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Music and laughs aplenty during ‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’


Where in the name of God might you find ‘Bruce Springdale’, Rex Murphy, Don Cherry, ‘Mick Jigger’ and Premier Kathy Dunderdale sharing a stage?

Members of the cast for ‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’ posed on the set following the show’s Grand Bank Regional Theatre Festival debut July 6. Pictured are Sharon King-Campbell, Stephanie Eveleigh, Anna Wheeler, Rob Thorne, George Rhyno, Owen Van Houten, Glenn Downey, Michael Worthman, Rachel Huys, Kathleen Hollett and Barry Welsh. Shawn Parsons also performs in the show. Paul Herridge Photo

This summer, that answer is the Grand Bank Regional Theatre Festival.

Pack up Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, ship it to outport Newfoundland, and what you get is ‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’, one of four regular productions playing this season.

From the moment the production assistant counts down from 60 seconds and the ‘on-air’ sign signals the show has gone live, the fun begins. 

Unlike the staple country music program from which the show borrows its name, there’s an assorted mix of song styles performed during ‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’.

It kicks off with traditional Newfoundland folk song ‘Old Polina’ and wraps with ‘End of the Line’ by super group The Traveling Wilburys’.

In between, you’ll hear several rock and roll numbers, a couple from the Rolling Stones.

‘Wagon Wheel’, made popular by Old Crow Medicine Show, Elvis’s ‘Suspicious Minds’, Ron Hynes’ classic ‘Sonny’s Dream’ and ‘Glow of the Kerosene Light’, whom many know from Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers, are also included amongst the 18-song set of tunes.

The musical selections are entertaining and work well for a diverse audience. However, there’s more to ‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’ than song. Interspersed throughout are several hilarious skits. That’s where veteran stage and screen actor Glenn Downey, serving as the show’s emcee, delivers.

He rants as hockey analyst Don Cherry, who then takes part in a performance of Stompin’ Tom Connors’ ‘The Hockey Song’, and executes a spot-on Rex Murphy monologue, using the Newfoundland icon’s own distinct linguistic styling to re-tell ‘Old Mother Hubbard’.

Other cast members – including new artistic director Michael Worthman, Stephanie Eveleigh, Kathleen Hollett, Owen Van Houten, Rachel Huys, Sharon King-Campbell, Shawn Parsons, George Rhyno, Rob Thorne, Barry Welsh and Anna Wheeling – also get in on the comedy.

Premier Dunderdale is spoofed at one point trying to sell a 10 per cent equity in Newfoundland and Labrador to the entrepreneurs of CBC’s ‘Dragons’ Den’.

‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’ is also one of two dinner shows offered during this summer’s lineup.

It kicks off with a delicious meal – that includes a salad, main course, dessert and tea/coffee – prepared by ‘kitchen magicians’ Hilda Cumby and Theresa Burton.

Not including dinner, the show portion which follows runs about 90 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission about two-thirds of the way through.

The festival’s 18th season looks like it is shaping up to be strong one.

Opening night kicked off this year July 5 with ‘Swept Away’, former artistic director Berni Stapleton’s story of the 1929 tsunami that struck the Burin Peninsula, to great reception and a packed house.

As far as ‘Grand Bank Opry Live!’ goes, the songs are fun and lively, the skits a riot and the overall experience well worth it and enjoyable.

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