Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Canadian Legends

Yvan Pedneault (centre) and company in Canadian Legends

Laura Mae Nason and company in Canadian Legends Drayton Entertainmen Canadian Legends at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge is a celebration of Canada's impressive musical heritage hosted by Neil Aitchison as constable Archibald F. Inkster, who frisks members of the audience, sings and dances and cracks everyone up with a deep reservoir of corny jokes such as this - "What do you call the two Ford brothers with Dolly Parton in a room? Two boobs and a fine country singer!"

It's a dazzling production of limitless energy that leaves patrons smiling with a deep appreciation of our native land featuring myriad songs by iconic stars such as Paul Anka (whose tunes begin and end the show), Anne Murray, The Guess Who, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, Shania Twain, Michael Bublé and Celine Dion as well as others.

With orchestrations and vocal arrangements by Robert Foster, choreography by Gino Berti, and music direction by Michael Lerner, the years fly by as we examine the music scene through song and dance. Aitchison, of course, is hilarious throughout.

"Canada has been blessed with a rich musical tapestry that has spanned the decades in terms of scope and worldwide influence," says Alex Mustakas who conceived and directed this production which "celebrates those songwriters who charted a new musical direction in the early days and those Canadian sensations who dominate charts around the world today."

We listen to multiple songs from varied genres such as country, rock, acoustic pop, folk, and rockabilly in a fast-paced show with fancy footwork that proudly waves our a maple leaf flag!

Alex Mustakas, photo by Wikimedia Commons The talented cast consists of Michael Clarke, Gerrad Everard, Jennifer Kee, Shelley Kenney, Laura Mae Nason, Chad McNamara, Yvan Pedneault, Lee Siegel, Valerie Stanois, Brett Taylor, and Breanna Willis who wow us with their resourcefulness (costume changes for every set) as they bring our icons to life through wonderful vocals.

The Dunfield Theatre itself is a terrific venue with great acoustics, comfortable seats and clear sightlines. Before the music begins, we view pictures projected of Canadian VIPs throughout our history including sports, the arts and political service along with astronauts and doctors such as Banting and Best. When the songs begin, many are heard to exclaim, "I didn't know that was Canadian!" Indeed, there are surprises.

Drayton Entertainment's Artistic Director Alex Mustakas has created a successful formula by blending evocative musical numbers and dance with video projections and humour mixed in between through Aitchison who starred in the 2013 production, Sorry... I'm Canadian. The good constable rides a new horse, Mulcair, who "veers to the left," and he manages to poke fun at all political parties and even Queen Elizabeth.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show as did the entire audience which gave a standing ovation to the performers at the conclusion.

Notes from the program
Yvan Pedneault's flawless vocals on Paul Anka's "Diana" and "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" start the production off on a strong note. He effortlessly switches gears with a haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen's plaintive "Hallelujah", and then embraces his inner rock star on Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" and Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69." Pedneault's last note on Rush's "Closer to the Heart" is pure euphoria.

Jennifer Kee represents the ladies with a spine-tingling rendition of Celine Dion's classic "The Power of Love." She does justice to folk goddess Joni Mitchell on "Big Yellow Taxi" and shows further versatility on The Original Caste's somber "One Tin Soldier" and The Rankin Family's "Rise Again."

Lee Siegel brings powerhouse vocals to Blue Rodeo's "Try" - a true showstopper, and offers a beautiful interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" before rocking out to Ronnie Hawkins' "Bo Diddley", "Who Do You Love" and "Oh What A Feeling."

Valerie Stanois' interpretation of Anne Murray's iconic "You Needed Me" is honest and heartfelt, as is her tribute to Rita MacNeil, Cape Breton's First Lady of Song, on the powerful "Working Man." Her sultry and sassy renditions of Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet" and Alanis Morissette's "Hand In My Pocket" are also memorable.

Gerrad Everard has great fun with Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" and Great Big Sea's "Mari-Mac." He is equally at ease paying tribute to the '60s with Andy Kim's "Sugar, Sugar." Michael Clarke delivers on numbers from the early days, including The Crew Cuts' "Sh-Boom" and continues the momentum on modern day sensation Michael Bublé's "Everything."

Laura Mae Nason's beautiful vocals are showcased on the classic "Sonny's Dream." She further shines in an upbeat tribute to Canada's Queen of Country, the one and only Shania Twain, with a replica of the superstar's wardrobe from her video, "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!"

Equally pivotal to the success of the show is the live five-piece band, under the guidance of Music Director Michael Lerner, who expertly leads his troupe of first-class musicians through the demanding material at a lightning pace.

Dunfield Theatre    Neil Aitchison as Constable F. Inkster    Neil Aitchison in Canadian Legends Drayton Entertainment

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