MORRISBURG – “For many people, this is the music of their youth, the music they grew up with. For younger people, hearing this music for the first time leaves them amazed and thrilled. The 60s gave us the best popular music ever created – ever, ever, ever!”
For Chris McHarge, director and creator of the musical production, ‘The Summer of Love’ – coming to Upper Canada Playhouse for four shows only on a Playhouse Wild Weekend, February 2-4 – putting together this dynamic, musical retrospective was pure joy. “I was a youngster in the 60s, with two older sisters, and I literally spent my youth listening to them play everything from the Beatles to Bob Dylan. I loved it all.”
McHarge is well-known to Playhouse audiences who have flocked to his previous musical productions. He is the author of such hits as ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ ‘Johnny & June,’ ‘Glory Days’ and last summer’s blockbuster, ‘Honky Tonk Angels.’ He is bringing back his ‘Summer of Love,’ first debuted in 2004, for this one weekend only, and music lovers are in for a show filled with memories and sheer musical delight.
The Beach Boys. Gerry amd the Pacemakers, Gordon Lightfoot. Simon and Garfunkel. The Monkees. Janis Joplin. The Association. The Beatles. Sonny and Cher. Jefferson Airplane. With so many outstanding artists and songs from the 60s, I asked him how he ever made his final selections for the show.
“When we started to put together a show in 2003,” McHarge laughed, “the first song list had 200 songs on it. It was a real challenge to narrow it down to 40 or so for the finished production. What I decided I wanted to do was to find a ‘true line’, a way of somehow telling the story of the progression of society in the 60s, from what I call ‘innocence to experience’. Events moved from bubblegum to peace and love, from the British Invasion to Viet Nam. As society matured, so did the music.”
The ‘Summer of Love’ is set up in two parts. Act I focuses on the Beach Boys and the British Invasion and leads to the folk songs and the protest songs of the late 60s. Act II is a recreation of the fabulous Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, the brainchild of the Mommas and Papas. Screens set up around the stage will bring audiences the images of that wonderful decade, and the singers and musicians on stage, in the costumes of the times, will bring it all to life.
McHarge has assembled a stunning cast for this production. Willem Cowan, who has opened for groups like Glass Tiger and April Wine, Imogen Wasse and Caitlin McKeon who dazzled audiences in ‘Honky Tonk Angels’ and Paul Wilson of the Atlantic Community Theatre Company (who was in the show when it played at UCP ten years ago) are the lead singers. They are backed up, as Playhouse director Donnie Bowes says, “by some of the finest musicians in the country,” including Chris Dahmer on keyboard, John Kenny and Peter Mueller on guitars, Kevin Dempsey on drums. Together these talented and experienced artists will “tell the fascinating stories behind the music and the artists who made that music famous,” Bowes said.
For McHarge, bringing the ‘Summer of Love’ back to the Playhouse is like coming home. “The staff there is the best, the very best.” He also loves the enthusiasm and energy of the crowds who come out to Playhouse productions. ‘The Summer of Love,’ February 2-4 only, is going to create some wonderful musical memories – and delight all ages.
“There is such vibrancy and immediacy in the music of the 60s,” said ‘The Summer of Love’ director/creator Chris McHarge, “and it deeply appeals to audiences. So find your tie dyes and headbands, fringed jackets and all the hippie stuff of the 60s and come out and enjoy the best music – ever.”