We had a unique opportunity Saturday night (March 2, 2019) to see a new musical, still in the making. My Bonnie Lass, created by Johnny Reid and Matt Murray, was brought to Brampton’s Rose Theatre by Sheridan College’s Canadian Music Theatre Project.
Johnny Reid is, of course, the critically acclaimed Canadian vocalist of Scottish decent. He’s well known as a brilliant singer-songwriter. Reid moved to Canada in July 1988 when he was 13. His father, a diesel mechanic, wanted to give Reid and his brother opportunities he did not think they would have in Scotland. Often billed as a country artist, Reid’s music is infused with Celtic sounds and leans toward rock and pop as well. Reid has dominated the Juno Awards and the Canadian Country Music Awards since 2005, with numerous nominations and wins over the years.
Matt Murray is one of Canada’s promising young playwrights, with several hit shows to his name. For the past two years, he has had audiences laughing with his scripts for Ross Petty’s annual Christmas panto. Murray grew up in Sarnia where he was active in community theatre, and then graduated from Sheridan College in Oakville. Following a stellar acting career, he became a playwright. Those of us in Lambton County can take great pride in this creative young man.
My Bonnie Lass is the story of Reid’s Gran – a single mom in Scotland who raised three sons in a hardscrabble town. It’s a moving story covering the years from the 1960s to the 80s.
Musical theatre students at Sheridan College performed the show in a limited fashion, without costume changes or props. Set changes were described, the cast members moved forward to microphones to speak parts or sing songs. Nevertheless, the poignant story came through and the audience was very appreciative. Of note was Sheridan student Dharma Bizier who played the lead role of Maggie. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when she sang “My Confession” at the end of act one.
Prior to the show, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown presented Johnny Reid with a star on their “Walk of Fame”. Reid launched his singing career there, but now makes his home in Nashville. His family members were in the audience Saturday night. After the show, Reid entertained with a couple of numbers.
Michael Rubinoff, the Producing Artistic Director of the Canadian Music Theatre Project, says that 24 shows have been incubated since the program’s inception in 2011. Most notable is Come From Away, the story of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland on 9-11. It is a huge hit on Broadway, as well as in Toronto and London’s West End, and will open soon in Melbourne.
Reid and Murray will now rework My Bonnie Lass’s script and songs based on the audience reaction. We look forward to seeing this musical, which is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, on the professional stage in the near future!