Drayton’s summer season saw an easing back into live theatre
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Drayton’s summer season saw an easing back into live theatre

The St. Jacobs Country Playhouse has been vacant for much of the lockdown. [Submitted]

Having completed the majority of its productions this season, Drayton Entertainment has a better handle on the pace of the post-pandemic recovery, colouring it as easing back into things.

“People that are coming out are loving the experience,” said artistic director Alex Mustakas.

“They’re enjoying being back, having a communal experience in a theatre. That’s been very refreshing because, as you know, it’s been very difficult in the theatre industry, and arts and culture, during the last two and a half years, so it’s nice to be recovering and gathering again. I think it’s just going to get better and better.

“We still have a number for productions. We’re about to open Driving Miss Daisy [St. Jacobs Country Playhouse Theatre] and Good Ol’ Country Gospel in Cambridge. And then our two holiday shows are The Sound of Music in Cambridge and our annual panto this year, Wizard of Oz at Playhouse, which is always very popular with families,” Mustakas added.

The musical We’ll Meet Again is a Drayton original production and the brainchild of Mustakas. It features songs from the wars years spanning the First World War and the second. 

“We’ve subtitled it Music Mirth and Memories of the Wars. It’s a nostalgic look back and it will bring back a lot of memories for a lot of people. It features some of the greatest music in history but also some of the trickiest music in history….but I think audiences will love it,” he explained.

The title song has both history and recent significance attached to it.

“The singer Vera Lynn made it very famous and when Queen Elizabeth addressed the nation about the pandemic right at the end of it, she said ‘we will meet again’ and she was really quoting Vera Lynn and this song as well, because it tends to send a message that you we will all come together again – even in dark times, we will meet again,” Mustakas explained.

Music direct Jim Hodgkinson brings a lot of experience to production, he added.

“He’s arranged a lot of shows. And this is a period he’s very familiar with, he’s been able to make some great musical arrangements for this show.”

Hodgkinson has been able to strike a balance between putting his own spin on the songs and keeping close to the original.

“At the end of the day, anyone that is familiar with this music will want to hear it kind of the way they remember it, but we try to be a little clever with it sometimes just to keep it fresh. We add little twists in it that will keep fresh.”

The five performers (Malinda Carroll, Michael Cox, Keely Hutton, Laura Mae Nason and Andrew Scanlon) are “younger performers who probably weren’t familiar with a lot of this music,” Mustakas said.

“So it’s been a great history lesson for them.”

As the projection has a five-part harmony, something that Mustakas said is rare for modern musicals, they have to not only perform at their best, but also perform well with the other cast members.

“So for them to be able to sing this music is a real learning experience for them as well.”

The production is also a tip of the cap to those Canadians who were involved in the wars, Mustakas added.

“It’s not only a tribute to the music of the era, but in some respects, it is a tribute to the thousands of Canadians that were involved in the war years, so it’s a bit of remembrance too.”

We’ll Meet Again runs from September 28 to December 3 at St. Jacobs Schoolhouse, with tickets ranging from $32-$53, available at the box office (519-747-7788) or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866), or online at www.draytonentertainment.com.

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