A Welcome Back Celebration
Songs We Love – Favourites from Past (& Future VPP) Shows has something for everyone! Featured are performances from previous shows and upcoming shows, and the talent is top notch. There’s truly a great variety, with samples of jazz, country, gospel, rock ‘n roll and more, even something from the Lion King!
It is exciting to attend the first show at the VPP since the whole pandemic shut-down began. And everyone at the VPP seems overjoyed to be back again. They go above and beyond to make sure everyone is comfortable and multiple precautions are taken to ensure everyone is safe. Theatre patrons arrive at their assigned time and are admitted into the theatre in their groups. The neighbouring seats hold smiling, happy faces instead of bodies. And when artistic director David Hogan tells us that there is a new filter system to clean the air, it helps put the audience at ease.
The talent includes four very experienced and professional performers who have previously worked together at the VPP. The anchor is Mark Payne, music director of the VPP, and he was practically born a musician. He’s masterful at the piano, but also a talented singer and stage performer. At one point, he graces us with an original composition for the upcoming On Golden Pond.
Alex Baerg adds his guitar talent to the mix, as well as his vocal talents, channeling John Denver and bringing on shivers with his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.
Michael Vanhevel adds his silky voice, being a masterful crooner, known for his Sinatra and Elvis. His easy, self-deprecating style on summer patios is but a warm-up for his confident performance on the stage. Michael and Alex make for delightful divine women (celebrating extraordinary women of song, from a previous show), but they also look fantastic in kilts.
Jennifer Walls adds not only the feminine touch, but strong vocals. She is a well-known impersonator, comedienne, and director/producer of her own online show. She becomes Barbra and Cher, but has a wonderful rich voice of her own.
These four multi-talented individuals create a very special sound together. Their voices and musical sounds blend well. The show is well-rehearsed, with several costume changes and small props and lots of fun. Not only is it delightful to watch performances from past shows such as “I got Rhythm” and “I’m Feeling Good” it is a treat to hear tunes from upcoming shows such as “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. For a limited, well-spaced-out, masked audience, they earn the loud cheers and applause and spontaneous standing ovation they deserve.
Songs We Love continues until October 3, 2021 at the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets. (Not available online at this time.)
Photo: Left to right: Jennifer Walls, Mark Payne, Michael Vanhevel & Alex Baerg. Photo by Diane O’Dell
Songs We Love – Favourites from Past (& Future) VPP Shows
Created by David Rogers and David Hogan
Directed by David Rogers
Music Direction and Arrangements by Mark Payne
Performed by Mark Payne, Alex Baerg, Michael Vanhevel and Jennifer Walls
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
September 7 to October 3, 2021
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes