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(Posted 9:30 p.m., April 17)

OYP musical a rock and roll riot
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Miranda Tofflemire was outstanding in the lead role in Cairine Wilson's musical production of 'Annie'. Fred Sherwin/Photo


What do get when you mix '50s style rock 'n roll with Roman mythology and an underdog storyline? You get one heck of an entertaining musical, that's what you get.

"The Goddess" is a collaborative production written and directed by Orleans Young Players Theatre School instructor Andrea Cochrane and her partner/musician Alan Dean McDowell.

The play was originally performed in 2007 by OYP's Musical Theatre Class in the old Orleans Theatre with backing tracks rather than live musicians.

The 2010 version, which is being performed this weekend in the main theatre at the Shenkman Arts Centre, has a live band and one of the deepest, most talented casts to ever appear in an OYP musical.

In the opening scene of the play we learn that the god Bacchus has come down to earth and created rock 'n roll which leads to no end of unrest and anti-social behaviour, not to mention one heck of a racket.

To try and put things back to normal Jupiter sends his daughters Venus, Minerva and Diana to earth where they open a hair salon called "The Goddess In You".

Business is down until Psyche enters the shop and Venus hatches a plan to turn the average looking girl into a beautiful poised young woman and then have her beat Bacchus in a singing contest so that he'll go back to Mount Olympus with his tail between his legs.

The plan goes slightly awry when Pschye becomes a rock star in her own right. To try and end her musical career, Venus asks the god Cupid to pierce her with one of her arrows so she will fall in love and give up her career.

Things get slightly more complicated when two of Psche's fans witness Cupid shooting her with an arrow and attack him, using his own arrows to incapacitate him.

According to legend, if Cupid is hit with his own arrows he can fall in love with a mortal, which is what happens when both he and Pysche come to. The two fall in love at first sight.

Fearing the repercussions of an immortal god falling in love with a mortal woman, Venus comes up with yet another plan to kill Psyche. The plan works, but Cupid is left devastated. When he pledges to never fire another arrow again, Jupiter brings Psyche back to life and agrees to adopt her, making her immortal as well.

The plot line is fun and whimsical, but it is the music and the vocal performances which brought it to life, starting with Chris Shackleton who was absolutely outstanding as Cupid, not to mention a terrific bass player. Carfey Hutchison as Psyche was also in fine voice, as was Lewis Caunter who was played Jupiter brilliantly.

But for my money the best vocal performance on Friday night was turned in by understudy Freddy Cyr Michaud. Although Michaud only joined the production in March, her expecrience in having done four other musicals before was apparent for all to hear.

But the most pleasant surprise of all was the singing. All of the lead actors had incredible voices. In fact, I haven`t heard such a talented collection of singers in a high school musical since the St. Peter Players production of `Les MisÚrables" in 2004, which featured the amazing Samantha Mouchet.

The ensemble performance of "It's the Hard Knock Life" in opening moments of Act 1 was worth the price of admission alone and was one of the most professional performances I have every seen on a high school stage. But then it was followed by Miranda Tofflemire's first solo performance in the lead role of Annie which was equally mesmerizing.

At that point, I had been completely won over. The remaining lead actors were equally strong starting with Lindsay Coghill who played Miss Hannigan, the cruel owner of the orphanage. Brittany Dale played a number of roles, but she shone brightest as Lilly, the air-head girl friend of Miss Hannigan's conniving brother.

Lada Semakova, who played Warbuck's personal secretary, had one of the purest voices of the bunch, and Jeff Jackson, who played Warbucks, was impressive as well. His two duets with Tofflemire were especially strong.

The remainder of the cast included Josh Lockhart, Matt Wiley, Jacob Hopps, Jesse Scott, Brianna Champagne, Jessica Armstrong, Chris Beharry, Sam Loveridge, L-P Dugal, Marlee Fitzpatrick, Katie Cameron, Arielle Rivet, Suzy Nicholson, Samantha Pearson, Nicole Logan, Emily Fetterley, Sarah Yates, Amy Stuck, Arden Streib and Emma McGinnis.

The play was directed by Cairine Wilson's principal Constance McLeese and teacher Rick Sambell. The orchestra was under the direction of music teacher Cheryl Trachy and Rebecca Wemyss helped out as the vocal coach.

But the unsung stars of the production was the tech crew made up of Ryan Germundson, Neil Marleau, Jenna Matchem, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Mackay. It was the tech crew, led by teacher Bob Martin, who made the cast sound so good. They utilized 16 wireless mikes which had to be constantly switched during the many costume changes and they pulled it off with nary a hitch.

All in all, the production was a joy to behold from beginning to end. The cast and crew should indeed be proud of their efforts.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

 

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