Playhouse ready for Rockin’ All Night

Briefly pausing during full rehearsals for Rockin’ All Night, the opening concert of the Upper Canada Playhouse 2022 season, are the musicians who will be performing the terrific music in the show, along with the show’s creator and director, Chris McHarge. Left to right are Sherman Dean Harrison, Chris McHarge, Kevin Dempsey, David Johns and Peter Mueller. (The Leader/Gibb photo)

MORRISBURG – The stage is set! The lights are going up!

Get ready for some terrific musical entertainment as Upper Canada Playhouse opens its 2022 season with the exciting Chris McHarge show, Rockin’ All Night with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & The Big Bopper, May 10-22.

This brand new version of the show is a chance to enjoy some superb musicians, some terrific singers and all the great memories left by three unforgettable young artists, who were taken far too soon.

I had the opportunity to talk to Chris McHarge, who created the tribute show, Rockin’ All Night. McHarge has produced several past Playhouse hits including Blue Suede Shoes, Vegas Knights, Glory Days, and last season’s Johnny & June. “I’ve loved the Playhouse since I first walked in here in a show called 18 Wheels,” he laughed, and added, “probably about a million years ago.” However, Chris’ relationship with the theatre actually goes back at least 25 years. He and his wife were expecting their second child, Erin, and now that ‘child’ is working on her Phd. Her proud father was able to visit with her, after flying in from Chicago, for the first time since the pandemic began. “My working relationship with Upper Canada Playhouse is very close,” Chris said. “If Donnie Bowes calls me, I immediately say I have a show for you. When do you want me?” He is looking forward to opening the Playhouse 2022 season with Rockin’ All Night.

As was the case for many other artists, the COVID crisis had a big effect on Chris’ career. He had nine shows lined up when everything shut down. However, over the two years of shutdowns, he undertook special training with a Health Care Agency, becoming a full time care-giver for his mother. Later, during the height of the pandemic, he contacted the agency, asked how he could help out, and was immediately assigned other clients. “I like to hope that for those two years I made a difference in those people’s lives. Now that theatres are up and running, I hope I can get back to making a difference in audience’s lives.”

Chris is excited to be bringing this dynamic, new version of Rockin’ All Night to the stage. The focus of the show is on the music and the lives of Richie Valens, Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.“I don’t think people realize just how pioneering, how really cutting edge in Rock and Roll those three performers were,” Chris explained. “And they were all so very, very young. Richie was only 17. I was completely fascinated by how prolific they were, how great their concerts were. And then, suddenly, they were just gone. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have been in the audience at that last concert. A life time memory.”

Chris did extensive research into the history of the three musicians. “I also learned what led to that fateful night they caught the plane. It almost seemed like a whole series of circumstances fell into place, leading to them climbing on board that plane. They were just 11 days into their music tour, and for those 11 days they’d been driving over 600 kilometres every night. They’d had to sleep on that bus, pretty much live on it day and night. And the bus had already broken down five times in bad winter conditions. You know, Richie, Buddy, the Bopper, they each paid $36 to take that last flight – just for the chance to sleep in a hotel room, and get their clothes washed. The way fate sort of lined everything up was incredibly ironic. That is one of the stories we tell in the show.”

The show is built around how the three musicians met, and about how they created their “forever music.”

“We’ve added a new multi-media aspect to the production,” Chris said, “with slides and film. We’ve fleshed out the props and costumes, and really worked on the music. This is a far more polished version of the original show: and performing it, we have some totally outstanding musicians, the absolute cream of the crop.”

Chris McHarge himself will be narrating the show. Taking on all three of the key characters is Aaron Solomon, star of Johnny & June, and a renowned performer. “Aaron does Buddy and Richie and The Bopper, although I add a little of The Big Bopper too.” Musicians Dean Harrison, Dave Johns, Peter Mueller and Kevin Dempsey round out the stellar cast.

“Rockin’ All Night is going to be exciting, dynamic and filled with great music,” said Chris McHarge, creator of the show. “And we are going to share fascinating background stories.” With a brand new production, Memphis to Motown, From Soulsville to Hitsville already in the works, Chris has tours and bookings and busy times ahead. “The truth is, I am making up for those nine missed shows back in 2020,” he laughed. “Yes, I’m going to be tired, but it’ll be my kind of tired.”

Don’t miss the opening production of the Upper Canada Playhouse 2022 season of sparkling music and comedy: Rockin’ All Night – on stage May 10-22.

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