The cast of Theatre Night in Merrickville's production, The Rideau Café. L-R Front row: Andrew Lutes, Amber Kirby, Keiran Loebel, Vicki Graham, Sheila Cook, Peter Boire, Ann MacLaughlan, Heddy Sorour, Terry Restoule Back row: Kris kozolanka, Michael Phillips, Keith Stanton, Roly Roy, Rachelle Eastman Missing: Omar Simonyi, Shannon McLellan. [Photo by Bedelia Images]

by Andrea Howard

The 16 cast members of The Rideau Café are ready to enchant and entertain with a charming, but little-known musical, written by David Fanstone and scored by Norm Nurmi, when both were active in Kingston’s local theatre scene, back in 1971. The show was performed in Kingston, then taken on tour.

Theatre Night in Merrickville’s [TNIM] Bronwen McKnight was one of nine performers in a 1981 production by Camelot Little Theatre, later called Nepean Little Theatre. Bronwen had always wanted to bring the show to Merrickville and spent a good five years hunting for the unpublished script and musical score. With both finally in hand, she took on the role of Director and cast the show last summer. Rehearsals have been ongoing ever since, under the musical direction of Jordan Rennells and Camille Forget.

This will be Bronwen’s second foray as a director for TNIM, and her first full-length play. Mounting a musical with a very large cast seems a pretty ambitious project, but she is keen. “The Rideau Café is a tender love story set in the early 1800s, during the building of the Rideau Canal. It is so relevant to our community… I hope that audiences will really enjoy the local references,” says Bronwen. “The story unfolds in a local brothel café, through a series of musical vignettes performed by at least 20 characters who come and go, many of them appearing only once. The style of the play allows for a wide variety of casting combinations: musicians, actors, dancers – wonderfully talented locals, some of them entirely new to community theatre.”

As ever, dozens of volunteers have been busy designing and building sets and period costumes, getting ready to transform the Merrickville Community Centre into a comfortable 150-seat theatre, an easy walk from local restaurants and shops. As we like to say, it takes a village to raise a curtain!

The Rideau Café will play at the Community Centre November 28, 29 and 30 at 7:30 pm, and on December 1 at 2pm. Tickets are $15, available online at merrickvilletheatre.org, in person at The Merrickville Book Emporium, Mrs. MaGarrigle’s Fine Food Shop, Vinyl Emporium, and at the door. For more information call 613-269-2150.

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