Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lyndesfarne scores a hit and other Niagara notes

Last week I touched briefly on the new Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects holiday show, a radio play adaptation of the Frank Capra film classic, It's A Wonderful Life, based on the 1946 Lux Radio version.  I had attended a media preview last week where one scene was being rehearsed to whet my appetite for what was to come.  Last night's opening of It's A Wonderful Life proved to be a pretty special evening.

Having worked at CKTB Radio for 31 years now (yes, I know, it is a long time!) I was very pleased to see a big CKTB banner across the stage, and old-style microphones with the CKTB flash attached to them.  The station is the sponsor for the run of the show and it proves to be a great fit, as they have tailored the script to reflect the area and the station, giving the play some added local flavour.  More on that local flavour a bit later on.

Director Barbara Worthy knows her way around old-time radio; so much so she along with Jon Osbaldeston have adapted the play so as to recreate a 40s or 50s era radio drama, complete with the requisite sound effects man at the side of the stage, as is the case to this day on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion.  Both Worthy and Osbaldeston have taught a course at Brock University on the very subject of recreating old radio dramas, so they know what they want.

The cast is drawn largely from the Shaw Festival with Lydesfarne Theatre Project's Artistic Director Kelly Daniels' husband Ric Reid leading a cast that includes Jeff Meadows, Patty Jamieson, Jenny L. Wright and Aidan Daniels, Kelly and Ric's son among others.  Together they all have a lot of fun with the script and hamming it up with the audience just the right amount.  Meadows especially is very good with an expressive face and manner that recalls Dick van Dyke during his heyday.  Jenny L. Wright manages to pull off sounding like the 18-year-old Mary she portrays early in the radio play.

One addition to the cast on opening night was Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, never one to shy away from the spotlight, who played the Mayor of Bedford Falls in the final scene, having some fun selling Niagara Falls to the newly revitalized George of Jeff Meadows.  He only appears opening night, I'm told, so he won't have much use for that wide-stripe 40s-era suit they borrowed from the Shaw Festival wardrobe department for him.  But he does look good in a fedora...

Overall, you have to like what they have done with It's A Wonderful Life.  It makes you feel good and helps to launch us into the Christmas season, which for me this year for some reason is rather late happening.  Some of the music by John Hogg is a little syrupy, but that just adds to the old-time sound and feel of the show.  The Niagara Star Singers, who perform off the top as radio in-studio musical guests, although not note-perfect, certainly reflected what would have been common entertainment on the radio during that era when all acts were live in the studio.

The CKTB studios have been totally renovated several times over since the days when two concert grand pianos graced the main-floor studio, which is long before my time there, I might add.  But wouldn't it be nice to see this radio play recreated live in the studios at 12 Yates Street some time?  Well, the next best thing is to hear this stage version on the radio, which you will be able to do on Christmas Day, as one of the performances during the run will be taped for rebroadcast, which should be a treat to hear again.

Lyndesfarne is taking a gamble moving their theatre operations to the Seneca Queen Theatre in downtown Niagara Falls, but let's hope people come out and support the show from now until December 16th.  Performances are Wednesday to Saturday evenings at 7:30 and matinees Fridays at 11:30 am and Sundays at 2 pm.  For tickets call the box office at 905-374-SHOW or online at

Now, other things happening this weekend in Niagara include Brock University Choirs directed by Harris Loewen this evening at Knox Presbyterian Church at 7:30; the concert is titled Cantemus and tickets will be available at the door.

The Niagara Symphony performs their second Masterworks concert tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre at the Centre for the Arts, Brock University, with Music Director Bradley Thachuk conducting a programme that includes a Niagara Symphony Premiere, Ronald Royer's Travels with Mozart, as well as the Suite No. 4 in G major by Tchaikovsky, known as Mozartiana.  Mozart's music will also be featured with the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro as well as the Variations on a Theme by Haydn by Brahms.  In addition to the music, the nso annual Silent Auction will be taking place in the lobby; this is an annual fundraiser for the orchestra and always very popular.

Because of the silent auction I won't be set up as usual in the lobby as space will be at a premium, but I will be there nonetheless and I hope to see you there as well.  Tickets are still available by calling the Centre for the Arts box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257 or purchasing them at the box office prior to the concert.

Enjoy the weekend!

November 24th, 2012.

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