Drayton Entertainment - Great Value + Wonderful Productions
We recently took in the musical Chicago at the
Huron Country Playhouse minutes from the sandy shores of Grand Bend and gleaming Lake Huron in the heart of Ontario's West Coast. A visit here takes less than an hour from Stratford, London and Sarnia.
Last year at the same venue, we thoroughly enjoyed Les Miserables also produced by Drayton Entertainment. The singing was outstanding and the production, first rate. From Broadway musicals, to brilliant comedies and exciting dramas, Drayton offers wonderful live theatre that my spouse and I have seen in all seven of their unique venues spread across Ontario.
It's hard to beat the choreography of Stratford's spectacular Donna Feore, but I think that Chicago's dancing and singing is equal to if not better than this year's Sweet Charity production by Shaw in Niagara on the Lake.
In Grand Bend, we were enticed with - "Come on babe, why don't we paint the town?" And we merrily sang, "All that jazz" well after viewing the brash and buoyant 6-time Tony Award winning musical set in the roaring '20s, the story of Roxie Hart, who murders her lover and desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago's most popular criminal lawyer to save her.
Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director of Drayton Entertainment remarked that, "With its smart script, luminous characters, iconic dance numbers and infectious music, Chicago is guaranteed to entertain from start to finish," and he was right.
Valerie Boyle, the prison matron "Mama" Morton, delivers a sharp performance of the bluesy song "When You're Good to Mama." Geoffrey Whynot is Roxie's invisible loser of a husband Amos, who has trouble even accessing the stage lights. His "Mister Cellophane" is sad but sweet, and R. Markus is cunning as the illusory talk show hostess Mary Sunshine.
The choreography is centre stage in Chicago and along with McFadden, Christy Adamson, Caitlin Goguen, Bethany Kovarik, Sarah Matton and Jennifer Mote sizzle as the six merry murderesses of Cook County Jail in a spectacular rendition of the infamous number the "Cell Block Tango."
Congratulations to director and choreographer Mike Jackson and the cast of 18 outstanding performers, particularly the two leading ladies. Jayme Armstrong was remarkable as Roxie Hart, the young murderess with an eye on stardom. Jodi McFadden was also marvelous as Velma Kelly, accused of a double homicide. Billy Flynn was superb as Dean Hollin, the dashing and unscrupulous attorney. Costume designer Ivan Brozic, set designer Allan Wilbee and lighting designer Jason Hand also make this a memorable production. The orchestra, set above the stage and led by music director Jeannie Wyse handled the show's 20 tunes with professional verve.
You have time to catch many worthwhile remaining plays as follows: Drayton Festival Theatre: The Music Man, August 5-29; Dunfield Theatre Cambridge: The Odd Couple, August 12-29, Anne of Green Gables, October 14 to November 8, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, November 18 to December 20; Huron Country Playhouse: Legends ... of Rock 'n' Roll, August 13-29; Huron Country Playhouse II: Snow White: The Pants, July 29 to August 29; King's Wharf Theatre: Footloose, August 13-August 29; St. Jacobs Country Playhouse: The Pirates of Penzance, October 7-25, Aladdin: The Panto, November 18 to December 20; St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre: Sexy Laundry, September 8 to December 20.
One can expect to pay around $40 for most productions, well below more expensive tickets at both Shaw and Stratford. The seating at Huron Country Playhouse is quite comfy thanks to a $4.0 million capital infrastructure expansion and improvement project in 2011.