Let The Sunshine In
Directed by David Rogers
Musical direction by Mark Payne
Choreographed by Adele MacKenzie
Performed by Michelle Bouey, Kasey Brown, Carter Easler, Joel Anthony Gomez, Jesse Grandmont, Madison Jones, Jenn Kee, Christopher Leonhardt, Ivan Lo, James Medeiros, Janelle Murray, Vanessa Oude-Reimerink.
Starbright Summer Festival, Imperial Theatre, Sarnia
July 20 to August 21, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
The Sun Shines On Proud Canadians
Take a dozen students, put them on stage in Sarnia singing familiar tunes and smiling ear to ear, and what do you have? It’s Glee for Canadians!
“Let The Sunshine In” is the latest in David Rogers and David Hogan’s Starbright Summer Festival musical revues offered at the Imperial Theatre. The show features 12 young people, mostly vocal performance students at the University of Western Ontario in London or musical theatre students at Sheridan College in Oakville, and every one of the dozen a strong singer. It is actually an insult to call them Glee: their voices are better than those of the cast of the popular television show.
With 40 songs in Act I and 24 songs in Act II, the music is non-stop. The line-up is all-Canadian, whether it is pop tunes made famous by Canadian singers or beautiful ballads penned by Canadians. There is immense variety: love songs, country hits, folk tunes, patriotic show-stoppers. They even include what I consider the worst lyrics ever written: Paul Anka’s “Having my Baby” – but they have a little fun with it as a male singer croons it to two different young ladies, and then it flips into Justin Beiber’s hit “Baby, Baby, Baby”.
Each of the 12 singers takes turns as lead with the rest as back-ups. The harmonies are excellent, and each young singer has his or her time in the sunshine:
The night’s showstopper is James Medeiros singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, written by Paul Anka. On Saturday night, Medeiros earned a standing ovation, literally stopping the show. Another crowd pleaser is Ivan Lo offering a beautiful a cappella rendition of the old “Maple Leaf Forever”. Madison Jones gives a moving version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Jen Kee has resounding belt and charismatic stage presence, and shines in several numbers, particularly Celine Dion’s “Power of Love” and Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight”.
Roch Voisine’s “I’ll Always Be There” is given renewed life by Carter Easler. Jess Grandmont pleases the Imperial Theatre audience with “Patio Lanterns”, honouring Sarnia’s own Kim Mitchell. Christopher Leonhardt’s rich voice is perfect in “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot. Joel Anthony Gomez has an extraordinarily strong voice, belting out Canada’s rock anthem, the Guess Who’s “American Woman”.
Celine Dion’s epic Titanic song, “My Heart Will Go On” is presented beautifully by Janelle Murray. Anne Murray is well represented on the roster, with Casey Brown’s heartfelt rendition of “You Needed Me”, and also Michelle Bouey’s crystal clear voice singing “Could I have This Dance?” Vanessa Oude-Reimerink leads the female voices in “We Rise Again”, the Rankin Family’s stirring hit.
The ensemble joins together for a hoedown singing the Don Messer’s Jubilee song, and they don gold choir robes for a rousing “Put Your Hand in the Hand”. There are folk favourites like Ian & Sylvia Tyson’s Four Strong Winds. The young performers also pick up musical instruments in several numbers to join the Starbright Band.
The line-up of material from Canadian singers and composers is astounding with one hit after another – Dan Hill, Parachute Club, Terry Jacks, Five Man Electrical Band, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Shania Twain, Lighthouse, Michael Buble, Buffy Saint-Marie, The Powder Blues, Amanda Marshall, Avril Lavigne, K’naan, and the list goes on and on. Even the Canada’s Olympic theme song “I Believe / J’imagine” is included.
It’s an emotional joy ride. To see these young performers giving it their all, and to proudly hear so many Canadian hits, is truly inspiring. It’s well worth the trip to downtown Sarnia. Go for fries under the bridge in Point Edward, enjoy the riverfront view, and then take in a thrilling evening at the Imperial.
Starbright Summer Festival continues at the Imperial Theatre, Sarnia until August 21. For tickets, call the Imperial Theatre box office at 1-877-344-7469 or 519-344-7469 or see www.starbright.ca