‘Take it to the Limit’ at Upper Canada Playhouse

Leading the new show are Jay Davis and Karen Coughlin.

MORRISBURG – The late 60’s and the 70’s were times of great upheaval. Wars raged in jungles in Asia. Civil rights marchers filled the streets. The Cold War heated up. And young people tossed aside virtually all the conventions of the past and ushered in new ways and a new world.

No where was this more evident than in the music which grew out of these times that “were a changin.’” And no musical artists embodied those times better than Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles.

‘The Eagles & Linda Ronstadt: What Might Have Been,’ created by Jesse Collins, takes the audience on a journey through some of the greatest music of the era, music that cannot be forgotten, music that may never be surpassed.

It’s no wonder that Donnie Bowes, artistic director at Upper Canada Playhouse, is calling this show, running until October 30, “a smash hit. The crowds have been big. And they are literally dancing in the aisles. We have seats left, but people are advised to book soon. Great times at the Playhouse.”

Author/director Jesse Collins has put together a two act concert which showcases legendary singers, Linda Ronstadt and Glenn Frey and the Eagles. In the course of the show, Collins’ simple, straight-forward narration provides insights from behind the scenes – the heartbreaks, the struggles, the triumphs, of the performers. It is easy to love the music, but this show is also an opportunity to understand the human beings behind the stage masks, and to sense where those songs and lyrics came from.

The music, that glorious music, stirs the audience and wins the standing ovations.

Playing Ronstadt and Frey are Karen Coughlin and Jay Davis, on stage for virtually the entire two acts.

There is no other way to put this. They are outstanding.

Whether she’s a little country with “Silver Threads”, a little jazzy with “What’s New?” a little rock n’ roll with “Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More” or gloriously bluesy in “Blue Bayou,” Karen Coughlin delivers on the great Ronstadt standards. As director Collins put it in an earlier interview, there is simply no other artist like Ronstadt: a singer “who has moved so effortlessly through all those musical worlds.” Coughlin has the powerful voice and the vocal style which brings that artist’s genre crossing music to life.

Jay Davis has the “Road Warrior” strength and charisma of Glenn Frey. No question, the Eagles had very rocky patches in the 70s: two lead singers ultimately walked away. There were back stage squabbles and on stage brawls among the band members. “The Eagles were at the top of their fame, but a low point in the band.” But when Davis stands on the stage and sings those wonderful songs, the focus can only be on the music. One could sense Davis’ emotion in “Already Gone,” the melancholy of “Tequila Sunrise,” the swagger of “Witchy Woman.” Davis ‘re-invented himself’ on stage musically in the same way the Eagles so often did in real life.

There was a very special moment in Act II when Collins brought Coughlin and Davis together (the real Frey and Ronstadt did have a performing history) and let the audience experience the medley that “might have been,” with one, then the other, taking the lead in the songs. Especially and deeply moving – their duet, ‘Somewhere Out There.’

The band backing the two leads was just as memorable. The guitar stylings of Glenn Bladon, with Bob Gasson on drums, Rich Levesque on bass, and John Minnis on keyboard and trumpet, supported the entire production. Their musicianship was astounding. It would be impossible to imagine four more talented artists in any show.

In 2022, Glenn Frey has passed. Linda Ronstadt is the victim of a serious illness and will never sing again.

But this spectacular show at Upper Canada Playhouse, ‘The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt: What Might Have Been’ understands something very important. Music never dies. And real music must come directly from the heart. No imitating. No pretending. From the heart.

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