A Round Eight Knockout Punch of Intimidation

I was asked recently, quite out of the blue, “what is the most intimidated you’ve ever felt in a room full of writers/arts people?”

It took me only a moment to come up with an experience, as I realize I molded almost my entire artistic career in a way that ensured I never found myself in a room full of writers/arts people. That mold also ensured that i never found myself in a room with an extra dollar in my pocket.

So I don’t have a lot of experiences for my mind to Rolodex through. But there was one time when I did find myself in a room. With arts people. And I did end up feeling intimidated.

Let me take you back to Charlottetown. Mid-September 1991. John A. MacDonald was still very much a man to look up to. It would be another few years, in fact, until a gang of young men, barely pubescent, would look up to him so much, to the extent that they’d take to strutting around the summertime streets of Charlottetown dressed in replica costumes of 1864 fineries, calling themselves “The Fathers of Confederation”. It would be another couple of years before they felt compelled to add Mothers, Wives and Daughters of Confederation to the mix as well. And another 29 or so years until a drunken lad decides to vandalize the statue of a bench-sitting MacDonald and in the quick sobriety that followed, claim it to be an act of social conscienceness. How far we’ve come!!

1991. PEI Tourism was focused almost entirely on one entity. Anne of Green Gables. The idea of promoting Island golf courses to the world was not even on the horizon.

I was merely a few years into my independent theatre *ahem* career *ahem*. I was asked to take part, as a reader/actor, in a day-long dramaturgy reading of a new play by a writer I hadn’t heard of, nor do I remember today who it was. It might have been a screenplay.

The workshop was being held in a conference room at The Confederation Centre of the Arts. But it wasn’t hosted by them. It might have been a PARC thing. PARC is, I’m guessing, the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Council, and they’re still a thing. They’ve asked me to join their community a few times, but scroll up and read paragraph two again.

I was pleased to be asked to take part, and I was a bit nervous walking into the room. I took comfort in recognizing a number of the faces, and people seemed to accept me as legitimately being there. We sat around a big, long table – maybe 8 to 12 people – mostly actors, plus the writer, a dramaturge, a stage manager type assistant. Maybe a couple of observers.

Many of the actors were from that year’s Charlottetwon Festival. You know. “Real Actors”. Most with training, some with longevity. The air of triple threats hung in the room. And here was I, a big nobody really, whose claim to fame was not yet evident. It was September, so I would have just wrapped the first low, low, low budget season of Annekenstein. I assume it was the burgeoning cache from that which was the reason I was asked to take part in the workshop.

As a workshop, it must have had at least a little bit of money behind it, because the scripts were bound with those brass rivet-type binder thingies. The scripts I was used to were hand-written on yellow foolscap. And there were at least two trays of muffins and an urn of coffee. Were I a person who cared about such riches, I surely would have thought that I had “Made It!” But I was more a rebellious punk who believed that comforts such as food and drink and scripts bound with those brass rivet-type binder thingies were the things that separated true artists from those who sold out and made paycheques while being well-lit on stages that gullible tourists would flock to see. No sir. Give me a too-small room with a leaky ceiling and too-expensive rent with folding metal chairs for 30 audience members to sit upon upon rickety risers, and let me call that a theatre!! That’s where REAL art is being made! Real art like our children’s play knock-off of Robert Munsch’s “The Paperbag Princess”.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that, sitting there, in that room, I felt a bit like an imposter, in amongst real, serious, professional theatah people.

And while that was a bit intimidating, I could handle it well enough. They were all lovely people, and I always thought I did a pretty good job with cold-reading things. So I felt that I belonged.

What I had a harder time handling – and the element that turned this into a next-level intimidating experience – was that one of the characters I was asked to read was Jamaican, and I was to attempt to inhabit a Jamaican patois.

I don’t know if you know me, or if you’ve seen me. But I’m not Jamaican. I don’t sound Jamaican. I shouldn’t ever be attempting Jamaican accents. I’d be more attuned to portraying white Canadian guy.

When this was revealed to the room, that I was to read the Jamaican character, I could see a reaction on many of my fellow actors’ faces. A couple of reactions, actually. One was “thank god I’m not doing that”. Another was a very specific look, which I will attempt to describe here.

