Ring of Fire Review: Chemainus Theatre Cashing in

Samantha Currie / Jonas Shandel

By Lexi Bainas, Cowichan Valley Citizen

The story of a country music legend is being told at the Chemainus Theatre starting Feb. 20 as Ring of Fire: Project Johnny Cash hits the stage.

This presentation follows the life of the inimitable Man in Black from his rockabilly roots in Arkansas to country’s hallowed halls: the Grand Old Opry.

Running until April 11, the revue-format all-ages show features more than 30 hit songs matched with narrated insights that give you the scoop on Cash.

Ring of Fire, conceived by William Meade and created by Richard Maltby Jr., is more than a biography or collection of Cash’s songs.

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By |March 3rd, 2015|Categories: 2015 Season, Reviews|0 Comments

Ring of Fire: Meet the Cast, Designers & Creators



Richard Maltby, Jr. includes among his Broadway credits: Conceived/Directed Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978 Tony, NY Drama Critics, Outer Critics and Drama Desk Awards. Also Tony Award for Best Director); Fosse (1999 Tony, Outer Critics and Drama Desk Awards). Lyricist: Miss Saigon (Evening Standard Award 1990, Tony Nomination for Best Score 1991). Director and Co-lyricist of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song & Dance, 1986 (Tony Award for star Bernadette Peters). With composer David Shire: Director/Lyricist Baby, 1983 (book by Sybille Pearson; seven Tony Award nominations); Lyricist: Big, 1996 (book by John Weidman. Tony nomination: Best Score). Off-Broadway credits: Director/Lyricist Starting Here, Starting Now, 1977 (Grammy Award nomination); Closer Than Ever, 1989 (Outer Critics Circle Awards: Best Musical, Best Score). Contributes devilish crossword puzzles to Harpers Magazine. Son of well-known orchestra leader; married to Janet Brenner; five children: Nicholas, David, Jordan, Emily and Charlotte.



Bill Meade began his career as a musician. He has been a featured soloist with numerous orchestras, including the Zurich Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonic, and Jacksonville Symphony. He has produced concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe with artists ranging from Arlo Guthrie to BB Kind. Television: “The Miss America Pageant,” “The Super Bowl Half Time Show,” “Sex and The City,” “Love Monkey,” and “Sesame Street.” On Broadway, he has been involved with more than 50 musicals. He is a Grammy-nominated record producer with a wide range of theatrical releases to his credit, from Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing to Elegies by William Finn.

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Timothy is an accomplished theatre, voice-over and film/TV actor and is a graduate of the Grant MacEwan Theatre Arts Program. Career highlights include The 39 Steps and Guys and Dolls (Chemainus Theatre Festival), Mamma Mia (Mirvish Productions), West Side Story (Vancouver Opera), The Light in the Piazza (PSP), Little Shop of Horrors (Citadel Theatre/Arts Club). This show is dedicated to a young cowboy who left us to soon… Eric Lehmann. Always for Lindy XOXO.



Scott Carmichael is delighted to be making his Chemainus Theatre Festival debut. An actor and musician, Scott is a veteran of seven productions of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Arts Club, Stage West Calgary, Magnus Theatre, Sudbury Theatre Centre, Theatre Aquarius). Selected other theatre include Sleuth, 12 Angry Men, Blood Brothers, The 39 Steps, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (Rose Theatre), Doubt, and Urinetown, The Musical (Georgetown Globe). Favourite role: Father to his son, Jaden.



Andrea is thrilled to be making her Chemainus Theatre debut. Favourite theatre credits include three national tours of The Big Picture (Arts Engine, Brookstone), and four years with the critically acclaimed musical 2000 Candles (Arts Engine). Andrea is also the Education Coordinator at Chemainus Theatre Festival and loves sharing her passion for theatre with children all over Vancouver Island. Thanks Alana, Conor & Paul!



Samantha is a graduate of the AMDA in New York. Select credits include: Eve in Waiting for the Parade (Chemainus Theatre Festival); Blanche in Brighton Beach Memoirs (Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre); Zerbinette in Delicious Lies (Chemainus Theatre Festival); and Marian Paroo in The Music Man (TUTS). She also teaches theatre and musical theatre at Adage Studios. Special thanks to Mark, Zach and among her klediments, her family, Alex, Cecilia and her autoharp.



Set & Projection Designer

T. Erin Gruber is an independent theatre designer with experience in set, lighting, costume and projected media design. She holds a degree in Theatre Design from the University of Alberta and is a founding member of the ShowStages video collective, a group expanding the boundaries of projected media role in theatre ( For more information:



Costume Designer

Crystal is a graduate of the Fashion Design & Technology Program at Kwantlen University College. Past costume designs at the Chemainus Theatre Festival include Waiting for the Parade, All Shook Up (Gateway Theatre co-production), Countryside Christmas, and Ah, Wilderness! She would like to thank her parents for their support and encouragement in what probably seemed an impractical career path at the time.



Lighting Designer

It is always a pleasure to design at the Chemainus Theatre. Past favourites include Buddy:The Buddy Holly Story and The Miracle Worker. Other recent work includes Gaslight ( Blue Bridge Theatre) and The Incomplete Folksinger (The Other Guys Theatre). Upcoming projects include MacBeth (Blue Bridge, where she is also the General/Theatre Manager). Rebekah has a BFA (Theatre) and an MFA (Visual Art) from UVic.



Mark is excited not only to be making his Chemainus Theatre Festival debut in Ring of Fire, but also his Vancouver Island winter debut, which promises to be much warmer than he’s used to. This actor/singer/sailor/filmmaker was born in Fredericton and is now based in Toronto. Select Theatre: Music Man (Port Hope), Buddy Holly Story (Sudbury), Cabaret (Northern Stage); Film/TV: Covert Affairs. @Mark_MacRae. Proud member of CAEA & ACTRA.



Singer, songwriter, musician and performer, Jonas now lives in Chemainus! He is best known as co-founder of the Vancouver band Headwater which for a decade has headlined festivals and concert halls throughout Canada and Europe. When Jonas received a call from Nashville, he was on the first plane to music city where he now co-writes material with the best in the business. Jonas has recorded a collection of classic country songs for this show. “Six Days on the Road” is available in the lobby after the show.



Musical Director

Zachary is enjoying being home on the island for the third year running making his debut as musical director in Ring of Fire. An accomplished actor, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, audiences will recognize him best as “Buddy” having performed in ten productions of The Buddy Holly Story throughout North America including twice here in Chemainus. He has performed in Hank Williams: the Show He Never Gave, Red Rock Diner, FIRE, Urinetown, Hair, Assassins among others. Follow Zach on facebook or visit



Stage Manager

Anne spent last season Stage Managing with Patrick Street Productions on Floyd Collins and Out of a Dream with the Arts Club Theatre Company as Assistant Stage Manager on Mary Poppins. Other recent and favourite productions include Stage Managing Blue Box with Nightswimming Theatre in Vancouver, The Light in the Piazza with Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon and Café Daughter with Gwaandak Theatre in Whitehorse.



Sound Designer

Recent design credits include Gaslight (Bluebridge Theatre), Sherlock Holmes, Over The River and Through The Woods, Les Mis, Buddy, It’s A Wonderful Life (Chemainus Theatre Festival), Home Is A Beautiful Word ( The Belfry Theatre), Fresco (Shadbolt Centre / The Cultch), Noises Off (Western Canada Theatre), Circle Mirror Transformation (Arts Club Theatre). Upcoming ; 39 Steps (Western Canada Theatre), Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike (The Belfry Theatre).



