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South Simcoe Theatre presents murder-mystery with comedic flair

The Last Resort features 'great comedy mixed with musical palpitations and pulsating performances'

The South Simcoe Theatre (SST) is taking live theatre to its Cookstown stage once again, with the Norm Foster and Leslie Arden comedic murder-mystery musical The Last Resort, running for two weeks, June 16 to 26.

Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m.

In its promotional material SST teases, “This show will be bleeding out great comedy mixed with musical palpitations and pulsating performances enough to stop, well, someone’s pulse. Is that going to happen on stage? We’re not saying anything! Come to our show and find out!”

Director Richard Varty said: “Our producer, Richard Birch, and I talked a lot about what we could do with the show and the ultimate goal was to make people laugh. If we can collectively create something that lets the audience lose themselves for 90 minutes and share some laughs, that’s a job well done.”

Musical director Suu Taylor was unfamiliar with the script until asked to be part of the production.

She said, “I giggled all the way through the script and had decided I wanted to be part of this production before I even saw the score. When I did get to see the music, I discovered that Leslie Arden and I share a love for Sondheim. Very few composers do musical comedy well, but her writing is witty and clever. It is also challenging, so I knew my work was cut out for me.”

Focusing on the music early in the rehearsal period was strategic in laying a strong foundation before adding the elements of choreography, staging and character work.

The script, known as the book, was written by Canadian playwright Norm Foster, and the music created by Canadian musical theatre composer, lyricist and librettist Leslie Arden. Varty said anyone who has performed her work knows the intricacies that come along with such beautiful music.

He added, “Unlike the more classic musicals, there is music interlaced during scenes instead of standing alone between scenes. It offers more opportunities to collaborate with the music director and choreographer to help tell the story.”

That story involves Nick, a big-city restaurateur on the run from the mob. Angela, the FBI agent assigned to protect him from a mob assassin, brings him to a place where he should be safe, a place where he can meld into the surroundings while hiding away — a hotel in rural Saskatchewan.

As the story progresses, questions arise: Is Nick safe? Is one of the other guests at The Last Resort really who they appear to be? What are identical twins Julia and Jessica actually doing in this remote place? Why would Sid and Liz pick this place to have a second honeymoon? And the poet, Trent — what is his story? Freda, the establishment’s owner, is a puzzle. Will Inspector Closely be able to solve a murder in The Last Resort?

All those involved in The Last Resort, and all of SST’s productions, volunteer their theatre expertise and talent. Beyond directing, Taylor plays piano during rehearsals and performances of this show. She studied voice at the University of Windsor, and after graduation studied and performed with various opera companies and studios in the GTA. She teaches voice and piano from her home studio. She is also executive director of the South Simcoe Arts Council.

Varty has a degree in dramatic arts from Brock University. He is an experienced actor and director. He has had various roles on and off stage at SST, Theatre by the Bay, Burro’d, Theatre Aurora, Theatre Georgian Bay and Talk is Free Theatre.

The actors bringing The Last Resort characters to life are Steve McMahon as Nick Galeazzo, Jocelyn Bertram as Julia/Jessica Youngstead, Dave Kouhi as Sid Barzini, Nancy Knapp as Liz Barzini, Luis Garcia as Trent Balfour, Michelle Greig as Angela Miller, Mark Hayward as Freda Heitz, and Ross Skoggard as Inspector Closely.

To enjoy a funny, music-filled show and to find out if Nick’s run from the mob is successful, contact the SST’s box office. Please call 705-458-4432 or email boxoffice@thesouthsimcoetheatre.com.