Tele-phenomenal! rings all the right bells at UCP

Tele-phenomenal! cast takes a bow – Members of the Upper Canada Playhouse senior theatre school, directed by Mary Ellen Viau, played to a big and enthusiastic house on Saturday, July 14, with their production of Tele-Phenomenal! Students were (l-r) front row, Mikayla McDonell, Keidi Wilhelm, Madeleine Bisson, Hillary van Moorsel, Hailey Sullivan, Kennedi Fetterly, Jamie Wilson, Megan McDonell. Middle row, Ruby Jansen, Olivia MacDonald, Reyen VanBeilen, Emily Forget, Kaitlyn McGllivray, Kamryn Larocque, Kade VanBeilen, Jude Pietersma, David Pietersma, Jack Croteau, Katie Neale. Back row, Dawson Schaafsma, Alexis Grenkie Brooks, Gina Bonhomme, Ashley Wasylko Fletcher, Szonja Watzinger, Luke Byvelds, Jodie Robinson, Keltey McCooeye, Jack Peets. (The Leader/Gibb photo)

MORRISBURG – Now who would have thought that Alexander Graham Bell and his Mr. Watson could be the subjects of a rap song?

However this was just one of the delightful surprises in store for family and friends who attended Tele-phenomenal! a fun-filled and unexpected production, July 14, staged by the 28 students in Upper Canada Playhouse’s Senior Theatre School.

After two weeks of in-school training at the theatre, under the guidance of teacher Mary Ellen Viau, with assistance from Playhouse stage manager, Jackie McCormick (who also handled the lighting, music and effects for the show), the senior drama students created their play/musical.

The telephone, from its invention by Bell in the 1800s to its modern incarnations, was the subject of the show.

“This is one time in the theatre that no one will tell you to turn off your cell phones,” said drama teacher Mary Ellen Viau, introducing the play. “Can you imagine living without a cell phone today?

Over two weeks we have explored the history of the phone from the 1880s to today’s phones, which possess more computer power than the entire Apollo II program did.
But are we addicted?”

In dances, songs, skits, (even a puppet who told phone jokes), the young performers, ages 10-15, “interpreted” a world where people have even been known carry their cells into the shower with them.

Using vintage phones (which some of the young actors had to learn how to operate!), as well as their space age descendants, the performers looked at the effects and influences of phones on everything from popular entertainment to romance.

Their ideas were a lot of fun. The audience was engaged and entertained.

Megan McDonell and Katie Neale and Emily Forget danced to classics like “Telephone Line” and “Don’t Hang Up.” A rowdy group of rappers, complete with hats, chains and shades, rocked out original telephone lyrics like “Better not be in the driver’s seat/To be caught by the Heat.”

There was even a ukelele number, which the performers swore was really a “telephone” song, despite its very limited lyrics.

In one skit, Sonia the Phone Boutique girl was the subject of a “rescue” by her friends when it looked like her phone ‘boyfriend,’ who had given her (horrors!) a number starting with 555, was going to dump her.

The role of phones in the entertainment industry created another high point in Tele-phenomenal!

ET phoned home. Ernestine offered up “one ringy dingy.” Iron-jawed Dick Tracey had his wrist phone. And “who you gonna call?…Ghostbusters.”

To the nostalgic delight of the audience, Jack Peets even played out a moment in the life of bumbling agent Maxwell Smart. “Sorry, Chief, but my other shoe is ringing.”

Following the grand musical finale, Playhouse artistic director Donnie Bowes, presented all the senior drama students with certificates of accomplishment.

This was the largest senior drama class since the Playhouse began offering the junior and senior summer school programs.

“This was a really enthusiastic group,” Bowes said. “They really seemed to understand the importance of team work, commitment to learning lines with cues and accepting direction of improvement of their performance. The audience really responded.”

Teacher Mary Ellen Viau expressed great pride in the accomplishments of the young performers. “I just love them. They own the stage.”