Kraig is thrilled to be here in beautiful Chemainus. He has appeared all across Canada in theatrical shows such as Songs For A New World, The Wedding Singer, The Last Resort, Forever Plaid and The Buddy Holly Story to name a few. When not in theatre, Kraig is kept extremely busy working as a bassist/ vocalist for numerous bands/ensembles in southern Ontario. as always, love to Stephanie. enjoy the show!



Apprentice Stage Manager

For the Chemainus: Debut. Elsewhere: Apprentice SM: A Bedfull of Foreigners, Lend me a Tenor and Lights, Camera, Christmas… (Upper canada Playhouse); On a First Name Basis, Henry and Alice: Into the Wild and I’ll be Back Before Midnight (Lighthouse festival Theatre); Laura’s Cow (Canadian Children’s Opera Company); Queen Milli of Galt (Theatre Aquarius); SM: The Greatest Story Never Told (Smile Theatre); ASM: Half Life (rose Theatre) Education: recent graduate of the University of Windsor’s Ba(H) Drama program.



Assistant Director

Melissa is thrilled to be back in Chemainus working on this show. as a choreographer, Melissa’s credits include: The Wizard of Oz, Seussical (carousel Theatre), As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors (Bard on the Beach) and Oklahoma! (Chemainus.) Melissa has also appeared in: High Society, The Producers, Gypsy, Beauty and the Beast (Arts Club), Guys and Dolls (Chemainus.) She recently received her Masters Degree in Theatre from SOU.

By |February 28th, 2015|Categories: 2015 Season, Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Holmes on his own case to find the spirit of the season

The lead role of Holmes is masterfully handled by Mark Uhre in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.

The lead role of Holmes is masterfully handled by Mark Uhre in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.

by Don Bodger, Cowichan News Leader Pictorial

Plug any person in need of retribution into the timeless tale of A Christmas Carol and the yuletide will always be bright. And humanity will surely benefit in the long run.

That’s essentially the premise behind Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol, currently playing at the Chemainus Theatre Festival until Dec. 31 with a short break over Christmas.

Sherlock’s life is depicted in the manner of Scrooge in the original tale. There are twists and turns in the story because of their different personal backgrounds but the end result is basically the same.

Sherlock, brilliantly portrayed by experienced actor Mark Uhre, is quite a genius. While admired for his contributions to society, he is also despised for a bad attitude.

There’s nothing like a visit from three ghosts — representing the past, present and future — to put things into perspective for Holmes.

The whole experience proves a bit bewildering at first for the old chap.

By |December 16th, 2014|Categories: 2014 Season, Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Clever script brings welcome update to ‘Christmas Carol’


Mark Uhre plays a marvellous Sherlock Holmes in the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s production of ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol’.

by Andrea Rondeau, The Citizen

A clever idea and a really clever script, along with great performances make Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol just the heartwarming, fun event to put you in the Christmas spirit.

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is a classic tale so wellknown that it can start to cause fatigue when one contemplates seeing it – again.

But by marrying that tale with the characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world of Sherlock Holmes, the whole thing is new again in all the best ways.

The great detective himself takes on the role of Scrooge, and playwright John Longenbaugh makes Holmes’s Christmas miserliness both sad and laugh-out-loud amusing at the same time.

Holmes’s disdain for politeness and courtesy come out in acerbic dialogue witty enough to be funny, while the audience still understands and empathizes with their devastating effects on his friends.

By |December 10th, 2014|Categories: 2014 Season, Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Cowichan News Leader Pictorial on Les Misérables

Valjean (Kieran Martin Murphy, right) warns arch-enemy sheriff Javert (Jay Davis) to stop chasing him during Chemainus Theatre’s June 20 premiere of Les Miserables.

Image Credit: Andrew Leong

Les Misérables a masterpiece of moral bravery worth waiting for

Review by Peter Rusland – Cowichan News Leader Pictorial

French cooking can take time, but it’s worth waiting for.

So was Chemainus Theatre’s deliciously daring debut of Les Misérables, served to Friday’s packed house.

