As I drive through the old Galt section of Cambridge, Ontario, I am amazed at the grand architecture on display along the river from old Presbyterian churches with their steep, narrow steeples aimed directly at heaven to the flatter public library with an alluring eye adorning a wall and the beautiful gothic masonry of Galt Collegiate to The Mill (Restaurant), a perfect setting for weddings and now, the new centrepiece for culture, the impressive Dunfield Theatre.
The attractive Dunfield Theatre overlooks the Grand River in Galt, one of three towns that amalgamated to form Cambridge in 1973. (The other two - Preston & Hespeler) With its attractive and see-through front wall of glass à la Toronto's opera house, Dunfield invites one to enter into its pristine lobby, and there, one feels IKEA-like, amidst a simple yet, pragmatic edifice without any flashy accoutrements, a 500 seat theatre with ample room between rows, comfortable seats, good sight-lines and excellent acoustics.
Designed by Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects whose firm also designed Cambridge's new city hall and costing $14 million, the new theatre was built thanks to a partnership between the governments of Canada and Ontario, the City of Cambridge,
Drayton Entertainment, and a donation from Dunfield Retirement Homes. Under one roof, it houses administration offices, production, performance space and a short-stay residence for actors. It's part of the Drayton Entertainment family, which includes the Drayton Festival Theatre (Drayton), King's Wharf Theatre (Penetanguishene), Huron Country Playhouse & Playhouse II (Grand Bend), and the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse & Schoolhouse Theatre (St. Jacobs).
The 500-seat theatre features beech wood and split-face grey concrete block. The 22-inch seats are one inch wider than normal with an extra 1.5 inches between rows. Mary Poppins enjoyed almost sold-out performances before its run ended here last year in late April, and tonight at the opening performance of Twist and Shout: The British Invasion, Mr. Mustakas gleefully reported that they sold over 100,000 seats in their first season. He was awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year prize in Entertainment just before the show.
Drayton knows how to please its fans while adding cash to its pockets to help finance expensive productions. The formula - tribute shows, runaway hits like Big Band Legends, Country Legends and Legends of Rock and Roll. Thus, it was a no-brainer to launch its second season at the sparkling Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge with a revival of their most popular production, Twist and Shout: The British Invasion.
The show transports one back to the early '60s and those musical groups that helped change the world. It's written and directed by
Alex Mustakas, Drayton's Artistic Director who claims, "The British music that took North America by storm after The Beatles appeared on the
Ed Sullivan show continues to inspire generations today."
Mustakas cleverly employs '60s technology and media, including amusing black and white TV ads for products such as Dristan to frame an amazing total of 64 hit songs by the likes of The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits and more, sung by a talented 13-member cast under the guise of the The Roy Solomon Show hosted by genial Ted Simonett who mimics Ed Sullivan and gets to sing along with the other performers.
The performers tackle every number with great enthusiasm, from rock and roll anthems like I Saw Her Standing There, Satisfaction, and You Really Got Me to soul classics like He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother to ballads like You Don't Own Me and You Don't Have To Say You Love Me. There's a tribute to Broadway musicals with a British theme, featuring selections from Camelot, Oliver! and My Fair Lady. But the show starts and ends with golden Beatles tunes performed by Gerrad Everard, Duff MacDonald, Robert Markus and Yvan Pedneault. We are reminded that they arrived in NYC in 1964 eleven weeks after U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas and that at one time on Billboard, in Gretzky-like fashion, they claimed the top five songs on the charts.
We stay in the other end of town at the Homewood Suites by Hilton, a six-year old hotel that looks brand new! Homewood Suites offers a theatre package for Drayton Entertainment which uses the Dunfield Theatre. We are transported there and back in a van, a nice way to relax and enjoy the show. Cambridge seems to have a lot to offer, and we will return here soon.
Dunfield Theatre, Cambridge, photo by Wikimedia Commons
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
Rick Haldenby discusses the process of designing the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge
Behind the Scenes with Twist and Shout: The British Invasion:
In June 2008, the new Cambridge City Hall facility opened as the first city hall in Canada to achieve the ranking of gold in the LEED from the Canada Green Building Council. The $30 million project was completed on time and on budget, and financed through a settlement of a loan with the city's hydro utility. A conservative estimate comparing a standard 85,000-square-foot (7,900 m2) building to the new City Hall LEED standard building results in a $160,000 savings on energy per year or some $1.6 Million over 10 years. The open concept of the facility allows for greater air flow, reducing cooling costs and increasing the penetration of natural light to offset other light sources. A four-story "living wall" of tropical plants is located in the atrium and cleanses the air of pollutants such as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, dust, and spores. Behind the living wall is a running water supply that provides humidity during the winter months and a soothing sound for employees and visitors to enjoy all year round.
The historic city hall in Cambridge was built in 1858 by local architect H.B. Sinclair for $3,650, replacing the original structure built in 1838. Built of granite and white limestone, locally-found blue granite was used as a decorative feature. The Historic City served as the community's town hall and market place. Today, the Historic City Hall and the New City Hall are connected by a hallway constructed shortly after the New City Hall was built.