Imagine you’ve made a big bet on a sporting event. Like a boxing match. A big enough bet that, should you lose, your spouse will know because there’ll be no money left in the bank account. So, huge stakes. Imagine you’re there, at the event, and you’ve bragged to those around you about the big bet you’ve made. These people also know, because of your big mouth, especially when you drink – and right now you’re pretty well sauced – of your troubled relationship at home, and how your spouse is already ready to leave you – you know that, even though it’s unsaid – you can see it in their eyes. In fact, you tell the crowd, you believe they’ve already left you. Not in a physical sense, because you still sleep together in the same bed. But in a spiritual sense. You know this in the way they toss the plate of scrambled eggs down on the table in front of you at breakfast. You can see it in the way they look past you, not at you, and you assume they’re likely daydreaming of a better life. A life that doesn’t contain you. So, even though you know your relationship is over, you still believe, somewhere deep inside you, that if you could just score this big score – betting everything on the heavy underdog in the fight – it might make things better. Things would go back to the way things were early in the relationship, where they’d laugh deep and hard at how unfunny your jokes were and you knew they were laughing because they loved you. Your guy is holding his own in the match, and through the first seven rounds you’ve convinced yourself you’re going to win the bet. Rounds five, six and seven, particularly, you get so excited that you tell those around you your life sad life story and how now, with this win, things are gonna turn around! You’re on the top of the world, moments away from your new life!! Then, early in round eight, your guy doesn’t see the roundhouse. Nobody sees it. Later, the pundits will wonder if it was planned. But why plan for the underdog to take a dive? It doesn’t make sense. Anyway, the roundhouse lands square on the jaw and your guy goes down like a sack of bricks. Match over. Mere moments later, you crumple to the floor of the arena, so immediate and encompassing is your failure. While lying there, crying, in a heap, you look up at those who surround you. Many have already forgotten you, moved on to their own next chapters, but a couple, you notice, look down at you. They know your situation. How you’re going to have to go home to your spouse, and all will be revealed. You see them looking down at you. Pity in their eyes. Lips clenched tight. An imperceptible shake of the head at the pathetic beast that is before them.

Anyway, that’s the look that I saw in others when I was given the role of the Jamaican guy.

The play, as I recall, took place in Toronto, and it was supposed to be a gritty, hard-hitting story full of social issues and tortured souls. Not a lot of levity. My Jamaican guy was newly arrived in Toronto, so his accent was supposed to be full-on Jamaican. Thankfully, he was something of a secondary character, so not a whole lot of lines.

But what was worse still, was the writer admitted at the beginning of the reading that the Jamaican character’s dialogue wasn’t, as of yet, particularly written with any necessarily Jamaican patterns of speech. But I was to try and see if I could make it work.

In hindsight, I have wondered if the whole thing was an elaborate joke on me. I mean, who would create a Jamaican character and not write their dialogue with the flow and cadence of Jamaican speech? Whatever the reasons, the reality is it happened.

So, when asked about a particulary intimidating experience in a room full of writers/arts people, that is the experience that came to mind.

As for the reading? Well, I’s think me nailed it, mon!!

Did you see the letter Bush wrote to welcome Clinton as the new occupant of the White House? Just saw a draft of the one Trump is writing for Biden.

Moe Gorman – Malcolm’s Goose is Cooked

Malcolm McKearney owes me a goose.

I’ll get to that.

If you don’t know Malcolm, he’s the one what’s always going on about being smarter than everyone he knows. And most that he don’t know.  Trouble is with Malcolm, it’s easy to prove him wrong, right. At least, it’s easy to prove him wrong to others. But Malcolm’s belief in his knowledge is stubborn. You can’t convince Malcolm of anything if he’s got his mind looking in any other direction.

Anyways, I see him there sitting in the corner there of the Seal Club and Sandbar Lounge. This is, what, about 9 months ago or so. Just before the latest incident with the shit socks at the Seal Club. The one that shut them down for them couple of months.  I see him there. Usually he’s with his boys, Arnold McCutcheon, DeBlois DeBlois, and Earle Stanley, but that night he’s sitting there all by himself.

