And the audiences do laugh uncontrollably with the latest production by the venerable NSC!

By Rod Urquhart
Long-time Theatre Reviewer

I was privileged to take in the second last performance of DRINKING HABITS by playwright Tom Smith at the magnificent Old Town Hall stage on Saturday, Sept . 30 and I am quite safe in reporting that not only did it live up to its’ billing as ‘hilarious’, but also the word-of-mouth I had heard earlier that it would bring tears of laughter to one’s eyes! And it delivered, Big Time folks!

Now, before I go any further, I just wanted to congratulate the Director, Teri Hallatt, for bringing this raucous play of mistaken identities, people hiding in closets and trunks, imposters galore, supposed spies and all this while hiding a wine-making business.

Now the venerable Newmarket Stage Company, which put on this DRINKING HABITS production, which was a kind of an American look at the old British farces of old, was directed so deftly by Teri that it captured laugh after laugh (and it is really is one complicated script for a Director of any worth to get to work that smoothly on stage as Teri has done!)

Now as a veteran theatre reviewer, I know the difference between really good lines and really good acting and the nuances that are in-between. But remember, this above all is community theatre with all the actors giving it their all! So singling out a few is not really fair, but I feel I must give some note to three of the main actors in ‘DRINKING HABITS!

James Osborne, who plays reporter Paul initially, then gets completely caught up in the mayhem and becomes not only a priest, but later a Nun and later a Cardinal (I am not making this stuff up folks!) is really a standout in this production. And I’ve been going to NSC productions for quite a number of years and don’t remember seeing this fellow? Hopefully, we’ll see more of him?

Denise Kennedy, a veteran of the NSC, is once again simply brilliant as Mother Superior! She has many, many lines and her role is actually key to just almost all of the developments on stage. Always a joy to watch Denise at work on stage! She is actually the ‘glue’ of this many-developments play!

And thirdly in this eight-cast play, is the performance by John Sellens as the local Father Chenille. Now I’ve seen Sellens in other performances and he is stealth at maintaining his decorum, amid the constant chaos and also has a direct hand in the eventual conclusion of the play. He always delivers a solid performance.

Last but not least, and all members are a very necessary ingredient to not only this highly-delightful addition to the NSC slate of past plays, is the rest of the cast: Janny Hogen-Esch as the motivated reporter Sally (who Reporter Paul has eyes on); the two wine-making Nuns played enthusiastically by Jan Johnston and NSC veteran Susan Lane; the Nun ,who really isn’t a Nun, who finds love in the weirdest places Lily Johnson as Sister Mary-Catherine; and finally as the gardener/handyman/care taker Spencer Verkerk (Groundskeeper George), who I must admit my table of good, old friends, agreed he put in just a great performance – a kind of a Bill Murray from Caddyshack kind of performance!

But I must mention, that late in the first Act, there was a lot going on, on the stage, with the lights down low – almost reminiscent of the Famous People Players that actor Paul Newman started out, that used to do a black light show – with bodies moving to and fro and all kinds of weird and wonderful goings-on, that again, I have to give Teri credit for not only interpreting this whole sequence, but having it done so professionally on this stage.

And this stalwart and seasoned cast performed this magical humourous production 11 times over two weeks – almost unheard of in community theatre today – so Bravo to a wonderful cast, not only for their time, but delivering a rather well-timed and very, very funny spirited play! And they performed this NSC entry at the stage of the historic, renovated Old Town Hall theatre, in the heart of Newmarket, which has become the new ‘official’ home of the NSC (so take note past theatre-goers!) (This is actually exactly where NSC started so it is only fitting Newmarket’s oldest community theatre troupe has ‘returned back to its roots’!!)

Assisting the talented Teri Hallatt was Producer Sue Meacock, another NSC veteran who often goes unnoticed because 99% of what she does is way behind the scenes, but believe me this production would not have run as ‘smoothly’ without the expert abilities of Meacock – she is like the James Gartner from ‘The Great Escape’ in production after production.

Unseen but deserving acknowledgement, are Stage Managers Gina Morrison and Jack Davidson. Fantastic set constructed and designed by Alf Judd (assisted by Amanda Hallatt; Paul Wrightson; Erin Wrightson; Peter Cianfarani and other NSC members); fitting, adorable and functional costumes by Madeleine Burke and Susan Leppington; Props by Gerri Sefi; Nellis Govis handled sound; classic Box Office by Susan Lane and front-of-house by Alexis Ritchie; and, Karin Schrewe once again handled refreshments. Advertising and marketing handled by President Diane Ament, with Jeff Burke putting together the official poster and attractive program,

(Long-time NSC President Diane Ament announced at the beginning, this production was dedicated to the memory of Peter Salt, who for a long time was the main ‘set guy’ for NSC and he served as its President for a number of years. While president of NSC, he spent some extra time with me as I was learning the ropes on ‘writing’ my own theatrical play for the first time. You are missed Peter! My sincere condolences to his immediate and extended family on his passing.) -30-

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The whole talented ensemble of the mammoth undertaking by Newmarket Stage Company of ‘Steel Magnolias’, now on stage at the Newmarket Legion. All six cast members shine in this blockbuster presentation of the movie of the same name. This photo also shows the poignant set of a hair dressing shop, designed by Peter Salt and Derek Sundermann. ( Photo courtesy of Greg King )

Cast members shine in this new dramatic play by Newmarket Stage Company

By Rod Urquhart (Theatre Review)

As famed British comedy troupe Monty Python once produced, ‘And now for something completely different,’ the venerable Newmarket Stage Company has flipped a new page – gone in a whole new direction!

