Sharing the Applause: Huron Country Playhouse 2016

Huron Country Playhouse and its parent organization, Drayton Entertainment, are re-paying audience loyalty by presenting a stellar season of shows in 2016.  Quoting this year’s tag line “Share the Applause”, Artistic Director Alex Mustakas talks about how Drayton Entertainment shares its success with its patrons.   “We’re only half of it; we can’t do it without the audience,” he explains.

And that loyal audience is already responding well to the upcoming season.  Ticket sales for the blockbuster Mamma Mia! are already four times stronger than the rest of the roster.  “We are among the first to acquire the rights for Mamma Mia! since it closed on Broadway,” Mustakas explains. The musical had its North American premiere in Toronto in May, 2000 and wowed Canadian audiences for a record-breaking 5 years. While Mamma Mia!’s plot is a bit quirky, audiences love the music of the hit rock group Abba, so popular in the 1970s.  In addition to the iconic title song, the show includes ABBA’s hits “Dancing Queen,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “SOS,” “Take a Chance on Me” and more.

Mamma Mia! also marks the first time that Drayton Entertainment has produced the same show in four venues in the same season.  Mamma Mia! is scheduled for:

  • March 23 to May 7 – Dunfield Theatre, Cambridge
  • May 12 to May 28 – Drayton Festival Theatre
  • July 14 to August 9 – King’s Wharf Theatre, Penetanguishene
  • August 11 to September 3 – Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend

Grand Bend audiences can look forward to wrapping up a great summer with this favourite.  Toronto actress Blythe Wilson will star as Donna in Mamma Mia!.  Wilson is a long time Stratford and Shaw leading lady.  She was Baroness Schraeder in Mirvish’s Sound of Music, and was Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins on the National Tour and on Broadway. Donna’s two sidekicks will be played by Jenni Burke and Jackie Mustakas (Alex Mustakas jokes that he knows the latter quite well.)

Blythe Wilson  and Danielle Wade -- Donna and Sophie in Mamma Mia!
Blythe Wilson and Danielle Wade — Donna and Sophie in Mamma Mia!

Blythe Wilson’s real life husband Mark Harapiak will play one of the three men Sophie suspects as her father.  Harapiak has been on the Huron Country Playhouse stage as King Arthur in Camelot and the coach in High School Musical.  Matt Palmer and Michael Killinger will also play Sophie’s potential dads. New to Drayton Entertainment audiences, Palmer has appeared in countless productions in Vancouver including lead roles in Shrek: The Musical, Company and more. Killinger appeared in Big Band Legends and Swing! with Drayton Entertainment.

Sophie will be played by Danielle Wade and Colin Sheen will be her boyfriend Skye.  The pair starred in Anne of Green Gables and Footloose last summer in Grand Bend.

The stellar cast also includes Judy Kovacs and Jade Repeta as Sophie’s best friends Ali and Lisa, Stephan Dickson and Sam DiGiuseppe as Sky’s buddies Eddie and Pepper, along with Christy Adamson, Graeme Goodhall, Jessica Horn, Jon-Alex MacFarlane, Erik Markewich, Jennifer Mote, Christine Watson, and Tyrell Witherspoon.

This fun, upbeat musical is brought to life on stage by Director and Choreographer David Connolly, whose impressive résumé includes work on major musicals like the recent pre-Broadway production of First Wives Club in Chicago and television specials like The Tenors Live in Las Vegas, as well as numerous Drayton Entertainment productions. Connolly is joined by Music Director Steve Thomas, Set Designer David Boechler, Costume Designer Rachel Berchtold, Lighting Designer Oz Weaver and Assistant Director & Assistant Choreographer Robin Calvert.

Kicking off the season at Huron Country Playhouse will be Sister Act (June 8 to June 25).  The role of Delores will be played by Aurianna Angelique, who has an incredible voice and stage presence.  I was awed by her when she appeared in Love Train at Stage West in 2013.  This marks her debut with Drayton Entertainment.

Sister Act will be followed by Canadian Legends (June 30 to July 16), another one of Drayton Entertainment’s tried and true Legends show.  Everyone’s favourite Mountie, Constable Archibald F. Inkster (AKA Drayton’s own Neil Aitchison) will be back on his hobby horse.  This may be similar to the very popular Sorry…I’m Canadian that was on stage in Grand Bend in 2008 and 2013, but with up-to-date satire.  I’m sure Neil will provide some of his old favourite jokes in his very popular Red Skelton style.  It will also be a chance to show Canadian pride in the wonderful variety of folk, pop, rock, and country music that comes from our great nation.

The popular old Cole Porter musical Anything Goes (July 21 to August 6) will be directed by Broadway’s Michael Lichtefeld.  Lichtefeld directed Drayton’s outstanding production of White Christmas in Cambridge and St. Jacobs, among others.  Last summer he choreographed Carousel at the Stratford Festival.

And if that line-up wasn’t enough, there is going to be great fun at Playhouse II.  The season opens with a farce, aptly named Unnecessary Farce, followed by Hilda’s Yard, a Norm Foster comedy.  The season wraps with a panto that the kids will love: Aladdin – The Panto.  “I think we’re the only place doing a panto in the summer!” Mustakas says.

Mark your calendar now and order your tickets for Huron Country Playhouse – remember to check the dates of other productions in other venues.  All their locations – Grand Bend, St. Jacobs, Cambridge, Penetanguishene and Drayton – offer wonderful weekend vacations.


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