He looks bored so I figure I’d take a trip over and gab a bit about this and that. You know, spill some time before heading back home. So I goes over and he looks up and nods.

“She’s some wet, what?” I go.

“Seventy-two millimetres since Sunday” he goes. Malcolm is all about the weather. He’s got all the amometers and measuring stuff that they got at the weather center in Charlottetown or wherever it is. He’s right into it, and it’s always a good way to start off a conversation with him by bringing it up. A sure-fire “in” if you know what I mean.

So I sit down and he brightens up and goes off on a long trail about the climate and his thoughts on all that. Me, I listen and nod every so often and take occasional swigs from the beer I brought to the table. He’s spouting off statistics and numbers and prognostications and whatnot, all about the weather. Honestly it was boring as shit, but I go along with the listening to it, just to pass time more than anything.

So that wraps up without much incident and then he goes off on another drive about stuff. Things he’s reading, ideas he has about things that should be invented if he had the time. You know, bullshit stuff.

Anyways, he goes “This May’s been the wettest May in the Northern Hemisphere since May 1912 when the Titanic sunk.”

And I’m thinking “Wrong!” Now I can let his wrong-headed opinions go because you can’t argue opinion, but I will always argue facts. And I know for a fact the Titanic sunk on April 14, 1912. Because April 14th 1925 is my Aunt Sadie’s birthday and they always talk about how it was her claim to fame that she was born on the same day as the Titanic sunk. Not the exact same date but the same day. So I know for a fact he’s wrong.

“Titanic sunk in April” I go. “Not May.”

“No, it sunk in May” he says. “Fact.”

“Not a fact” I go.  He can’t go calling something that’s wrong a fact. “Titanic sunk in April. April 14th 1912. I’m sure of it”

Anyways, we go back and forth, both claiming to be right about which month the Titanic sunk.

Finally, I have enough.  “Betcha double or nothing on one of your Christmas geese that you’re wrong and that the Titanic sunk April 14th.”

Malcolm is well-revered for raising top-quality geese. Geese ain’t as popular these days as they was back in the day, but enough people still like them for Easter or Christmas or Thanksgiving or any big celebration dinner over turkey.  Enough for Malcolm to keep at it, raising and selling geese to those that want them.

“You’re on” he goes and slams his hand down onto the table and laughs. “Easy money! Pay up!”

“Hold on” I go. “You can’t prove the Titanic sunk in May ‘cause it didn’t. It sunk in April, and I can prove it.”

“You can’t prove it because it sunk in May” he goes. Stubborn to the core.

So I pull out my phone and ask Google. “Okay Google, what month did the Titanic sink?”

Quicker than a flash the phone goes “The RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.”

“Yow owe me a goose” I go.

“That don’t prove nothing” he goes. 

“Whattyamean” I go. “Proves everything. Proves you owe me a goose!”

“You can’t prove that machine is right” he goes.

I go “It’s Google. Of course it’s right.”

“Still” he says, “that’s not proof”.

“You owe me a goose” I go.

“I owe you nothing” he goes. “Titanic sunk in May.”

“You owe me a fucking goose” I go. I’m starting to get right agitated. He senses my irritations and goes even harder into his belief that the Titanic sunk in May.

“Sunk April 14th 1912. Same day as my Aunt Sadie was born, only thirteen years earlier.

“Wrong” he goes. “You owe me double a goose. And you don’t get the goose.”

I ask Google again and it says the same thing. “The RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.”

“Aha” he goes. “You ARE wrong! Even if your Google thing is right, you said the Titanic sunk on April 14th.  Google said it sunk April 15th. YOU ARE WRONG” he yells.

I ask Google again. Sure enough “The RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of 15 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean.”  My Aunt Sadie’s claim to fame was based on a lie.

I think for a minute and go “Well, it started sinking on the 14th probably. Probably took the better part of an evening to sink, and the actual sinking ended in the early morning of April 15th”.

“Either way, you said it sunk April 14th. Your Google says April 15th so you’re wrong. You’re both wrong, because it sunk in May anyway.”

