Canada 151 – A revue of all songs and things Canadian, eh?
Mayfield Dinner Theatre,
Nov. 6, 2018 to Jan. 27, 2019
Review by GRAHAM HICKS, Hicksbiz.com
The best Christmas party in town won’t be a one-night affair.
In fact, you’ll have 80-odd chances to enjoy the enormous musical fun of Canada 151, the Mayfield Dinner Theatre’s Christmas show, with eight shows a week through January 27, 2019.
Canada 151 is so much fun.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek, good-natured poke at being Canadian, nestled between the band and musical theatre cast’s splendid renditions of some 40 Canadian pop, country and folk hits, from Hank Snow through Celine Dion through Justin Bieber.
The magic of this show, the reason it will be close to a sell-out for its long run, is in the memories it stirs for all in the audience.
For my generation, distant memories of the parents settling in to watch Tommy Hunter, Juliette and Don Messer’s Jubilee after Hockey Night in Canada.
Bobby Curtola’s Fortune Teller, reminding me of Bobby’s cameo as Teen Angel in the Citadel Theatre’s production of Grease.
Kd lang at the late, great Sidetrack Café, bringing the crowd onto the tables as a hipster cowgirl when she was studying music in town.
The choking back of tears as singer Laura Mae Nason did an uncanny impression of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.
Our friend Jenny, recalling elementary school pajama parties where The Stampeders' Sweet City Woman was the song de jour.
Another teary moment, Stan Roger’s The Last of Barrett’s Privateers – The Maritimer would undoubtedly have been Canada’s premier folk-song composer and performer, had he not been killed in a freak aircraft flash-fire at the age of 33.
The superb sequencings of the last three songs of the evening – the poignancy of a cast rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, breaking into Chilliwack’s My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone) and ending with supreme Canadian rock anthem, Trooper’s Raise A Little Hell.
The writers – the ever-mysterious Will Marks and show singer/actor Gerrad Everard – start off with a little humourous hockey (of course) vignettes to Stompin’ Tom Connors’ Good Ol’ Hockey Game and then the tribute to the ‘50s Canadian country stars whose TV shows followed Hockey Night in Canada.
Then we were moved into the gang of Canadian superstars that define the very essence of Baby Boomer musical sensibilities: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Burton Cummings and the Guess Who, Buffy Saint-Marie (Up Where We Belong), Steppenwolf, a little later the Bare Naked Ladies, Gord Downie, Alanis Morissette, Tom Cochrane, Blue Rodeo, Shania Twain, Alannah Myles ...
Between the songs, humourous skits on being Canadian: Apologizing lumberjacks, the mini-van hockey mom/cougar forever yelling at the kids while swigging Bailey’s-laced Tim Horton coffee, the moose with a crush on Winnie The Pooh.
Very enjoyable were several scenes dedicated to the ever-strong Maritime folk scene, featuring The Rankins, Great Big Sea, the nod to Stan Rogers and inclusion of Vancouver folkies Spirit of the West.
A strange anomaly of Canadian popular music has been the non-emergence of any Edmonton singer/songwriter or band leaving a lasting impression on the national consciousness.
Perhaps to compensate, late in the show, suddenly ‘50s actor/singer Robert Goulet, an Edmonton native, makes an appearance … and promptly disses Alberta’s Nickelback off the stage … a bizarre bit of plot which raised the ire of Nickelback fans in the audience.
Then there was Shania, Bob + Doug McKenzie, Bryan Adams, the Nylons, Geddy Lee, more humour in a spoof on the CBC’s Log Driver’s Waltz.
We take it for granted, but The Mayfield Dinner Theatre has a house band that’s one of the best working ensembles in the country. Artistic Director/Producer Van Wilmott has developed and can call upon dozens of mostly Edmonton-based singer/actors who can imitate/spoof the stars they play, and at the same time do their voices picture-perfect: Laura Mae Nason’s soaring soprano, Mayfield regular Pamela Gordon’s Shania Twain, Devra Straker as the sultry Alannah Myles doing Black Velvet.
The guys – Tyler Check, Kevin Dabbs, Kieran Murphy, Brad Wiebe and Everard are equally talented, as singers, performers and especially as comedians.
It’s a very fine, fun show that earned an immediate standing ovation at opening night - a very rare occurrence at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre where not much gets an older audience to its feet.
The conundrum of such a show is the fact it cannot possibly include all the Canadian talent, stars and songs: We didn’t see such legends as Ian Tyson, Gord Lightfoot, bands like Streetheart and Loverboy.
All the better – Canada 151 is begging for a reprise. Let’s have a Canada 152 or Canada