The NSC’s theatre presentation of the blockbuster movie version of ‘Steel Magnolias,’ on Stage 426 at the Royal Canadian Legion Thursday night, showed that it can present a famous film, on stage locally, with community actors, with dedication, enthusiasm, wit, charm and most of all drama.

Your humble theatre critic has been reviewing NSC plays for six years now, starting with the over-the-top comedy ‘Cookin’ With Gus’, and with this version of ‘Steel Magnolias,’ the local, community-based company has taken a foray into more of a serious-type drama, than its typical broad-based comedy.

That’s not to say that Newmarket is not ready for this type of play – the almost full house Thursday night and mostly a young audience — was surely in appreciation of some bold acting and delightful presentation of a now classic.

In fact, tickets for this production are going fast, but are still available, mostly on weekend nights. ‘Steel Magnolias’ runs at the Legion, with comfortable cabaret seating until Saturday, Feb. 29. Call the Box Office between 2 and 4 p.m. daily at 289-500-2114 for tickets. You won’t be disappointed!

Really, the six actors in this production are all standouts – each perfectly fitted for her role — a testament to the skill of longtime NSC talented director Teri Hallett. She guides this complicated play, which takes place in Truvy’s Beauty Shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana, with intricate attention to detail, style and even language.

It’s a two-act play with two scenes each act and is produced by the very talented Sue Meacock. This is a funny and touching play, written by Robert Harling, about the bond a group of women share in a small-town Southern community and how they cope with the problems of life. It’s a classic in its own right!

No one actor in this six-member cast stands out as the big ‘star’ – the six all intermingle and interact with class and sophistication. All six – Carol Dowell as Ouiser; Kyla D’Aguiar as Clairee; Bethany Heemskerk as Shelby; Denise Kennedy as Truvy; Susan Lane as M’Lynn; and Cheidre Kyle Mackey as Annelle – bring each of their independent roles to life in a much believable fashion.

Bethany as Shelby is in her first role with the Newmarket Stage Company and does just a great job of portraying Shelby – whom the play is centred around. Veterans Denise Kennedy as the owner of the salon and Susan Lane as Shelby’s mom, M’Lynn are again standouts. Cheidre has a long list of acting credits and adds to the buoyancy of this play. Carol Dowell in her second role with NSC has come one heck of a long way and is sound as miserable Ouiser. Kyla D’Aguiar I’m hoping we will see more of in NSC productions as she too is delightful.

As mentioned, ‘Steel Magnolias’ runs for two weeks at the Newmarket Legion, and I must comment on the set by Peter Salt and Derek Sundermann. With six people in the cast and sometimes all on stage, it presents certain difficulties in creating the set. On top of this, it has to be a hairdressing shop, converted from a garage. Peter and Derek did just a terrific job in presenting a workable, believable and cohesive set.

Stage manager is Gina Morrison; costumes aptly handled by Susan Leppington; lights by NSC stalwart Mark Hayward; and sound by Nicole Hayward and Sara Hayward. The busy Susan Lane handles Box Office and Front of House is capably attended to by Alexis Ritchie, Karin Schrewe, Jill Hayward and other NSC members. Paragraph

My only complaint with the production of ‘Steel Mangolias,’ which will make you laugh (there are some really funny lines) and cry (as mentioned, this could be described as a serious drama), is there were no boxes of facial tissues on the table!

Brilliant acting highlights ‘The Housekeeper’

By Rod Urquhart (Theatre Review)

Simply brilliant acting highlights the Newmarket Stage Company presentation of ‘The Housekeeper’, which continues Thursday, Sept. 12, 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, at Stage 426, the Newmarket Legion.

Lise Boily portrays Annie, a wanna-be housekeeper, who is down on her luck and finally thinks she can settle down in comfort in an old mansion at the edge of town. Lise, who has portrayed Annie before in this play is superb – really nailing down the role with humour, grace and wit, not to mention some fine acting.

Dave Sansom is Manley, the eccentric writer who employs this housekeeper after the death of his mother. What develops is twists and turns with surprising results and a constant up-beat dialogue between Annie and Manley.