And that was that.  I tried a bunch more to get him to admit he was wrong but in his mind he wasn’t wrong.  I went home furious and vowing to prove him wrong.

Month later I come into his shop – he’s an auto mechanic in the day, the goose stuff at night or whatever – with a picture of an old newspaper front page headline my nephew Donald got from provincial archives that states the Titanic sunk on April 15th.

“Could be photoshopped” he goes.  

Fucking asshole. I knew then and there that  I’d never get my goose outta him.

So I wrote this song about him.

Malcolm McKesrney’s Goose Is Sunk

It took an iceberg to sink the Titanic on April 15th 1912

Though probably started sinking the evening before.

But it would take something harder than that berg

To get Malcom McKearney to say he’s wrong.

He says it sunk in May. Don’t matter what Google says

Or the Provincial Archives, his ignorance stays alive.

How do you prove that two plus two is four?

Or that the sun rises high in the sky?

If Malcolm thinks otherwise you can’t.

No matter what he thinks 

Malcom McKearney owes me a goose for Christmas.

Don’t make a bet with Malcolm McKearney even if it’s based on fact.

Malcolm ignores facts in favour of his own stubborn brain.

Don’t make a bet with Malcom McKearny and expect to get his goose.

No matter what he thinks

Malcolm McKearny owes me a goose for Christmas.

Annekenstein V – Opening Sketch?

I have such a bad memory about things I’ve performed or haven’t performed. I came across this script I wrote for Annekenstein V, and I cannot for the life of me remember if it was staged or not. I think it was, but the document is entitled “Opening (unused)”, so that’s making me doubt myself.

I’m thinking that perhaps it was performed at least a few times but may have been replaced by another sketch?

Anyway, I like a lot of the script. It very much represents the kind of comedy I like to write and perform.

I post it here, for posterity.

Opening (unused)

Rob enters onto a stage, upon which are three chairs, set up in a row.  He takes center Stage

Rob: Good evening everyone, and welcome to Annekenstein!  Before we begin, I’d just like to point out some changes to those of you who may have seen our shows before. 

After last year, a governmental agency called the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission contacted us at Annekenstein.  This Merchandise Regulatory Commission is responsible for giving out licenses to any group or individual who wishes to make money off the intellectual property of the Lucy Maud Montgomery creation Anne of Green Gables and all the characters there involved.  This commission was developed beacause there was a worry that some of the crafts and dolls, and such, which had an Anne of Green Gables theme, were of a lesser quality, esthetically speaking, than was worthy of such an important fictional character as Anne Shirley. 

So, it was felt that a commission such as this could deny licenses to any persons or groups whom the commission deemed as unacceptable to the positive portrayal of Anne of Green Gables.

Well, to make a long story short, Annekenstein falls under this commission’s jurisdiction, and unfortunately for us, and for you the audience, the Prince Edwrd Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission found Annekenstein portrayed (gets out paper and reads) “a negative perception to the wholesomeness and good feelings which are so inherent in Anne of Green Gables” and declined to give us a license. 

Dave Moses and I, being the primary writers, talked to them, and to make a long story short, we finally did manage to get a license for this year’s Annekenstein.  However, there were a few catches. 

We were told we could still make fun of Anne, et al., but the humour had to be gentler.  In sketches where Anne isn’t present, we could be the same old satirical wits we used to be, but when Anne was involved, we had to tone down quite a bit. 

Still, we feel we are still presenting one hell of– one heck of a… a funny show.  It’s still funny.  We still make fun of Anne, and you’ll still laugh, I hope.  But, like I said, for those of you who are familiar with the  comedy of Annekenstein’s past, you’ll likely notice some subtle changes.  Some for the better, some, not so for the better. 

So, on with– Oh, and the Merchandise Regulatory Commission had final approval of any sketches involving Anne Shirley.

So, on with our show.  Here’s our first sketch of the evening, and, co-incidentally, it does involve references to Anne.  I think it’s very funny and it’s entitled  “The Importance of Being Anne”.  Enjoy!

Rob leaves and stage goes black.  Lights come up on the three chairs, with Laurie and Jan occupying two, the middle chair empty

Laurie: Hello, Jan Rudd, and welcome to Annekenstein 5. 

