THUNDER BAY, ON ---- September 12, 2009 --- Mario Crudo has worked long and hard to choose a season opener for Magnus Theatre. He wanted a show that will appeal to as many people as possible. In choosing Maynard Collin’s Hank Williams – The Show He Never Gave, Magnus presents a great story through song, and a touch of multimedia. The tragic story of this great country and western singer begs to be told on stage. After all the singers lifelong career was on a stage of one form or another.
Country music well done can be appreciated by even the most non musical people, after all who has not seen some “Lovesick Blues”, and given the economy in the region there are plenty of people who could appreciate “My Buckets Got a Hole in it”
In total there are 22 Hank Williams hit tunes played on the show plus two instrumental pieces by the band while they waited for Hank to show up on stage. Anybody who loves the music of this famous singer should come out for the music alone. Not being around in 1952 I can’t say that I have ever heard Hank and the band play these tunes, but there is more than a good chance the band Magnus Theatre has put together for this show could out-perform the original.
The story of Hank Williams is a winner, but the team Magnus put together for this show is full of champion musicians, literally. Danny Johnson who has the lead role is one of very few people who could play this part. He has to be able to sing, play guitar well enough to be a part of this band, and towards the end of the show he even dances. Pierre Schryer is as fine a fiddle player you will ever hear in this country, in addition to his many CD’s, he has earned several national fiddle championships. Dan Zadkovich did a fine job playing the stand up bass and Rob Jardine played the steel guitar. And David Smyth played electric guitar.
The show is set in the 1950’s, and patrons entering the theatre were treated to a display of vehicles from the era, including a vintage Cadillac similar to the one Hank William died in while sleeping off a bender on his way to a concert in Canton Ohio. It was Williams dream to get his act together and return to the Grand O’l Opry. The attention to detail like the cars, the music before the show, and even the old looking mike used for the stage performance all led credence to this quality performance. When Magnus does country and western, the whole troop gets into the act. Even the staff and ushers were wearing their best Stetsons! For attention to detail this show is a winner.
This production showcases the great talent we have in our city. Danny Johnson does his very best to get into the character of Hank Williams. Like the others in the band he even suffered a haircut for the production. Danny will grow stronger for having done this show. Like the others in the band, they were all required to master the music from their father’s generation. Playing on period style instruments their sound was a great tribute to the music of Hank Williams. After the production is over I wonder how long it will take for Danny Johnson to lose his accent? It may take the band awhile before they get the Hank Williams tunes out of their head as well. Choosing local talent was a wise move on Mario Crudo’s part. For one thing these people are professionals and they deserve a spot on the community professional stage. Secondly these musicians have a local following and they will attract patrons to the theatre. Lastly it is part of the theatres mandate to use local talent. It is the right thing to do. So for local casting this show is a winner!
One person I was delighted to see at the show was Jean Paul. I know her as a great Thunder Bay photographer. In the first part of the show there was some multimedia included in the production. http://lakesuperiorstore.com/store/shop/category.asp?catid=253The photo montages used in these photos were created by Jean Paul. In a very brief period of time the succession of images told a part of the story that was neither spoken nor sung during the performance. Well equipped modern theatres use multimedia as a tool to communicate to the audience parts of the story which otherwise might be missed. To do this effectively requires the skill of a good lighting designer and skillful direction. Again this show is a winner for integrating this technology into the art of theatre.
Another person I was delighted to see at the show was Susan Dykstra. Her photographic artwork graced the lobby of the theatre. Be sure to check out her Window Light Gallery at http://lakesuperiorstore.com/store/shop/category.asp?catid=267
I loved this show and it is a good omen for an excellent season of Theatre. We should be so lucky to have this quality of theatre in our city.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com