Hit musical Johnny & June heralds grand re-opening

The Upper Canada Playhouse is reopening September 7 with its first production of the season, Johnny & June. (The Leader/Comfort photo)

MORRISBURG – “The phones have literally been ringing off the walls,” said Upper Canada Playhouse artistic director, Donnie Bowes, after the Playhouse box office officially opened on Monday, August 16. “There were actually people waiting patiently in the theatre parking lot at 6 a.m. that morning. The response to the news that we are re-opening and tickets are now available for our great line-up of shows this fall has just been incredible.”

To mark its much anticipated grand re-opening, the Playhouse is bringing the incredible Chris McHarge/Colin Stewart production, Johnny & June, an “epic love story, featuring the songs, and the music of Johnny Cash and June Carter,” to the stage on September 7.

The show follows the great “Man in Black” right from those hard days in Folsom Prison, to the big stage at the Grand Old Opry and eventually into the hearts of millions of fans. The audience will also musically share in the deep, life-time love affair of Johnny and his beautiful June Carter.

Accomplished musical artist Karen Coughlin will be taking on the role of June Carter, “a gift” as she describes it, and a part she loves to perform. A versatile singer/actor she has played major roles in productions of Beauty and the Beast, Guys and Dolls, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat and A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline. Without question, she “is thrilled to be back on the stage” in Johnny & June.

The show will be supported by an exceptional live three piece band: Colin Stewart himself on bass, with vocals and musical direction, Don Reid on drums and John Kenny on guitars and vocals.

The Leader was able to talk directly to “world class singer and performer” Aaron Solomon, who will be headlining the Playhouse show as the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. Aaron has been on stage with artists such as Shania Twain, Big Sugar and Jeff Healey, and performed in hit productions like Wichita Lineman: The Music of Glen Campbell, Memories of Rock and Roll as well as several others,

Solomon explained that he “has always been a performer, right from my teens, acting, singing, playing musical instruments. I really love this life on the road.” Fortunately, over these months of COVID, Solomon has been able to continue doing some performing, working live in the States and in Canada where safely possible. “The situation has been pretty unusual and I’m grateful that I was able to continue with my career,” he said.

However, he is looking forward to coming back to Upper Canada Playhouse to perform as Johnny, a role that is often identified with him. “I’m actually the only “Johnny” who has ever been in this show since Chris McHarge wrote and premiered it,” Solomon laughed. “I have been performing Johnny & June for several years: as an actor, Johnny is a character that I love doing. He is unique, although in some ways, very unlike me. I have to do serious work to nail this role.”

Solomon does feel that there are some areas in which he and Johnny perhaps mesh. He and Johnny are both musicians and singers, both travelling performers. On stage, as a performer, Solomon said that “I work hard to adopt his mannerisms, his stage presence. Before I began preparing for this role, I would have called myself a casual fan of Johnny Cash. But now I have to say that I just never tire of this part.”

He is also pleased to be sharing the stage with Karen Coughlin, with whom he has performed Johnny & June before. “We actually go back a few years,” he explained. “We did Beauty and the Beast, the old story, not the Disney version, she as Belle, me as a French Unicorn. I’m looking forward to getting together again.”

Aaron Solomon is particularly pleased to be returning to Morrisburg and the Upper Canada Playhouse, on the occasion of its re-opening. “I have stayed in the community and worked here many times, so this is like a kind of home-coming for me. Donnie Bowes and his staff are incredibly supportive to artists, and Donnie has always been very open to premiering new shows, and to taking risks with fresh material.”

He is also a “fan’ of the audiences who come to the Playhouse. “The audiences here are great, fantastic and welcoming. These are audiences who are always receptive to new shows. I really like coming to Morrisburg to perform.”

Don’t miss Johnny & June, opening at Upper Canada Playhouse on September 7, running until September 19.

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