Cue the lights, Upper Canada Playhouse announces 2022 season

MORRISBURG – “The incredible thing,” said Upper Canada artistic director Donnie Bowes, during a special interview with The Leader on March 16, “is that despite all the restrictions of COVID and all the seating limitations, we still played to over 10,000 people in 2021. People really love their theatre. That is why we are all so excited at Upper Canada Playhouse to be able to offer a full, regular season to our audiences this spring of 2022. All the fun, all the excitement of live theatre, it’s all coming back again. We can hardly wait.”

The Playhouse box office will open on Monday, April 4.

The board of directors of the Playhouse are holding a meeting on March 28 at which time the official protocols and safety measures for the 2022 season will be finalized. Mandates regarding capacity, proof of vaccination and masking will be announced following that board meeting and will be posted, and fully available to everyone, on the Playhouse website on April 4.

“Audiences will be glad to know that reserved seats, flex passes and subscriptions are all coming back,” Bowes (pictured right) said. “Even the canteen is re-opening. And it is going to be a terrific season.”

No doubt about it, it is going to be a terrific season. Upper Canada Playhouse is presenting a delightful mix of music and laughter running from May to December. There are even two world premieres scheduled for the Playhouse, one from much loved Canadian playwright Norm Foster, another from noted playwright/actor/director Jesse Collins.

The 2022 Playhouse season begins May 10-22, with a toe-tapping, memory-stirring musical: Rockin’ All Night: Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. This is a Chris McHarge show, the same playwright and musician who delivered last season’s big hit, Johnny and June. Aaron Solomon, who starred as a memorable Johnny Cash, is coming back to perform in this exciting musical celebrating three of the hottest rock n’ roll stars of the 50s. “This is the world premiere of a new version of the original McHarge show,” Bowes said. “The music is just great. Rockin’ All Night is a concert that will get everyone into a terrific mood for the rest of the 2022 season.”

Rosanne Kelly and Courtney Ward preparing a mail out.

Next up is another Playhouse premiere.

Norm Foster’s wonderful new play, Doris & Ivy in the Home, will open on June 2. “This is Norm Foster at his most hilarious,” said Bowes. “His shows are universal: he uses his humour to talk about real things, about old age, about getting along, about love.” Foster’s Barry & Jonas in the Home was a huge Playhouse hit some years back, “and Foster thought, why not create a show around two women,” Bowes laughed.

Retired prison guard Doris Mooney has moved to Paradise Village, a retirement home in Canmore, Alberta, where she meets and befriends Ivy Hoffbauer, a former world champion skier. Toss in an elderly gentleman who may have designs on one lady and you have all the ingredients for great comedy “swirling around love, sex and gossip.”

“During the pandemic, Norm wrote some six new shows. Normally his new productions debut at the Foster Festival, but this year the Playhouse is doing the honours for Doris & Ivy in the Home. Norm himself will be here for our rehearsals, and stay for the opening. We have a terrific cast for this show: it’s going to be an hilarious, stellar start to the season,” Bowes said.

Opening on July 7 is Sugar Road, a new play by Kristen Da Silva, who is “a hugely successful up and coming Canadian playwright,” Bowes said. “Norm Foster is a big fan and one of her supporters. Kristen shares Norm’s sense of humour, and the ability to comment on the lives and experiences of everyday people.” Sugar Road was originally planned for the 2020 season, so Bowes is very pleased that it is finally coming to the Playhouse.

Hannah is trying hard to keep her family’s amusement park going by booking big time country star Jesse Emberley for the Spurs & Hearts Festival. However, 12 years ago he and Hannah had a “special night together” when he was still an unknown. Now their lives will intersect again. Her friend Caroline and handyman Ray, will “ensure that laughter, romance and heart will make their encounter very different this time. Sugar Road is a show for country lovers.”

Wally’s Cafe, “a show we did here at the Playhouse about 14 years ago,” is returning to the stage on August 4. A hugely popular comedy, Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark’s story is told over 30 years. Wally and Louise’s marriage has definitely experienced an on-going strain: he talked her into purchasing an abandoned diner in the desert. Only catch? No customers. And then a star-struck hitchhiker drops into the cafe ( on her way to Hollywood, of course), and the hilarity “kicks into high gear.”

Sean Free preparing sets for the upcoming season.

“This is a terrific show,” Bowes said. “The cast actually ages from their 20s through middle age, right into their 70s. Sweeney MacArthur and Susan Greenfield, well-known to Playhouse audiences, are coming back to star in this production. People will get to enjoy three decades of laughter.”

The final summer show is another classic Norm Foster comedy, Come Down From Up River, on stage September 8. “This is clever, funny script,” Bowes said, “and will leave the audience roaring with laughter. Norm explores how people cope with modern society and with some past family issues.”

The play is set in St. John, New Brunswick. Shaver Bennett, a logger, has basically chosen to spend his life as a recluse in the woods, far from family, or even casual human contact. Then comes the day he must come into town for a medical check-up and is forced to stay with his estranged niece. He has not seen Bonnie Doyle, his sister’s daughter, for 20 years: he also meets her wife, Liv Arsenault. “There is such heart and humour in this show,” Bowes said. “And we are delighted to announce that Marshall Button will be starring as the Logger. A New Brunswicker himself, Marshall is just perfect for this role. Audiences will love the surprises and the laughs in this wonderful Norm Foster play.”

Upper Canada Playhouse celebrates fall and Christmas with two spectacular productions.

October 18, Jesse Collins brings a brand new show, The Eagles & Linda Ronstadt: What Might Have Been to the stage. Author of the Playhouse hit a few seasons back, Dean & Jerry: What Might Have Been, Collins has built his new show around musical legends. The Eagles were actually hired to be Ronstadt’s backup musicians as she was starting out. And then these distinctive performers split and went their separate ways leading to platinum albums and sold out concerts. In Jesse Collins show, featuring a great cast, people can relive the grand days of the 70s and music that is simply unforgettable. “We actually expect that this will be a show that we will be bringing back more than once,” Bowes said.

December 3 will see the return of a beloved classic to the Playhouse.

A Christmas Carol will take audiences on a whirlwind, magical and musical journey through the world of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. All the beloved Dickens characters will be on stage from Tiny Tim to the Ghosts, from Bob Cratchit to jolly Fezziwig. “We have built a brand new set for this production,” said Bowes. “There will be plenty of singing and dancing and all the joys of the story. Jamie Williams, long a Playhouse favourite, is coming back to play Scrooge. And we are going to be casting for our show choir right here in the community. This will be a wonderful Christmas production, with special shows planned for school audiences.”

Other exciting aspects of the Playhouse, too long on hold, are also returning in this 2022 season.

This summer the Playhouse will be running the popular Theatre Summer School program with a two week senior school run by Mary Ellen Viau and a one week junior school is also in the works. Details and registration forms will soon be available.

The Playhouse also hopes to welcome back the Community Living holiday show, very popular in our area.

As the world opens up again, plan to share the music, the laughter, the excitement and the joy of live theatre when it returns to Upper Canada Playhouse in 2022. The box office opens April 4. Book early.

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