quickly while her sister Helen is steadier on the ice.  The girls recruit the local arena manager Herb Fach (Andrew Wheeler) who reluctantly agrees to coach them. 

The audience is transported back to the decade of the 1930s.  The Depression foils dreams of university for Nellie.  Adolf Hitler is on the radio making threats.  We learn that Coach Fach’s parents were German immigrants to Canada, and along with young Herb, they were held in an internment camp when Canada was at war with Germany in 1914-18.  The Schmuck sisters are Jewish, so Marm speculates about what the coach thinks of them.  Later, antisemitism rears its ugly head when the team travels to playoffs in Montreal, and Marm is infuriated by a sign on the arena saying “No Dogs or Jews Allowed”.

Political concerns are raised as it becomes clear that Canada will have to join Britain in World War II.  Throughout the show, gender issues are evident.  The girls fight constantly to get ice time for practice:  even though they are a championship team, the men get first dibs.  Hilda has dreams of the NHL, but finally realizes women will never be able to join the big leagues in her lifetime.  The team members also have dreams of going to the Olympics, but we know it wasn’t until 1998 that women’s ice hockey became an Olympic sport.

Playwright Tracey Power deserves credit for giving each character their own personality and their own story, and each actor brings that individuality to life.  Katie Ryerson makes the audience love Hilda for her determination to build a team.  While she excels at hockey, we learn that she struggled in school, so her success is even more impressive.  Nellie, the goalie, is played perfectly by Morgan Yamada.  When we learn that she is a closeted lesbian, we feel for her lost love.

Advah Soudack is brilliant as the frustrated and angry Marm who feels the antisemitism around her.  She also handles the quick quips perfectly.  When her sister marries a Catholic boy, she talks about how upset her parents will be and now she will have to marry someone even more Jewish, like Jesus.  Kate Dion-Richard gives us Helen, a woman more typical of the era.  She accepts a marriage proposal and wants to settle down to have children, thinking she’s ready to give up hockey.

Andrew Wheeler’s Coach Fach mellows over the course of the decade.  Wheeler takes the audience on a journey, from scorning the girls’ team, to opening up to his young charges and eventually becoming warm and supportive.

The set is an authentic 1930s arena, with wooden boards around it and a smooth ice surface.  A radio gives us the news of the time, and also plays swing-era music, including Guy Lombardo’s hits.  That music sets the rhythm for the hockey choreography.  The girls dance their way from goal to goal with stunning moves.

Their perseverance makes this an inspiring story.  Each character shows resilience in the face of adversity – financial problems, family worries, antisemitism, hidden sexual orientation, and blatant sexism.  But the team also inspires us with determination, coming from small town Ontario to Canadian championships and holding these records for a decade.

Glory will be on stage at Playhouse II, Grand Bend until June 22.  Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: Advah Soudack as Marm, Morgan Yamada as Nellie lifting Katie Ryerson as Hilda, Kate Dion-Richard as Helen.  Photo by Ryan Alexander McDonald. 

Glory
By Tracey Power
Directed by James MacDonald
Choreographed by Tracey Power
Musical Direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by Kate Dion-Richard, Katie Ryerson, Advah Soudack, Andrew Wheeler, Morgan Yamada.
Western Canada Theatre Production, with Drayton Entertainment
Playhouse II, Grand Bend – June 12 to June 22, 2019
King’s Wharf Theatre, Penetanguishine – June 26 to July 6, 2019
Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton – July 10 to 19, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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