Sansom deftly handles the role of a self-styled writer and it’s quite apparent, this is a role he is quite enthused about doing – bringing to life a rather sheltered man who hides behind his typewriter.

As a member of the audience, you are riveted by the manipulation of the characters by these two gifted actors! It’s a play that is not to be missed, written by James Prideaux and presented with special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services Inc.

Seasoned theatre veteran Kay Valentine guides these two talented actors through a mirage of dialogue and movement with the hand of a perfectionist. Kudos to Kay and co-Producers Sue Meacock and Peter Salt.

Again, it’s an exceptional set, which really suits this play, by Peter Salt and Michel Boily. Carol Dowell is Stage Manager, costumes are by Kay Valentine and lights by Mark Hayward. Sound is by Nicole Hayward and Sara Hayward. Susan Lane adeptly handles Box Office and Front of House is managed by Alexis Ritchie, Karin Schrew, Jill Hayward and NSC members. Props are by Lynda Fraser and promotion is handled by Rory Rodrigo.

As mentioned, the play continues next week and tickets are a mere $18, available by calling the Box Office between 2-4 p.m. at 289-500-2114. It on Stage 426, the Newmarket Legion, at 707 Srigley Street, and features cabaret seating and refreshments are available.

All in all, yet another winning production by the venerable Newmarket Stage Company!

By Rod Urquhart (Theatre Review)

‘Marlo, Denise bring ODD COUPLE (Female Version) to ‘life’

We all know the premise of Neil Simon’s Odd Couple saga – the neurotic and the slob. But what happens if this is applied to females? You’ll just have to come out to Stage 426, the Newmarket Legion, to see the hilarity that the Newmarket Stage Company serves up with ‘THE ODD COUPLE (Female Version).

Marlo Alcock, a very seasoned actor, is simply a stand-out in the rather daunting role as Florence – a woman kicked out of the house by her husband after 14 years, because her neurosis was driving him crazy. Marlo even perfected moose calls – you’ll just have to see it to believe it. She handles the role of Florence with skill and precision.

Denise Kenny, another veteran of the stage, has the main role as Olive, the TV executive who is basically a slob – who knows it and relishes her role. Denise handles the role with dexterity, bringing to life the hostility that can build in a relationship.

The actual witty and entertaining factor of this play is raised a superior notch with the entrance of Spanish brothers Fabian Levy-Hara as Manolo and Rory Rodrigo as Jesus in the second act. As supposed romantic interests of Olive and Florence, Fabian and Rory from their entrance to the end of the play, add high amusement. Fabian is a veteran actor and this is Rory’s foray into live theatre and have their roles down pat, and are a joy to witness.

The four girlfriends who come over weekly for a game of Trivial Pursuit (no, they don’t play poker like the male version), are played with enthusiasm by veterans of the stage Barb Jones, Julie Foster and Erin Wrightson and enthusiastic newcomer Carol Dowell. They all bring a sense of camaraderie to their roles – and all are worried about Florence. Erin Wrightson as Mickey the New York Cop stood out among this weekly foursome.

The hard-working, seasoned director is Teri Hallett, who has many productions under her belt. Her close attention to detail is quite evident in this amusing play – bringing out perfect comedic timing in Florence and Olive.

Another Newmarket Stage Company skilled-hand is producer Sue Meacock. Those of you who know Sue, know that nobody works harder in a production and it is Sue that deserves the credit for bringing The Odd Couple – (Female Version) to the actual live theatre stage. Her attention to detail is impeccable.

The ODD COUPLE (Female Version), with permission of Samuel French, features an extensive set, designed by Peter Salt and constructed by Alf Judd, Nick Butler and Paul Wrights. Seasoned stage hand Noreen Aldridge is the stage manager, with sound by Sara Hayward and Nicole Hayward and lights by Mark Hayward. The solid costumers are by Fran Wachna and Susan Livingston. Alexis Richie gets a nod as a newcomer who took over Front of House! (With help from Karin Schrew, Jill Hayward and members of NSC).

President of the Newmarket Stage Company is Diane Ament, and stresses they are always looking for new members and new faces and urges those interested to attend the NSC Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, June 18 at 7 p.m. at the Lions Community Centre on Doug Duncan Dr.

The NSC will next present ‘THE HOUSEKEEPER’’ by James Prideaux in September – “a would-be housekeeper tries to convince a writer to employ her with hilarious results”. Stay tuned for more as the date approaches.

The ODD COUPLE (Female Version) continues June 6, 7, and 8, at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on June 6. Tickets are only $15. Call the Box Office at 289-500-2114 between 2 and 4 p.m. daily. If you are looking for a night out, something quite entertaining and off-beat, I highly recommend this play!

Review – The Cemetery Club

THE CEMETERY CLUB By Rod Urquhart Some really outstanding, quite believable acting highlights the current presentation of Ivan Menchell’s heart-warming, yet hilariously funny, ‘The Cemetery Club’, currently on stage at…