Set in Paris’ upheaval of the 1800s, the Mural Town theatre’s long-awaited version of the globally toasted, hit musical was simply magnificent.

For openers, director Peter Jorgensens’ Les Mis proved the sweeping, globally popular production can be done on stages of any size.

That feat was accomplished Friday, thanks to a multi-talented, 18-member cast of all ages, backed by a sensational stage quintet led by pianist Kevin Michael Cripps.

Those crew’s duties were ably modified by Amir Ofek’s effectively understated set, and Jessica Bayntun’s raggedly authentic period costumes of the lower and middle classes.

Mike Taugher’s lighting regally reflected Les Mis’ many changing moods, from terrible and tragic, to lively and romantic.

And Paul Tedeschini’s sound delivered memorable lyrics without mikes, in the drama totally dependent on sung dialogue.

Audience ears got a good workout as characters were created with textured tones and expressions, not lines.

Jorgensen’s small yet potent Les Mis allowed us to focus on the story, not effects and sets of larger-scale versions previously seen by many in Friday’s crowd.

The appeal of Les Mis was its brave David-versus-Goliath plot as escaped jailbird Valjean (Kieran Martin Murphy) is hounded for years by obsessive sheriff, Javert (Jay Davis).

Javert symbolized humanity’s inability to show mercy. He has the law on his side, and doesn’t know or care valiant Valjean served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.

Conversely, Valjean, once out, promised a dying waif Fantine (Lauren Bowler) he’d always take care of her new-born, illegitimate daughter.

Promise kept, as little Cosette (Lily Killam) stole our hearts while suffering neglect by her booze-soaked caretakers, the Thenardiers (Caitriona Murphy, Andrew Wheeler).

The couple’s rollicking song Master Of The House, a Les Mis trademark, would be funny if the cowardly carrion eaters wasn’t so authentically nasty.

Valjean’s stoic morals continued morphing as Cosette becomes a woman (Vanessa Croome) courted Marius (Sayer Roberts), an idealistic rebel with a cause against class domination.

Ultimately, Marius and his principled but doomed friends mounted a futile, armed revolt, using a makeshift barricade against government forces.

Selfless Valjean risked his life to help Marius and his followers during the Parisienne-style Alamo.

It was great watching Michelle Bardach’s Eponine admit her failed love for Marius, and die for his cause.

Terrific too was spunky talent from young Sebastian Tow as pint-size Gavroche, who fatally helps Marius’ band — proving little guys can fight back.

(Tow later said he was “honoured” to act in the theatre where his late father, Jeremy, served as artistic director for many years.)

Valjean’s valour proved too much for mean, jaded Javert, displaying how justice is blind, and the law may not always be right.

Les Mis’ messages about standing for beliefs, in the face of awesome odds, aren’t new but they were timely.

For instance, swap the powerful play’s French government soldiers for oil companies and Ottawa.

Some First Nations and environmentalists are preparing to battle oil firms and the feds to stop the controversially approved Enbridge pipeline.

In Cowichan, Shawnigan Lake residents have vowed to stand in front of dump trunks to stop tonnes of contaminated soil from being hauled to a permitted treatment site.

These hot current affairs perfectly exemplify how life can echo art — as apparently intended by visionary playwrights Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg.

Through Les Mis, the pair basically asked — even challenged — viewers if they would stand and fight for their principles, or hide and let others take all the risks.

Maybe that’s the infectious appeal of Chemainus Theatre’s Les Mis, Brentwood College School’s 2012 version, and many others: folks always cheer for outnumbered, scrappy underdogs.

If you haven’t enjoyed the magic of Les Mis, here is your chance.

Les Misérables runs at the Chemainus Theatre until Sept. 7.

Musical-drama rating: 10 scruples out of 10.

By |June 23rd, 2014|Categories: 2014 Season, Reviews|0 Comments