Pure Pleasure – Morrisburg Leader

MORRISBURG — Shakespeare probably got it right when it comes to romance. “The course of true love has never gone smoothly…” he wrote, and that is too often true.

However, in the wonderful production currently on stage at the Upper Canada Playhouse, “Sugar Road” by Kristen DaSilva, audiences truly hope that while matters of the heart can sometimes prove difficult, love must surely triumph in the end. .

“Sugar Road” is a play about love: lost love, misunderstood love, hilarious love, hopeful love, which is not played out in sunny Verona or in Parisian bistros, but in an amusement park. dilapidated and decrepit Ontario countryside. That’s part of the incredible appeal of this Playhouse production: they’re real people, living in the real world and dealing with real issues. And we support them all the way.

Da Silva’s play is told in a series of vignettes, sometimes set 12 years ago, sometimes in the present day. Young Hannah Taylor inherited the Sugar Road amusement park from a mother who got drunk while her one true love never returned. Hannah tries desperately to make this park work; one ultimate solution to his financial troubles is to arrange a special concert with one of country music’s rising stars. In this effort, she is assisted by the handyman Ray Bishop, himself a former roadie who found himself in Sugar Road years ago, after an accident. She will also have the help of her “best friend in the world”, the hilarious and unfiltered Caroline Dawn. And, oddly enough, given his superstar status, his ability to fill huge stadiums with fans, country singer Jesse Emberley unexpectedly agreed to perform in this remote little park.

The characters in this production are all memorable, beautifully brought to life by a very strong cast, as well as Donnie Bowes’ sensitive direction and direction.

Caroline Dawn, played by AnnaMarie Lea, is absolutely one of a kind. Stubborn, decidedly not shy and reserved, she seizes life brilliantly. She doesn’t just “love” superstar singer Jesse Emberley, she must adore him, even if it means making huge signs for his concert with “I’m your Rhinestone Lover” and providing far too much personal information. (She later has a slapstick encounter before the concert with a sleeping bag that nearly brings down the house.) Yet Caroline also cares deeply for Hannah: it worries her how closed Hannah is, her emotions firmly locked. (“Things must be pretty depressing back home if even the cat got away.”) Eventually, Caroline plans to do something about it.

Ray Bishop, with his own rustic sense of humor, also loves Hannah and has always tried to protect her. Brian Young plays some sort of small-town wise man, who tells Hannah “You don’t allow yourself to cry.” You keep your sorrow. At the same time, he can also leave audiences laughing when he draws inspiration from his past as a roadie for country music superstar Rhett. “He was always mobbed by women. This has never happened to me. The one or two that noticed me formed an orderly line. Ray knows about Hannah’s past, he knows why she distrusts most men, and he, like Caroline, is intent on finding a way to fix it.

Erin McKinnon’s Hannah has heavy responsibilities on her shoulders. His mother was obsessed with a “singer and traveler” man who made big promises and never returned. Now Hannah refuses to be dazzled by soft words and footless musicians – even one who entered her life one starry night 12 years ago and never quite disappeared from her heart. She is brave, determined – and also, perhaps, vulnerable.

Singer Kevin Aichele is a charming Jesse Emberley. Son Jesse is on the verge of becoming a superstar “but sometimes I look at those who have, and it scares me. Living life in a fishbowl. However, we learn there’s a reason he immediately agreed to perform at Sugar Road, a reason he’s coming back to a place and a girl he knew 12 years ago. However, this path back will not be easy. The formidable team of Caroline and Ray won’t let it hurt their Hannah. And Hannah herself is determined to keep her distance: she won’t be easily swayed…but it turns out Jesse won’t either. “Sugar Road,” on stage at the Upper Canada Playhouse, is a spectacle filled with laughter, blessed with special country magic, and populated by characters close to our hearts. After all, aren’t we all collectively crossing our fingers when Ray finally asks Jesse, “Are you here for the 4,000 people?” Or just this one? What a great evening of theatre.

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Rachel J. Bradford