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When Catherine O’Brien was considering a theme for the upcoming show she was creating for Young at Heart Musical Theatre (YAH), she turned to the most important people she knew – the fans.
“We spend time with the audience after shows. And they tell us what they like. So, we’ve received some great ideas from them,” says O’Brien, artistic director of the theatre program that has toured seniors' facilities, community halls and church halls across P.E.I. for 15 years.
In the course of conversation, East Coast names like Margie Carmichael, Teresa Doyle, Rita MacNeil, Catherine McKinnon, Anne Murray, Laura Smith and others, started popping up.
“With many (seniors) rooted here, they really love Maritime music.”
Enthused by the responses she received, O’Brien shared them with her collaborators, Kelly Mooney and Allison Kelly, who were keen on them as well.
“These women are tenacious and impacted by the beautiful landscape. When I think of Laura Smith and Rita MacNeil and how the beauty of the East Coast is reflected in their music, I am inspired,” adds Kelly.
Working togethe, they quickly created a framework and a name for their show. Fascinating Maritime Ladies is a tribute to some of the most loved singers and songwriters from the East Coast as well as Quebec.
Starring Kelly, Mooney and O’Brien, with a special guest appearance byCarmichael, it opened at St. Paul’s Anglican Church last week.
And, judging from the response of audience members — who added their voices to the music making it seem, at times, like one big choir — the idea to use an East Coast theme was a good decision.
“I always enjoy Young at Heart productions and Fascinating Maritime Ladies was no exception,” says Ann Sherman, who attended the opening night performance.
“Three lovely voices that sound great individually and even better in harmony led to a great show. Old favourites were featured, but some were not. It’s so subjective picking songs, you will never please everyone.”
Starting on P.E.I., with the Island Hymn, written by L.M. Montgomery, the trio took audience members on a musical tour of the Atlantic provinces and into Quebec. At each stop, they celebrated female artists who made their mark in the eastern part of Canada.
In Newfoundland they honoured Anita Best and Pamela Morgan, performing folk songs like Lukey’s Boat and Maid on the Shore. In Montreal, they recognized Ginette Reno with Je ne suis qu’une chanson (I’m Just a Song). During a stop in Montreal they sang Heart Like a Wheel and It’s only Love, in a tribute to Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
Back in Canada’s smallest province by teatime, the trio paid tribute to P.E.I. singer-songwriter Teresa Doyle by covering her song, You’re My Cup of Tea. Then, donning kilts, tams and Scottish accents they sang Gaelic Envy, a humourous song by Nancy White, from the CD of the same name, as audience members giggles.
“I thought the show was so much fun. Those ladies are very talented. They never disappoint,” says audience member Anne Putnam.
The trio also recognized the work of Carmichael, a singer-songwriter/playwright/author, with the song Red Dirt Road.
In Nova Scotia, they paid tribute to singer-songwriters, including Laura Smith, who died earlier this month, and Rita MacNeil, by singing I Built a Boat and Flying on Her Own respectively.
In the audience, toes were tapping and hands were clapping when they sang Tell My Ma made famous by the Rankin Family.
During a stopover in New Brunswick, Edith Butler and Catherine McKinnon were recognized for their contributions.
When it was over, Sherman described it as a “good night".
“I loved Margie Carmichael and was grateful that Laura Smith was remembered. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had to refrain from singing along to many songs.”
At a glance
- What: Fascinating Maritime Ladies.
- When and where: Shows have been cancelled for the month of March, due to ongoing health concerns and government recommendations regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain).
- Getting in touch: To check on possible upcoming performance or find out more about the program, go to yahtheatre.com.