Five Years Later and Still Going Strong: Sorry…I’m Canadian
“Back by popular demand” is a phrase that’s often thrown around loosely in the entertainment world. But in this instance it’s absolutely true: Sorry…I’m Canadian is back at Huron Country Playhouse five years after its first visit, just because everyone wanted to see it again.
On opening nights at Huron Country Playhouse, you can always count on Neil Aitchison for a few laughs. He made the single-clap applause famous – in order to speed up acknowledgement of the sponsors, he asks the audience to clap once when he points, as he announces each donor: “When I give you the finger, you give them the clap,” he says.
Sorry…I’m Canadian is just more of good old Neil, being, well, just good old Neil. Oh, sure, he’s supposed to be RCMP Constable Archibald F. Inkster. But the audience knows and loves him as Neil Aitchison. So instead of just a couple of jokes, we’re treated to more than two hours of hilarity, in a good, old-fashioned variety show. Constable Inkster is our master of ceremonies. We see scenes depicting the beauty of Canada, we are treated to Canadian music, and a family of Ontario kids provides some top-notch step-dancing and fiddle playing.
Atchison as Inkster (Note that the program says Finkster) rhymes off one funny story after the next, sprinkled with good one-liners. Atchison himself reminds us of Red Skelton from away back – he tells the joke, the audience reacts, and then he giggles along, waiting for the laughter to subside. We even get a glimpse of his tongue, Red Skelton style. Some of the jokes are as old as Red Skelton, too, but they are all funny, so it’s quite forgivable. Like the plumber who advertises: “Don’t sleep with a drip, call me.”
Other jokes involve longer stories – like when he goes into a restaurant in the far north, and the special is caribou tongue. “Oh, I couldn’t eat anything that comes out of an animal’s mouth,” the Constable replies. So the waitress asks what he wants, and he replies “Just give me a fried egg.”
Atchison’s strength is his ability to make it seem like he’s just chatting directly with you, and you’re good friends sharing a joke. He is completely comfortable on stage, whether he’s playing a Mountie or he’s Anne of Green Gables in ridiculous red pigtails.
Music is provided by a great group called the K9 Four. My personal favourite is Burton Cummings’ “Break it to Them Gently”, sung perfectly by Fred Smith. The music is actually a travelogue across Canada west to east. We enjoy Susan Aglukark’s “O’Seim”, a Gordon Lightfoot medley, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, and even some Stompin’ Tom. “Fox on the Run” is a crowd-pleaser. The first act closes with a sing-along of Canadian favourites, and the second act moves into lively East Coast hits.
Rounding out the show is a family of step-dancers: The Ballagh Brunch, featuring Devon (22), Michael (20), Paige (18), and Matthew (13). It’s delightful to see this group again five years later: no longer children, they have matured and developed a strong stage presence.
Nothing is sacred in Sorry…I’m Canadian. The Mountie rides in on a hobby-horse, named Duffy, after notorious Senator Mike Duffy: updated material that didn’t exist five years ago. There are comparisons between Canada and the U.S. In the States, senators have to be elected, but in Canada it’s much more challenging – they have to know where they live! There are many jokes at the expense of Ottawa politicians – Did you know Ottawa is like a granola bar? Full of nuts and flakes!
But despite all the jabs at the Canadian establishment, and having Aitchison point out our foibles, this show makes us very proud to be Canadians. Standing and singing O Canada, with loud voices in a full theatre demonstrates our pride. Other than a hockey game, when do you have the opportunity to belt out our national anthem?
Sorry…I’m Canadian is a show filled with laughter that makes you proud to be Canadian. In other words, it’s a night out that makes you feel good – what more could you ask for?
Sorry…I’m Canadian continues with eight shows a week until August 31 at Huron Country Playhouse, Playhouse II, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Sorry…I’m Canadian 2013
Conceived & Directed by Alex Mustakas
Additional material by Dave Broadfoot
Musical Arrangements & Direction by Nicole Gusé
Performed by Neil Aitchison as Constable Archibald F. Inskster, Frank Parks as Clifford F. Inkster, and the Ballagh Bunch: Devan, Michael, Paige & Matthew.
Music by the K9 Four: Duncan Cameron, Bobby Prochaska, Duff MacDonald, & Fred Smith
Visual Elements by Steve Roth & Don Payne
Drayton Entertainment Production
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
August 7 to 31, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson