Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter
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Thursday, 30 June, 2005

I made it out to the Louisbourg Playhouse on Monday for the opening night of this year's version of Lyrics & Laughter, the first of a 50-plus night run that continues until Sept. 2.

All seven of the cast members were on deck including veterans Michelle Mills, Meaghan Grant, Andrew Tyne, Colin Grant and Adam Young and 'newcomers' Eric Angus Whyte and Jennifer Roland.

Jennifer will be sharing the fiddling chores with Colin, trading off as their schedules allow. This is one of only two nights (the closing night is the other) when both will be on stage at the same time.

Colin is doing a stint with Island Mania and trips overseas with the Acadian group Blou while Jennifer has a whole list of gigs locally and away, as well as a new CD almost ready to come out.

The show itself was very good. Oh, there was the odd flubbed cue or missed line but that will quickly disappear and things will tighten up. I expect that if I were there tonight I would see a difference already.

The comedy was good with some unexpected twists. They did some interesting new music, including several of Eric Angus' own songs, as well as some great fiddle groups and well-choreographed dance numbers. They also did an 'illustrated' version of The Rattling Bog, the old chestnut (favoured by bar bands) that easily leads to cardiac trouble is you're not careful.

It was a full house equally divided between locals and tourists. The crowd certainly enjoyed the show, giving the cast a standing ovation to finish the night. After the show I chatted with a couple from Connecticut who gushed about the talent and energy of all the performers, the beauty of the area and the wonderful venue, a sentiment I certainly agree with.

Lyrics & Laughter is just starting a 10-week run. Make sure that you go to see it at least once over the summer. It will be well worth the trip.
- Dan MacDonald - Feedback - Cape Breton Post


Volume 13 | Number 3 - Summer Issue July/August 2005

In a roundabout way, Walt Disney's legacy lives on in Louisbourg at the Louisbourg Playhouse. He was dead before the Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter shows got off the ground, but it was the movie mogul's production company that built the theatre and the volunteer Louisbourg Playhouse Society has run it ever since.

This is the start of the fourth season for Lyrics & Laughter shows that run weeknights throughout the summer. The Playhouse Society also books other entertainment on weekends and in the fall.

The theatre-in-the-round was built in 1993 for the movie Squanto: A Warrior's Tale, parts of which were filmed at the Fortress of Louisbourg and nearby Baleine. If you've seen the film, the theatre was the backdrop for the bear pit.

After the film was done, the town of Louisbourg bought the theatre for a dollar and moved it to its current location on Aberdeen Street. With a number of grants, the non-profit Playhouse Society added washrooms, extra seating, a roof, and heat in order to develop the venue as a tourist attraction.

Last year, a boardroom was added and a new hardwood floor was installed in the stage area and orchestra pit. And with financial assistance from Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation, the society has begun a marketing campaign.

The first year is opened to the public, the theatre staged a locally written comedy. But the Lyrics & Laughter shows have drawn the strongest response from area residents and tourists alike.

"Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter is the most successful one we've had," says society chair Susan Kelley, who was an extra on the Squanto movie set. "That's what the people want to see."

The Lyrics & Laughter shows are a mix of song and dance and humorous skits, all performed by area university students. Local volunteers serve tea and oatcakes at intermission.

"We've developed a local following and people now ask who's in it and what's coming up," Susan says.

The cast has changed a little over the four years. This year it consists of Adam Young, Colin Grant, Meaghan Grant (no relation), Eric Angus Whyte, Michelle Mills, Andrew Tyne, and Jennifer Roland. Adam, Colin, and Meaghan have been part of the production all four years.

"Colin's also taking part in Island Mania at the Savoy, so he's only going to be around for half the shows," says Adam, the show's director. "Jennifer's taking over the other half."

The shows consist of four or five comedy sketches, a couple of fiddle sets, some traditional Cape Breton Island tunes, and plenty of stepdancing.

"There's a lot of multitalented people in the show," says Adam.

The group gets together in May and begins writing the summer's show. It's new each year, partly because the audience tends to come back every summer and partly because the group is young and enthusiastic, and just so talented.

"It's an intense month and a half to figure out what you're going to do, and then work out the kinks before opening night," says Adam. "For us, we just throw ourselves into it and get it together."

He also says the show's contents are sometimes a little risqué, but they are designed for all ages. It's just good, clean, down-home Cape Breton humour.

"It's the kind of stuff you can say like in a Shrek movie," says Adam. "There's some stuff that the kids probably wouldn't get, double meanings, etc., but it's a family show. We probably could be doing the same show every year, but it's more fun for us this way, and it's good for the people who return."

Adam was among the creators of Lyrics & Laughter after the Playhouse Society issued a call for proposals to develop an ongoing summer production. The society owns the name and finances the production, but the creative contents are all the result of a talented group of young people.

The cast evolves as its members deal with changes in university and employment, but Adam says it's a concept that should continue well into the future.

"I'd like to see the show keep going," he says. "There's always people interested in doing this, because it's fun.

"There's also a perception that people in Cape Breton are getting older and the young people are moving away, but we want to show that the young people are interested in continuing music and comedy here."

The Playhouse seats 220 on two levels and employs six or seven people in the summer. It also boasts theatre lighting, a 32-channel soundboard, and new speakers.

"It's very intimate," says Susan. "It's not a large venue, so the sound carries well."

The Playhouse entertainment season starts in mid-June and runs until the Celtic Colours Festival in October. Lyrics and Laughter shows run from June to September.

For more information, contact the Louisbourg Playhouse box office or check the website at www.louisbourgplayhouse.com
- Tom Ayers - The Cape Bretoner


LOUISBOURG -- The Louisbourg Playhouse will officially launch its 2002 season Thursday with the premiere of its signature production, Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter.

The theatre's summer season is actually contained within an amazing 120 consecutive-night run, which began June 14 and finishes up Oct. 16.

The playhouse was constructed in 1993 and was used as part of the set for the Disney movie, Squanto, which was largely shot in Louisbourg. The structure was moved from the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site to the downtown area in late 1993 and opened for business in the summer of 1994. Since then, it has seen hundreds of performances by a huge variety of performers.

The building seats only about 200-220 people, which Victor Hanham, the playhouse board's chair, admits can be limiting. But, he notes, it is also part of the Louisbourg Playhouse's charm.

"Certainly, it is (the building's) uniqueness and intimacy that attracts performers and audiences alike," Hanham says.

That appears to ring true, as the playhouse is generally a big hit with tourists and sees approximately 13,000 patrons a year.

Visitors to the playhouse this summer can expect to see such performers as the internationally-acclaimed Men of the Deeps, J.P. Cormier, and unique acts such as Grand Dérangement, a high-energy French group, plus many more. Certain local performers like Buddy MacMaster and Donnie Campbell, have become regulars at the Playhouse, returning many times to bask in the building's rustic ambience.

"The Playhouse has served as a kind of training ground for many performers that have gone on to be quite successful," Hanham said. "I don't know if we could afford to bring some of them back now, since it's such a small venue."

A highlight of the season is sure to be tonight's performance by Canadian legend Valdy.

Perhaps best known for the ballad "Play Me a Rock and Roll Song," he is the winner of two Juno awards and has four gold albums to his credit. Valdy has performed in over a dozen countries over the years and continues to play his mixture of pop and folk music at many prestigious venues. The Louisbourg Playhouse offers people to see Valdy in a very intimate setting.

The Playhouse has always relied on local volunteer support. Hanham says volunteers have never been in short supply and that the effort they put in is incredible--another sentiment that can't be too far off the mark considering the Playhouse's ability to undergo a remarkable run of 120 performances in succession.

A new production entitled Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter is starting at the Louisbourg Playhouse Thursday and will run five nights a week for the entire summer.

It is a comedy and music revue. The comedy is all original material written by the group, which is made up of seven local performers, including three [recent] university graduates, three university students (all of whom are currently at UCCB) and a recent high school graduate who will be attending university in the fall.

While the comedy is original, the music will be covers of contemporary Cape Breton music as well as other familiar music. Songs range from "My Love, Cape Breton, and Me," to Great Big Sea's "Goin' Up," and fiddle sets performed by the group's Colin Grant [and Meaghan Grant], will be a regular part of the show, interspersed between the comedy and other music.

While the show's music will fall into the traditional category, the group's members insist it will be "traditional with a twist".

"We're all really enthusiastic about the show," says Adam Young.

"Everything has come together so well."

Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter will run until the end of the Louisbourg Playhouse's summer season, finishing up on Sept. 18.

The playhouse's full season ends Oct. 16 with a Celtic Colours International Festival show.
- Aaron Kuna - Cape Breton Post


18 July 2002

LOUISBOURG -- The seventh show of the season featured a first for the performers in Cape Breton Lyrics and Laughter.

After completing their regular show in front of a formidably-sized audience at the Louisbourg Playhouse Friday night, the cast received such an ovation that they returned to the stage for an encore.

“This is the first time that’s ever happened,” Jason Murdock said as he strapped his guitar on again for one more song.

Directed by Adam Young (who also performs), the show takes place on a low, central stage in the very intimate atmosphere of the playhouse. The show's cast is made up of Adam Young, Jason Murdock, Danielle [McKinnon], Caelin MacAulay, Colin Grant, Egan Baird and Meaghan Grant. All seven performers play instruments, many of them a variety, including piano, guitar, fiddle, flute and percussion. Some performers sing and dance for the show, which features popular and traditional Celtic and other music and original comedy sketches that poke fun at day-to-day life in Cape Breton.

People from the Cape Breton area as well as places as far away as Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Virginia, Florida and California took in the show and were clapping along almost immediately and for most of the evening.

Some “whoops” could even be heard later on after Murdock encouraged them somewhat.

“Last night’s crowd…way louder,” he said at one point.

The audience responded by giving it their all, joining in on the chorus of the Buddy MacDonald classic Getting Dark Again.

The group’s fiddler and youngest member, Colin Grant, delighted the crowd on nearly every song with his skill on the bow, later showing he takes his instrument quite seriously by playing two songs of very old origin that aren’t played by most fiddlers, young or old, today.

Grant was also playful during his performances, even playing one tune dressed in a T-shirt, boxers and large, fluffy flippers that he had worn for a skit beforehand.

During the intermission, showgoers were offered free tea and oatcakes while they chatted with the performers.

“That applause was almost as loud as when we played—I don’t know how to feel about that,” Murdock commented after the ovation the group received returning to the stage for the show’s second half.

The rest of the show featured more music and comedy, including a set with dueling spoons: wooden versus metal with Murdock and Meaghan Grant, who later dueled with Young on piano.

Colin Grant and Murdock performed a stripped down version of Ashley MacIsaac and Gordie Sampson’s MacDougall’s Pride, with just violin and acoustic guitar.

Baird, who had been busy all night on percussion and flute, but silent as far as speaking goes, sang with a Scottish accent and played flute for the almost mandatory performance of Farewell to Nova Scotia.

The show’s official last song was Barrage’s Until We Meet Again.

Cape Breton Lyrics and Laughter runs Monday to Friday until September 18. Showtime each night is 8p.m.
- Aaron Kuna - Cape Breton Post


It was a busy week musically, and we’re just getting to the meat of the summer.



Over the past week or so I’ve had the chance to take in all three of the summer music and comedy productions running five nights a week in various parts of the island.



Lyrics and Laughter is the show that took the place of Sprit [of the Island] at the Louisbourg Playhouse and it features seven talented newcomers, all university-aged. Likely the best known of these would be fiddler Colin Grant and pianist Adam Young, both of whom are excellent. Some good comedy with Danielle [McKinnon], some nice new voices (Caelin MacAulay in particular) and some talented musicians (including percussionist Egan Baird, guitarist Jason Murdock and Meaghan Grant, who seemed to play everything at least once, as well as dance and sing).



All three shows have something different to offer the viewer but each is able to give the customer a truly entertaining few hours in its own way. There is something in all of them to please both the local and the tourist. In other words, it’s the perfect place to go for an evening out and also a great place to take Uncle George when he comes home from Toronto.
- Dan MacDonald - Feedback - Cape Breton Post


4 September 2002

Last week, the majority of articles centered around a theme of bringing the summer of 2002, at least from a musical standpoint, to a close. I had a few more events on the agenda, with one venue high on my list of ‘must-see’ requirements to end the season. I had tried on several occasions to get out to the Louisbourg Playhouse to catch the youthful summer production of Lyrics & Laughter, ever since it began in early July. Finally I was able to set aside the Labour Day evening, for what will definitely fit the bill for ‘saving the best for last’.

Leave behind all notions that only seasoned veterans can put on a variety show, or that there must be a well recognized name attached, in order to attract an audience. All of these beliefs can now be thrown away as Lyrics & Laughter proves that if the talent and determination are there, success will follow.

The show, directed by Adam Young, is made up of 7 multi-talented individuals, all ranging in ages of 17 to 24. By the end of the evening, this fact in itself leaves the audience shaking their heads in disbelief at their ability to produce such a well rounded two hour program of music and comedy, suitable for the audience of tourists who typically fill the seats in Louisburg. This night was no exception with people shouting out places like Austria, Wales, Johannesburg, and of course all other parts of Canada.

Featuring a mix of traditional fiddle sets, standard song titles, and some amusing looks at life on the island, the group does a fine job of giving the visitor a glimpse of cultural diversity, that I’m sure was even more impressive to the eyes and ears of people not accustomed to seeing such maturity from performers this young. From my perspective, it was plain to see that these kids (excuse the term guys), have grown up paying close attention to how it has been done on Cape Breton stages thus far. That’s not to call it a copy, but rather a compliment in taking a proven format, (our ability to laugh at ourselves, (or neighbors), and celebrate the music), and putting their very own youthful spin on things. Neither tourists, nor us locals really ever tire of looking at the quaint little things that actually bring people back here year after year. It’s those things that make our island and the people unique to the world.

Each performer brings a certain history to the fold, whether through community theatre companies, years of lessons followed by teaching respective instruments, to their academic achievements and life travels. Young, who has been playing piano for 16 years, is no stranger to the stage, whether in a supporting role or as the featured solo performer at countless receptions over the years. This cast obviously takes his lead, in the way they encourage and cooperate in a timely fashion, a must in a production such as this. He also gets in on the comedy, with his crotchety old-timer character, to the delight of the audience. His versatility on the keyboard is the reason he is a much sought after accompanist at events far and wide. This production will certainly add a distinctive touch to his resume.

Egan Baird, delivers an eclectic mix of supporting sounds from whistles and hand drums, for a unique addition to the mix. He also solos on the favorite “Farewell To Nova Scotia”, giving it an ‘old-soul’ flavor all his own.

I can’t recall ever hearing Caelin MacAulay before this show, which surprises me as her voice is that of a seasoned performer, with a natural gift for a classic song. From “Caledonia” and “Song for Ireland”, to “Getting Dark Again”, Caelin definitely brings a self-assured voice to these proceedings. Don’t forget that name, no question we’ll be hearing it a lot in the future.

Jason Murdock brings a reputation as a respected accompanist as a guitarist and on backing vocals and spoons, while equally relaxed in a comedy mode on stage.

Danielle (Dee) McKinnon, has been racking up the list of theatrical credits in her, relatively short, yet impressive career. Perhaps her most remarkable role to this point would be the lead in UCCB’s ‘Diary of Anne Frank’ last year, but she shows the lighter side in several sketch pieces this summer, particularly as bingo queen, ‘Super Sady’. She captures the image of the fast-dabbing, quick talking ideal so convincingly, the audience are left in hysterics, especially those familiar with a ‘serious bingo player’.

Colin Grant may be a transplanted Cape Bretoner, having moved from Toronto a few years ago, but listening to his prowess on the fiddle will not give that secret away, he knows his way around a ceilidh and how to share the stage with his fellow performers. Obviously having spent his time before and after the move east wisely watching and listening to those in the know, he packs a considerable traditional punch to any instrumental set. Joining Murdock for ‘MacDougall’s Pride’ is definitely worth the price of admission for anyone.

Meaghan Grant can - Wanda Earhart - What's Goin' On


10 July 2003

Adam Young, director and cast member of Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter at the Louisbourg Playhouse, says his show is "a fun night out on a hot summer night. Not that Louisbourg has ever had a hot summer night."

