By Joe Szek
One of many things for which I credit Carey Nicholson, Artistic Director for Theatre on the Ridge, is the fact the company is always willing to take risks artistically. She calls the summer festival an incubator for new artists and new works which has developed into a creative, cultural and theatrical identity unique to the tourist town of Port Perry.
Coincidentally, ‘Identity’ is the major theme which links all the plays for Theatre on The Ridge’s summer slate at Town Hall, 1873.
“Identity is important for all of us to know either as an individual or community. We take pride in the presentation of the diversity of our slate this summer as this sense of identity will anchor us to stay the course in the changing landscape of our world.”
Theatre on the Ridge opens July 3 with the premiere production of a new Canadian musical, ‘Willow Quartet’, which has been adapted from the 2013 stage play by the same name written by Richmond Hill playwright, Joan Burrows. A preview performance will be held July 3 with the opening and opening night reception on July 4, sponsored by The Courts of Canterbury.
And how is this theme of identity reflected in ‘Willow Quartet Musical’. Although Ms. Nicholson calls the story simple and straightforward, there is more underneath:
‘This play concerns a rural family’s recovery from a family tragedy and finding their way back to their strong roots. Just as trees are split asunder by devastating events, this family needs to come back together. The story is heartwarming. It speaks to people who have gone through similar events. It is set in a small rural farm community in Ontario and also speaks to those who have grown up in those communities.”
By 2015, there was a great deal of positive audience response about the original play. There was production feedback and discussion between Ms. Burrows, retired Theatre Ontario adjudicator Ron Cameron-Lewis and Jason Saunders, which led to extensive workshopping of the music at Sheridan College where Messrs. Cameron-Lewis and Saunders are faculty members. The musical production staged by Theatre on the Ridge this summer is the result of this workshopping. Another interesting side note I discovered – ‘Willow Quartet Musical’ was also one of three finalists for the Best New Musical category in the national Tom Hendry Awards, awarded annually to Canadian plays and playwrights.
Carey Nicholson is the stage director of ‘Willow Quartet’. She is so excited to be working with Ms. Burrows, Messrs. Cameron-Lewis and Saunders. Music director for this production is Port Perry resident Carol Salamone whom Ms. Nicholson calls, “a creative individual who can find the essence of something. Carol is adept at looking at something and not taking it at face value. She will work at it to show it to its’ best advantage along with presenting the artists at their best.” Literally, Ms. Nicholson and Salamone will work hand in hand to bind the text and the score together for this inaugural presentation.
The cast of ‘Willow Quartet Musical’ includes Lyle Corrigan from Port Perry, Chris Daniel and Nathan Simpson from Whitby and Roz McArthur-Keyes from Enniskillen with guest artist Ashlie White from Toronto.
‘Willow Quartet Musical’ premieres July 4 at 7:30 pm (opening reception at 6:30 pm) with a preview matinee Wednesday, July 3 at 2 p m. Performances continue July 5, 6, 9, 10 and 12 at 7:30 pm and July 13 at 2 pm. Tickets are now on sale at The Town Hall 1873 Box Office from $25-$35 with senior/student pricing and group discounts available. For more information and to purchase tickets online visit the website.