MORRISBURG – “It’s going to be a season full of great plays and great music,” said Upper Canada Playhouse artistic director, Donnie Bowes, shortly after announcing the theatre’s exciting 2019 season.
This year, the Playhouse will kick off in April with Chris McHarge’s Glory Days, a live concert featuring the music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. June to September, UCP will stage four comedies Where You Are, a new show by Kirsten da Silva, the classic comedy Don’t Dress for Dinner, a Norm Foster romantic comedy, Lunenburg, and Bernard Slade’s witty Same Time Next Year.
Late September sees an all new The Rise & Fall of Lucien, featuring Marshall Button on the Playhouse stage, followed by a brand new musical production, Leisa Way’s high energy Rock n’ Roll. Christmas at the Playhouse will welcome a gently comic, feel good production of Ethan Claymore’s Christmas by Norm Foster.
Upper Canada Playhouse, which currently brings more than 45,000 visitors into South Dundas every season, has a growing reputation among theatre lovers: this was evident from the rush to purchase season’s tickets the day the new 2019 line up was announced.
“Jesse Collins, our webmaster, puts up our season announcements on November 4 and our newsletter was sent out on November 2,” said Donnie Bowes. “But we had people in the parking lot at 6 a.m. this morning, November 5. Some of them arrived without even knowing what the shows are.
When we opened the doors at 7:30 a.m. we ushered customers, who were given a number, into the heated theatre to wait their turn in comfort. We also have to ask people to be patient as our phone lines tend to be jammed just now. We will get to everyone who called just as soon as we can.”
The Playhouse is “breaking in” a new state-of-the-art box office system this year. Although they had some training, for the hard-working box office staff it is still a “trial” time as they learn the ins and outs of the new arrangement.
“It’s a system which will allow people, after November 26, to book on line. All theatre seats will be available,” Bowes explained. “Its a system that’s very popular with other theatres. And it will allow the Playhouse to enhance our box office and our marketing services.”
Bowes is very excited about the shows coming to Morrisburg for the 2019 season.
“People tell us the kind of season they want to see. We try to frame our lineup with two concerts, then bring out our flagship summer season,” he said.
In April Chris McHarge and his troupe of outstanding performers will bring the block buster hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s to life on the Playhouse stage in Glory Days. The music will all be live; “everything from the Eagles to Fleetwood Mac,” Bowes laughed.
The main summer season will see four exceptional comedies at the theatre. “The term comedy is a broad one,” Bowes said. “The productions range from farce to shows that both make you laugh, but also make you think about life.”
The June lead-off show is Where You Are, a comedy by Kristen Da Silva, one of the brightest new comedic writers in all of Canada according to fellow playwright Norm Foster.
Her play is set on Manitoulin Island where retired sisters Glenda and Suzanne make jam, enjoy sightings of handsome Patrick next door and prepare for a visit by Suzanne’s daughter. But a long hidden family secret may change their ‘idyllic’ lives.
“This is a great story,” Bowes said. “Funny and thought provoking. It’s got wonderful characters too and lots of laughter.”
Next up is Don’t Dress For Dinner, a farce by Marc Camoletti and Robin Hawdon, the authors of a previous Playhouse smash hit, Boeing, Boeing. “Don’t Dress is just an hilarious, madcap comedy,” laughed Bowes.
One of Norm Foster’s hottest new comedy shows Lunenburg, is coming to the Playhouse in early August.
“Norm sees life through a comic lens. He’s also showing his Maritime roots in this play,” Bowes said. “This is a very funny show, but one filled with surprizes and intrigue.” A widow, who inherits a home she knew nothing about, learns much more than she ever anticipated about her late husband’s secret life.
Bernard Slade’s Same Time Next Year is the classic comedy about a man and woman who, while married to other people, still meet one day every year over the decades. Returning to the Playhouse in this production are Viviana Zarrillo and Nigel Hamer, who were a huge hit in 2018’s Plaza Suite.
Marshall Button comes back into town in October with his new production, The Rise & Fall of Lucien.
Marshall’s show is updated with his beloved Lucien’s views on the current state of the world. But “the show also takes in aspects of all five of the previous Lucien shows,” Bowes explained. “He will transform into Lucien at various stages in his life, with all the barbs, the humour and the laughter audiences expect.”
Leisa Way returns to Upper Canada in October to premier a brand new musical production. With the talented Wayward Wind Band backing her up, Leisa is staging Rock n’ Roll is Here to Stay live at the Playhouse. “The music ranges from Buddy Holly to the Supremes and the Guess Who,” said Bowes. “It’s going to be great to debut this show here.”
The Christmas production at the Playhouse is a play destined to become a Playhouse favourite, Norm Foster’s Ethan Claymore’s Christmas.
Ethan is a widower, and “not doing too well.” It may take the efforts of all of his friends, and possibly even a Christmas spirit to finally help him out of his shell.
“It’s a play of hilarious confusion, lovable characters and with a strong appeal for adults and older kids,” Bowes said. “This is a true Christmas gem.”