They get up and hug

Laurie: It must be quite exciting, being one of the two new additions to the Annekenstein cast.

Jan: Yes, Laurie, it certainly is.  Myself, and Matthew Rainnie, who is the other of two additions to the cast, we are both happy to be here, and look forward to the raucous joviality that this show is all about.

Laurie: Yes, and although we tend to poke gentle barbs at Anne of Green Gables, ourselves profiting from such tom-foolery, or should I say “Anne-foolery”, we musn’t forget just how important Tourism is to this province, and  that Anne of Green Gables represents a very large part of the Island’s Tourism dollar.

Jan: Yes.  Anne is so important to our provincial economy that we really shouldn’t make fun of her at all.  (Laurie laughs)  What, Laurie, did I say something funny?

Laurie: Yes.  You said ‘we shouldn’t make fun of her’, as if she were alive!

Jan: So I did!  The funny thing being that she’s not alive, nor ever was. She’s just a book!  (Jan laughs)

Laurie: Exactly!  (Laurie laughs as well, stopping suddenly when:) Look, here comes Matthew Rainnie now.

Matthew enters and hugs Laurie, then Jan

Laurie: Hello, Matthew, and welcome to Annekenstein, but you are not part of this sketch are you?

Matthew: No, Laurie, and Jan, I’m not.  But the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, along with the writers of Annekenstein, feel that one of the best loved aspects of the old Annekenstein shows was the unpredictbility.  You know, when something unexpected happens.

Jan: You mean like right now.  Neither Laurie, nor I, knew you were coming out here, now.

Matthew: Yes.  The writers feel impromtu bits of comedy like this are excellent ways to get the audience to laugh, and the best thing is, we can do it without making negative references to Anne of Green Gables, keeping her image meticulously wholesome and positive.

Laurie and Jan laugh, then Matt joins in.  Ed enters wearing Anne hat and braids.  The others stop laughing and stare at him, shocked

Ed: Hey, guys!  Are you improv-ing already?

Laurie: What in the blazes do you think you’re doing?

Ed: I’m getting ready for the next sketch.

Jan: Not with that thing on your head your not!!

Ed: What do you mean?

Matt: You know the new rules for the show.  Boys aren’t allowed to wear Anne of Green Gables hats and braids anymore.  Only the girls are, and only if  portraying her in a positive fashion.

Laurie: Now, come on! Take them off!! 

He does

Ed: Aw, man, this Regulatory Commission is draining the life out of this show.

Jan: It’s not.  It’s for the betterment of the community that they’ve been given the power they have.

Ed: All’s I know is, men in funny girl-hats makes people laugh.  This really sucks!

Nancy: (Off stage) Who swore!!!  (Entering)  I heard a swear!  Who swore!!  Ed?!!

Ed: I didn’t swear!  I just said this sucks.

Nancy: Blasphemer!!  The Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, in association with the writers of Annekenstein, consider the word S-U-C-K-S as an unsuitable word, when associated with Anne of Green Gables.  It’s a forbidden word.

Ed: Why?

Jan: Because S-U-C-K-S could conjure up images of fellatio.  And no one wants to think of Anne Shirley giving head. 

Ed and Matt become instantly aroused by these words

Nancy: Jan!!

Jan: Oh my God! What did I say?!?

Laurie: You said “Anne Shirley giving head”! 

Ed and Matt groan, involved in their own sexual fantasies

Nancy: Oh, no, the boys are fantasizing!  About Anne.  That’s most forbidden!!! (To Jan and Laurie) You see what happens!!!

Laurie: This is all your fault, Jan!

Jan: ‘Tis not.

Nancy: We’re in big trouble.  We could lose our merchandise license over this!

Rob enters

Rob: People! People! Calm down!  What’s all the stir? Why have we stopped the show?

Matt: I don’t know, Rob.  I came out with that bit of improv you wrote me…

Rob: I didn’t write you any improv, Matt.

Matt: But that guy from the Regulatory Commission gave it to me and said you wanted me to say it.  Seemed to go over alright, anyways.  Then Ed shows up in a hat and braids!