Young describes Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter as "a musical comedy revue along the same lines as The Rise and Follies. There're four comedy skits. It's mostly music, with a little bit of laughter mixed in."

According to Lyrics' website, (www.lyricsandlaughter.com), the show "celebrates summer in Cape Breton with a light-hearted two hour music and comedy show". Young stars in the show, along with five other young performers: Colin Grant, Meaghan Grant, Jason MacDonald, Michelle Mills, and Andrew Tyne. The cast ranges in age from 18 to 26.

Young says Lyrics features a couple of original songs by Jason MacDonald, as well as covers of songs made well known by shows such as The Summertime Revue and The Rise and Follies. Young says Lyrics' skits, however, are completely original. "The comedy that we use has never been performed before," he says. "It was written by Howie MacDonald and Adam Cooke."

This is the second season for Lyrics. Young says most of the original cast met through the music society at UCCB. "Through that we discovered we had a love for Celtic music," he says.

"There was an advertisement looking for a proposal for a summer production to do at the Louisbourg Playhouse. My mom actually saw the ad, and [told me when I got back home from a conference] in Ottawa. So we put in a proposal and went from there.

"The seven of us [from 2002] had never done anything like this before. No one had ever performed in this type of a revue style show. We were friends before we did the show, but we hadn't ever performed as a group," Young explains.

The show's success can be determined by the comments of the Lyrics' website guest book. "I thought it was just GREAT!!!," writes visitor Marilyn MacDonald. "The girls sang like angels and the guys were 'right on'...very funny! Colin, you satisfied my soul as usual with your traditional style of playing...so good! I wish you all just a great summer...you are going to bring a lot of joy to people this summer."

Young says this year's biggest surprise on opening night (July 3) was two standing ovations and an encore: "We did not expect that at all. That usually doesn't happen until 10 or 12 shows in. And I think people had higher expectations this year, having seen the show last year."

Young says the show tries to appeal to a variety of tastes. "There's a lot of fiddle sets and step dancing and the comedy is turning out to be a highlight. I didn't know what the highlights would be until opening night. There're a couple of songs, like The Ballad of St. Ann's Reel, which went over really well. We do a lot of traditional style fiddle setse and we also do more modern arrangements. So it adds variety and gives the traditionalists something to look forward to, as well as the modernists..."

New to the show this year are cast members Jason MacDonald, Michelle Mills, and Andrew Tyne, who auditioned and were chosen for Lyrics' 2003 run. Young says he couldn't ask for better people with whom to work: "The three new cast members this year are phenomenal. I can't believe we found them. We're really lucky to have them along this year. They each add something different to the show."

Young says there's "not really a couple of words to describe the cast as a whole. Everybody is so unique, especially with this group. This year is building on what we did last year. We try and make it a really light and fun show. It's not stuffy or pretentious by any means. This year, Colin Grant's on fiddle and he does some of the comedy. And there's a surprise there. He...well, I don't want to give it away. Let's just say there's a surprise."

Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter will be performed at the Playhouse five nights a week for the entire summer, wrapping up on September 17th. - Lindsay Kyte - Boardwalk


Discography

Full-length CDs:

Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter [2006]
Colin Grant [2006]
Eric Angus Whyte - Always Home [2004]

Photos

Bio

After four resoundingly successful seasons at the Louisbourg Playhouse, Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter returned for another fun-filled and entertaining summer! This year's cast featured the production's veteran performers, Colin Grant, Meaghan Grant, Michelle Mills, Andrew Tyne, Eric Angus Whyte, and Adam Young, and was, by all accounts, the most successful run yet.

In preparation for the fifth season, the cast spent the spring recording their debut album, a self-titled disc containing thirteen tracks representing the "best of" Cape Breton Lyrics & Laughter from the first five years.

The disc is available at the Louisbourg Playhouse, and also online at www.castlebaymusic.com. A few tracks can also be previewed at myspace.com/lyricsandlaughter.

Cape Breton Lyrics and Laughter was performed at the Louisbourg Playhouse every weeknight from June 26 to September 1, 2006, at 8:00 PM.

For more information about Lyrics and Laughter, please e-mail the cast@lyricsandlaughter.com.