Love is in the air: Playhouse celebrates the 60s

About 10 minutes into Memories of the Summer of Love, I suddenly found myself growing very nostalgic.

Where, I wondered, are my love beads, my fringed vest and flower headband, my button reading “Make Love Not War”, my white GoGo boots, my psychedelic tie-dyed India shirt, the iron with which I used to press my hair? Where did the 60s go? 

Well, the answer is that the sounds and sights of that turbulent, game-changing decade are on stage at Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg and playing until May 4. Judging by the constant applause at a recent performance of Memories of the Summer of Love, the Chris McHarge and Colin Stewart celebration of the music and the times is a hit.

The stage show takes audiences from the 60s roots in early Haight-Ashbury to the star-studded 1967 Monterey Folk Festival. Along the way Memories showcases music ranging from the Beach Boys (“They practically invented California Rock”) to the British Invasion starting in 1964. (“The British succeeded in recapturing their former colonies.” )

The production hi-lights duos like Sonny and Cher and celebrates the merger of rock and folk, the “good time music” characterized by the Lovin’ Spoonful.

The show is an exceptionally well rounded look, complete with computer screens, at all aspects of 60s culture. 

The songs of Bob Dylan, the “guru for the growing counter culture” herald the days of protest against the once popular Vietnam War. The Association’s “Along Came Mary” secretly praises the properties of marijuana, as the 60s explored drugs and invited young people to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Memories of the Summer of Love builds to its crescendo with its salute to “heavy metal”. According to author Chris McHarge, no group epitomized the spirit of social and political change, with its fusion of rock and blues, better than the Jefferson Airplane. The audience clearly agreed as they joined in on the singers’ explosive Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?

This exciting, non-stop musical journey on stage at the Playhouse rests squarely on the shoulders of three versatile and uber-talented singers, Derek Marshall, Natalie Howard and Paul Wilson, and their four man live band that, I am quite certain, can literally play anything.

Switching vocal styles (and wonderful, outlandish, but very 60s’ costumes) with deceptive ease and speed, the three singers light up the stage. This is a show that demands stylistic flexibility and stamina from its performers.  

From Natalie Howard’s  powerful rendition of Janis Joplin’s serio-comic “Mercedes Benz”, to Paul Wilson and Derek Marshall’s extraordinary harmonies on heart-felt Simon & Garfunkel classics, this is a show that delivers.

My hair is short, the GoGo boots long since fell apart, my tie-dyed India shirt was bundled into a scrap bag years ago, but the music of that extraordinary decade, the 1960s, is alive and well, and just as fantastic as it ever was.

 Don’t miss your chance to take in Memories of the Summer of Love. The production runs at Upper Canada Playhouse until May 4. For tickets, contact 613-543-3713 or 1-877-550-3650.

Peace and love, brothers and sisters.

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