Rob: Red braids?

Matt: Yes, they were.

Nancy: And then Ed swore.  He said sucks!

Rob: Is this true, Ed?

Ed: Yeah, so?  What’s the big deal?!  We used to stuff like that last year.

Rob: Yeah, Ed, and a hundred a fifty years ago Dodge was a rough and tumble city,  but it had to get cleanded up!!

Nancy: And Jan said “Anne Shirley giving head”, and then Laurie said it, too!

Rob: Nancy, that’s enough tattling!

Nancy: Well, they did!

Rob: Nancy!

Laurie: I only said “Anne Shirley giving head” to tell what Jan said.

Jan: Well, I only said “Anne Shirley giving head” to tell Ed what image “sucks” could conjure up.

Rob: Enough! Enough with Anne Shirley giving head!  I mean, here it is, our first sketch in association with the Prince Edward Island Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory Commission, and we’ve already resorted to the same stuff that we were doing last year.  It’s stuff like this that was the reason they wouldn’t give us a license in the first place.

Ed: Stuff like that makes people laugh.

Rob: I don’t care about people laughing, Ed!  I only care about the license.

Ed: Rob!  Listen to yourself!  “I don’t care about people laughing”?  That’s not the Rob MacDonald I know and love!

Rob: Drop it Ed!

Ed: No I won’t!  What have you become? “People laughing” used to be all you cared about.  You’ve devoted your whole life to it!

Rob: My hands are tied!  We need this license if we want to perform.

Holds up license

Ed: Screw the  license, man!  You did before!  Remember when the cops got you for drunk driving and you lost your license!  But you still drove!  You drove without a driver’s license and By God, you can act without an Anne of Green Gables Merchandise Regulatory License!

Rob: You’re absolutely right, Ed.  I’ve become some mewling sycophant, rubbing bellies with those snakes in governmental beauracuracy!

Nancy: That’s not your style!

Rob: No, it’s not…. This is my style! (rips up license)

Jan: But what about all the scripts you and David Moses wrote in association with the Regulatory Commission?

Rob: To Hell with them, Jan!  From now on we’re doing things with both barrels blaring!

Laurie: What obvious phallic symbolism!

Matt: Yeah, that’s all fine and dandy, Rob, but now we don’t have enough new material to put on a whole show.  What are we gonna do?  This audience is hungry for comedy.

Rob: Not to worry, Matt.  When you’ve been in this Annekenstein business as long as me, you begin to get tired and lazy.  And with that laziness comes a desire to rest on your laurels…  Ed!

Ed: Yes, sir?

Rob: Ed, do we have any of those old sketches lying around? You know, the ones from the last four years?

Ed: I think they’re all in a trunk, backstage.

Nancy: If Ed can’t find them, I have everything saved from every year but the first, ’cause I wasn’t asked to be in that one.

Rob: Well, go get ’em, kids!

Ed and Nancy exit

Rob: Everyone, run off and learn your lines!

Jan and Laurie run off, Matt begins but stays to listen

Rob: We’re gonna put on an Annekenstein!  And not some watered-down, government regulated Annekenstein, but a good, old fashioned barn-raising Annekenstein.  Like they used to do in Them Times.  We’ll take the best of all the old shows, put them together with some new stuff, and put on a show to end all shows!

Matt: What’ll we call it?

Rob: How ’bout “The Best of Annekenstein”!

Matt: Couldn’t we call it “Spirit of The Nation”?

Rob: Are you out of your fucking mind?… Let’s go!


I try not to be a dishonest person, but if I were to dive into a world of criminality I’d start by stealing this vehicle, for its contents. My next score would be a truck full of Vachon Super Jos. Louis. Anyone wanna be the Clyde to my Bonnie?

Rob Reviews: The Songs of Anne & Gilbert, the Musical

I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

In an effort to salvage some sort of a season out of this Life-On-Hold-And-Oh-Yeah-A-Pandemic-Too situation in which we find ourselves immersed, the producers of perennial The Guild mainstay Anne & Gilbert the Musical stubbornly insisted on “putting on a show” this summer. This, despite pretty much the rest of the theatrical community here on The Island, and around the world, stating “That, sir, is nigh on impossible!” They came upon the idea of presenting The Songs of Anne & Gilbert, the Musical.

