“From Doo Wop to Motown to Sweet Soul this is a new production which combines rhythm and blues, the great music of North America,” said Colin Stewart, co-creator with Chris McHarge, of The Midnight Hour, coming to Upper Canada Playhouse on October 27 through November 8.
Or as Donnie Bowes, artistic director of the Playhouse, puts it: “Treat yourself this fall to this exciting live concert of over 40 of the most memorable rhythm and blues hits of all time.”
With an all star cast of vocalists (including a former member of the Nylons) backed by a terrific group of outstanding musicians, this production promises to be one audiences won’t want to miss.
The company will perform the hits of such legendary artists as Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, the Righteous Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops and more.
Look for classic rhythm and blues songs like In the Midnight Hour, Georgia on My Mind, I Heard it on the Grapevine, Dock of the Bay, Respect, Lean on Me, Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch, Unchained Melody and many, many more.
What a night of memories this concert is going to create. The shows November 6-8 were added because Playhouse seats are already going fast.
I talked to musician/playwright Colin Stewart about the new production.
“Rhythm and blues, this is music that really speaks to my heart,” he said. “I played this music in many, many bars in the 80s when I was just starting out. I’ve loved it since forever, and I’ve been in the music business for decades.”
Stewart and his co-creator Chris McHarge, are no strangers to Playhouse audiences.
This is the musical team which has brought hits like Blue Suede Shoes, Vegas Knights, Johnny and June, Memories of the Season of Love and Memories of Rock ‘n Roll to the Morrisburg Stage.
They are also planning to debut a new production, Alice’s Restaurant: Hits of the 60s and 70s here at UCP in the spring of 2016.
I asked Colin why he and Chris (who recently directed The Gentleman Clothier at the theatre) like to bring their shows to Morrisburg.
“Well, frankly,” Stewart laughed, “Donnie is one of the greatest guys on the planet. And Upper Canada Playhouse is a great space, intimate and warm. The audiences here are incredibly giving, so much so that we often look to premiere shows here.”
He is particularly excited about the Midnight Hour.
“This show includes Chicago Blues, Muscle Shoals (Aretha’s southern sound) and Motown, the music of artists like Smokey Robinson or Marvin Gaye. We actually took some elements of two earlier shows, Doo Wop to Motown and Sweet Soul, and brought them into Midnight Hour, but this is a completely new production which combines a range of rhythm and blues.”
Chris McHarge and Colin Stewart have a collaborative musical relationship which goes back a number of years. The process of creating a new production takes them anywhere from three to six months of work.
“We have a working formula,” Stewart explained. “We’ll start with 150 to 175 songs in the genre we’re exploring. We do the research then, and find the stories of the artists or of a particular song. We really try to find music that strongly speaks to a genre.
Ultimately, we narrow the field down to the artist or song that we believe will appeal and move the story forward. We are both passionate about music so,” Colin laughed, “there are literally fights sometimes about what actually gets in. In the end, it’s whatever moves what we’re trying to tell the audience in our show.”
Stewart is also very excited about the artists and musicians who will be coming to Morrisburg for Midnight Hour. They are a mixture of vocalists who may have been with them for a number of productions, and also some newcomers.
“We try to find a nice balance between our very talented mainstays and new vocalists who often bring fresh energy to a production.”
Featured in the Playhouse production will be artists Gavin Hope (the Nylons), Shane Phillips, Michelle Truman (who also does the choreography) and Nicole Poynter. A dynamic five piece band will also share the theatre stage.
Midnight Hour: Memories of Rhythm and Blues is going to be an exciting musical experience for Playhouse audiences.
“We never use recorded music, or music in a can in our shows,” said co-creator Colin Stewart. “Our music is alive, vital and now.”
Contact Upper Canada Playhouse at 613-543-3713 for tickets and information for Midnight Hour. Playhouse 2016 season tickets, flex passes and seats will go on sale November 9 at the theatre.