Celebrating 50 Year Old Songs
Happy Together 1967, now on stage at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia, is like jumping in a time machine and travelling back 50 years. This musical revue offers about 58 different songs – rock ‘n’ roll, pop, country, show tunes, movie sound tracks – all from the year 1967.
A cast of five amazing singers, Janet MacEwan, Justin Bacchus, Callandra Dendias, Michael Hughes, and Aijia Waithe, blend their voices perfectly, or handle solo parts when needed. They are backed by VPP’s resident musical director, Mark Payne, who doubles as the keyboard player, along with Ralph DeLuca on sax, Mark Laidman on bass, Paul Otway playing trumpet, Randy Rektor on guitar, and drummer Dave Robilliard.
Three big screens across the top of the stage show us life in 1967. It’s a salute to vinyl records: as each song is presented, the album cover is shown on the screens.
Janet MacEwan leads the singers with her powerful voice. She excels with Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and Vikki Carr’s “It Must Be Him”. Michael Hughes gives a Jersey-Boys-quality rendition of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and a beautiful version of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Last Waltz”.
Callandra Dendias shines with Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love” from the movie of the same name. She also gives us some good old country with Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’” and rocks it with Jefferson Airplane’s “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love”.
Aijia Waithe’s vocals are heartfelt in Dionne Warwick’s “What’s It All About, Alfie?” and she also shines with The Association’s “Never My Love”.
In a Motown series, Justin Baccus is perfect with Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Heard It Through the Grapevine”. Later he offers an excellent rendition of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and has some fun with the “Bear Necessities” from Jungle Book.
This is just a smattering of the many different 1967 tunes. The audience also learns some interesting tidbits. For example, did you know Aretha Franklin had three big hits in that one year? We heard “Chain of Fools” presented by Aijia, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” from Callandra, and “Natural Woman” from Janet. And how did Dr. Doolittle’s “Talk to the Animals” beat Casino Royale’s “The Look of Love”, winning the Oscar for best song?
One special medley covers the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, a record that proved to be so popular in 1967 that all the songs were given air play on radio.
For fun, the five singers star in an imitation Laugh-In. On screen, we see the famous psychedelic coloured Laugh-In wall, with familiar faces popping the doors open and telling jokes, such as “Baseball is getting bigger. Then it hit me!”
The show offers several reminders of Canada’s Centennial. There are scenes on the screen showing Expo ’67 in Montreal, and two hit songs are performed that take us back to that momentous year – “A Place to Stand”, a song commissioned by the Ontario government, and “Ca-na-da”, Bobby Gimby’s snappy ode to our country. But other than that, there is little Canadian content. The Cancon (Canadian Content) laws for radio (also called the Beaver pile by radio disc jockeys) did not come into effect until the next year, 1968. Following that CRTC ruling, the number of Canadian hits skyrocketed. But prior to that, as you’ll see in this show, we were happy to enjoy the hits from the British invasion and the U.S.A.
The stage is a large circle, tilted towards the audience, with the 1967 Centennial logo in the centre. While it makes for an interesting set, it limits any choreography: too often the singers just walk around in a circle.
Credit goes to David Rogers for creating the song list and David Hogan for his direction of these spectacular voices. A surprising number of hits came out 50 years ago. If you can remember 1967 or if you just enjoy good music, you’ll love this revue.
Happy Together 1967 continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until July 23. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca
Photo: Cast of Happy Together 1967. Photo by Diane O’Dell.
Happy Together 1967
Created by David Rogers
Directed & Choreographed by David Hogan
Musical Direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Janet MacEwan, Justin Bacchus, Callandra Dendias, Michael Hughes, and Aijia Waithe.
Musicians: Ralph DeLuca, Mark Laidman, Paul Otway, Randy Rektor, Dave Robilliard.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
July 8 to 23, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson