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Director Catherine O’Brien takes the stage for the Victoria Playhouse production of ‘Fascinating Ladies’, Sept. 12-16

Allison Kelly, left, Catherine O’Brien and Kelley Mooney have some on-stage fun during a rehearsal for “Fascinating Ladies”.
Allison Kelly, left, Catherine O’Brien and Kelley Mooney have some on-stage fun during a rehearsal for “Fascinating Ladies”. - Sally Cole

Catherine O’Brien is about to re-enter her comfort zone.

O’Brien wrote and directed “Fascinating Ladies” for Young at Heart Theatre (YAH), which toured P.E.I. senior homes, manors and community halls this past winter.

Now the Canadian performer with more than two decades of acting behind her is leaping onto the stage to join cast members in a reprisal of the show which hits the boards at the Victoria Playhouse next week.

And O’Brien, who is also the artistic director of YAH, can’t wait for opening night.

“I’m really excited. I’m really passionate about all the music that we’re doing,” says O’Brien, during a break in rehearsals for the show which runs Sept. 12-16.

The director-turned-performer is “thrilled” to work with returning cast members Kelley Mooney and Allison Kelly.

“They’re incredible musicians, unbelievably meticulous in focusing on how to get those harmonies just right. And it’s such a treat to work with them in this show.”

Having the director performing next to her on stage is a “wonderful” experience, says Mooney.

“Because Catherine wrote it and brings exactly what she wants into the mix, you get more of the flavour that was intended.”

“Fascinating Ladies” is a tribute to the great girl groups of the last century. Starring Kelly, Mooney and O’Brien, the musical revue takes audience members on a journey from the 1920s to the 1970s with songs from legendary ensembles like The Boswell Sisters, The Andrews Sisters, The Exciters and The Chordettes. The program ranges from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Tell Him”, “Sentimental Journey”, “Java Jive”, “In His Kiss” and more.

For O’Brien, making the leap from the director’s chair to the stage came with a few challenges.

“I had taught (the girls) the songs. But, it had been several months. I also had to learn the script,” says O’Brien.

To refresh herself on the blocking and choreography aspects, she studied the video and rehearsed with cast members. The transition was seamless. “I was happy with how quickly

our harmonies locked in. Catherine just slid in, so effortlessly.

That’s a testimony to her professionalism,” says Kelly.

After performing in the first run, she is happy that “Fascinating Ladies” has expanded into a full-length show.

“More of the ’60s and ’70s music has been added. And it’s all super fun.”

It’s all part of O’Brien’s dream to develop the show into something special.

“It’s a real treat for me to be able to touch on some Canadian women artists like the McGarrigle Sisters, Joni Mitchell and Anne Murray. We’re also touching on other artists, not just female, that people will know.”

As O’Brien looks toward the coming years of “Fascinating Ladies”, she’s hopeful.

“I believe it’s a show that can play elsewhere. And we love performing together, so we’re hoping it has a future.”

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