It is, they tell us, a pared-back theatrical experience, comprised of six performers, two musicians, and a trio of young dancers, performing select songs from the musical along with a few that never made it into the show.

I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

The Guild has altered its theatre to accommodate the safety of its patrons, according to regulations and guidelines set by the Chief Public Health Office and Renew PEI. So the theatre has a maximum of 50 seats placed in small groupings throughout the audience area. It takes what was already an intimate space and makes it even more intimate.

I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

The show started with a performance of The Log Driver’s Waltz by the three female performers. And, yeah, so, I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away, when I started crying. Crying at The Log Driver’s Waltz. I never considered this a song to cry at. Definitely a song to enjoy, as experienced via the NFB’s animated short, which I’m including here:

So, I was shocked and curious as to why I found myself crying. Not, like, full-on blubbering wailing or anything. More like lump in throat, welling eyes, quivering bottom lip. It was sung beautifully, wonderful harmonies, and a pure joy of performance. And it made me cry. As I’ve said, I knew I was in trouble, pretty much right away.

So, long story short, I cried my way through the first five songs or so, before I managed to compose myself – only to find actual tears falling down my cheeks again about three-quarters of the way through the show, well after I thought the crying episode was over for me.

So, what happened? Well, the pandemic happened and it, you know, totally screwed up all of our all’s capabilities to deal with our emotions. And then this show happened. This intimate, personal, professional show happened. And I guess I wasn’t ready for it.

The simple staging of the show creates a very warm and inviting, intimate experience. The two musicians – Music Director Lisa MacDougall playing keyboards and accordion, and Laurie Forsyth playing cello and upright bass – remain onstage throughout, with the singers coming and going as their performances require.

The six singers – Jacob Hemphill, Morgan Wagner, Page Gallant, Simone Derome, Nick Whelan, & Melanie Piatocha – are exceptional. When they sing solo, they absolutely own and inhabit the songs they are singing. When they sing together, in duos or trios, or as an ensemble, their voices blend exquisitely, creating pure and beautiful harmonies. All to the point of eliciting tears and emotions – seemingly at whim – from a rather stoic and curmudgeonly middle-aged reviewer.

Each performer gets their moment to introduce themselves and explain their personal connection to the show and its history. And each takes what could be a bit of a hokey “allow me to emote myself” moment and turns it into a personal and touching evocation. Special mention must be made of Morgan Wagner who quadruple-threatened herself into the role of fiddler with the band – a truly impressively talented performer. Even music director Lisa MacDougall, gets in on the feels, and then offers up her rendition of a wonderful ballad. I did find myself wishing for cellist Laurie Forsyth to speak a bit of her experience, to have her own solitary moment. She was the only of the cast, apart from the young dancers, who didn’t have that opportunity of focus.

In trying to figure out why I enjoyed this show so much, I’ve come to the conclusion that something interesting happens when the focus is purely on the songs from a musical. Not having to worry about the story (not that it is a big worry) allows us to devote the entirety of our attentions on the quality of the songwriting. And I was thrilled and excited to realize just how terrific they are. Kudos to writers Jeff Hochhauser, Bob Johnson and Nancy White for their exemplary talents. If nothing else, you’ve created an Island anthem in “Island Through and Through” that will live on forever.

What is perhaps most remarkable, for me, is this: The performances on the night I saw this show made me feel that this night’s show was a special and unique experience. They perform this show six times a week, and I have no doubt that there must be a bit of a rote element to the proceedings for everyone involved. So to make it seem like the show I saw was somehow elevated and special is a testament to the talents of everyone involved in the production.

My only slight criticism of the show has to do with the inclusion of the young dancers who appear a few times throughout. While their participation no doubt adds an injection of energy and movement to an otherwise grounded staging, the quality of performance was rather below the exceptional we experienced throughout the rest of the evening. Just a little bit sloppy. I’ll just leave it at that.

You should go see The Songs of Anne & Gilbert the Musical. For the superb songs. For the talented performances. For the joy of experiencing theatre.