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A little something to tickle every fancy … and funny bone

Jesse Grandmont picked up a violin at the age of three, and he’s been fiddling around ever since. The musical talent he’s honed over the decades will be on display in Drayton Entertainment’s newest offering, Fiddler on the Loose.

This lively revue is packed with 60 songs spanning all genres, including country, pop, bluegrass, Celtic, jazz and classical. It also explores classic violin tunes including “Orange Blossom Special,” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

“You’re getting the great music of a concert, but it’s totally a theatrical performance,” said Grandmont. “We’re engaging with our audience, there’s no ‘fourth wall,’ as they say in the theatre. There’s no block between us and the audience – we’re right there with you. The audience is our scene partner; we’re having fun and doing the concert with the audience, so to speak.”

Directed and choreographed by David Hogan, the show puts more than fiddling on display: there’s a blend of singing, dancing, and comedic skits – particularly tongue-in-cheek style humour – thrown into the mix.

Not only does Grandmont fiddle and sing up a storm, but he also showcases the musical talents of fellow artists such as percussionist Dan Baerg, sister duo Devan and Paige Ballagh, multi-instrumentalists Brian Barber and Dee Klinger,  Alberta-based actress Alison Lynch, bass player Erik Larson, violinist Leah Grandmont (Jesse’s little sister).

“Fiddler on the Loose is a heartfelt tribute to the power of music and its ability to unite us,” said Alex Mustakas, artistic director of Drayton Entertainment.

Jesse Grandmont and company in rehearsal for Fiddler on the Loose, now playing at the Drayton Festival Theatre. [Submitted]
The show has a little something for everyone. Country fans will recognize “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” “Jolene,” and “The Gambler,” while the uninhibited rock n’ roll section covers hits “Rock This Town,” and “Rock Around the Clock.” There are emotional ballads on offer, including “You Raise Me Up,” and “Hallelujah,” as well as Broadway show tunes, with a Fiddler on the Roof montage, naturally.

“It’s all kinds of fun,” said Grandmont. “All of the songs are really familiar, so we have people singing along, clapping along, dancing, if they so please.

“Not every song is the full tune – we do a lot of medleys and things like that because we want to be able to hit as many tunes as we can, but it can’t be 400 hours long. This show is really fun to put together; all the music is really great.”

In addition to playing the role of the showman, Grandmont acts as the musical director. He was in charge of putting together the charts and leading the music rehearsal.

He noted that while the transition between genres was straightforward, it was combining multiple elements of a performance that proved to be the biggest challenge for the cast in general.

“It’s easy to do the choreography on its own, it’s easy to play the fiddle on its own, it’s easy to sing the song on its own, but doing all three at once, it takes a lot of out you every day,” said Grandmont with a laugh.

The London-based musician began playing the violin as a child and followed the passion throughout his life. After completing his degree in music at Western University, Grandmont got into theatre accidentally around a decade ago and hasn’t looked back.

The natural-born entertainer has also toured internationally with the Ontario Festival Symphony Orchestra and the fiddle group, Barrage.

Fiddler on the Loose is now on stage at the Drayton Festival Theatre until  August 10. Tickets can be purchased at any Drayton Entertainment box office, by calling (519) 638-5555 – toll-free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866) – or online at www.draytonentertainment.com.

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