Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Drayton Entertainment's Twist and Shout: The British Invasion

Dunfield Theatre, Cambridge Ontario, photo by Wikipedia Commons

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 - Jayme Armstrong, Alex Black, Lindsay Croxall, Gerrad Everard, Christine Glen, Jennifer Kee, Duff MacDonald, Robert Markus, Sarah Matton, Nicholas Nesbitt, Yvan Pedneault and Nick Settimi.

The group sings well, but some shine such as Christine Glen with Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger and Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man. Yvan Pedneault belts out a wonderful rendition of Procul Harum's soulful A Whiter Shade of Pale while Nick Settimi and Sarah Matton add comic relief (and set changes) with their humorous magic act and Duff MacDonald meanders aimlessly about the aisles as an inebriated Donovan singing Mellow Yellow.

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.

Alex Black, Gerrard Everard, Robert Markus (front, centre), Yvan Pedneault, and Duff MacDonald,Photographer, Hilary Camiller   Jennifer Kee (front centre) & Company, Photographer, Hilary Camilleri   Twist & Shout, Photographer, Hilary Camilleri

Under Music Director, Robert Foster, the show features a live, five-piece band, often in a see-through studio suspended above the stage. Choreographer Gino Berti reflects the '60s dancing and adds the simple (and inane) hand movements of the groups to great effect. Jeff Johnston Collins creates wonderful lighting and Jessica Bray's costumes are spot on. Richard Lawlor and Craig Guthrie's sets help the audience feel like they are part of a '60s television studio audience.

The attractive Dunfield Theatre overlooks the Grand River in Galt, one of three towns that amalgamated into Cambridge in 1973. (The other two - Preston & Hespeler) With its attractive and see-through front wall of glass à la Toronto's opera house, it 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 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 here in their first season. He was awarded the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year prize in Entertainment just before the show.

Twist and Shout: The British Invasion offers eight shows a week through to March 30. Reserve your seats at: or order them at the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge Box Office. Call 519-621-8000 or toll free 1-855- DRAYTON (372-9866). For more information please contact: Valerie O'Brien, Marketing Manager, Drayton Entertainment:; Phone: 519-621-5511 ext. 235.

  • Musical Numbers - Twist & Shout:

    Rick Haldenby discusses the process of designing the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge

    Behind the Scenes with Twist and Shout: The British Invasion:

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