“You can get anything you want/At Alice’s Restaurant…”
The classic Arlo Guthrie song, with its 60s references and its 60s musical flavour, seemed, to authors Colin Stewart and Chris McHarge, just the right title for their newest production.
Alice’s Restaurant – Hits of the 60s and 70s debuts at Upper Canada Playhouse April 26.
“We’re focussing in on the 60s and the early 70s,” said Colin Stewart. “These were the eras of the great story songs. And our new show is about those story songs, those famous songs that told a tale and were totally lyrically driven.”
Stewart and McHarge have brought a number of incredible musical productions to the Playhouse in the past.
Among their sell out shows at UCP have been Johnny and June, Memories of the Summer of Love, Memories of Rock and Roll and last season’s hit, Midnight Hour – Memories of Rhythm and Blues.
Alice’s Restaurant – Hits of the 60s and 70s is the latest offering in this writing/performing duo’s outstanding musical output.
“This year is actually the 50th anniversary of Alice’s Restaurant, the movie,” Colin Stewart said. “Chris and I chose the title because we think this song is probably the most recognized story song of that time period.”
In its original form, including the singing, and the comic monologue Guthrie delivered, Alice’s Restaurant is nearly 18 minutes long.
In those 18 minutes, he managed to capture the essence of the 1960s.
“There are aspects of the War in Viet Nam in his lyrics, and of the whole Anti War movement that was going on at the same time,” Stewart explained. “That song stands as a complete contrast to the 30s and 40s, the music of the war generation.”
Stewart describes his new production as a “bit different from our past musicals.”
“Usually we’ve delivered 40 to 50 songs in each show, but often just bits and pieces of each song.With this show, focused on the story songs, we’re going for the whole thing, a full rendition of the entire song.
With a story, you really can’t chop the music up, or you lose the essence of the piece.”
He cites classic songs like American Pie and Piano Man to illustrate the concept.
“With songs like those, we have to perform the whole piece to tell the whole story.”
During the musical, as they have in other productions, the singers will try to give the audience a flavour of the era, talking about some of the key events.
“The 60s and early 70s are one of my favourite time periods,” Colin Stewart explained. “A while back I was turned on again to that whole era when I watched the Tom Hanks series, The Sixties.Those shows brought back a lot of memories and feelings. It was an incredibly unique time.”
Stewart described the 60s as a kind of “stand alone decade.”
“So much happened in the world. Civil Rights, Viet Nam, Anti War Protests, drugs, student underground movements, free love. And of course the new music. The birth of folk music, a new approach to rock and roll, Motown, soul and the Beatles.”
This is the time period that McHarge and Stewart explore with Alice’s Restaurant through the great story songs that were also so much a part of the music scene.
“We actually want the audience to sing along with this show,” Colin Stewart laughed. “We want it to be a really good experience for the audience. Fewer songs will be performed, but they will get the complete version of each song.
Why it’s definitely going to be Peace and Love and Woodstock.”
Bringing this production to life will be an outstanding group of singers (some whom play instruments as well).
Aaron Solomon, well known to local audiences for his work in previous musical productions will be on lead vocals and guitar.
Michelle Truman, featured in the Motown show and also a choreographer will sing and perform percussion.
Debbie Bechamp, with a country flair, will sing and play the guitar.
Colin Stewart himself is on bass and vocals, with Mike Ray on guitar and vocals and Dean Harrison on piano and vocals.
“Tragic songs, comic songs, songs that are anti-everything, we’ll be doing them all,” Colin Stewart said. “After all, that’s the way it was in the 60s.”
Contact Upper Canada Playhouse at 613-543-3713 or 877-550-3650 for tickets to Alice’s Restaurant – Hits of the 60s and 70s. Tickets are fast disappearing for the production, running April 26 to May 1.