Canada’s best come to Sarnia

Starbright Summer Festival
Produced & Directed by David Hogan

Imperial Theatre, Sarnia
July 7 to August 16, 2009

Live! On Stage!
By Mary Alderson

The Heart of Broadway
Musical Direction by Mark Payne

Performed by June Crowley, Susan Gilmour, Marcus Nance, Cory O’Brien, Rebecca Poff, and David Rogers.

Sarnia has been blessed this summer to host the best in Canadian musical theatre. Produced by Stratford actor David Hogan, four shows are running in repertoire at the Imperial Theatre.
The Heart of Broadway is a delightful evening of songs from Broadway. It opens with a medley of musical theatre hits involving all six performers; each of them stars in their own right.
David Rogers has played leading man roles in a myriad of musical productions and is best known for playing both Raoul and the Phantom in Toronto’s long-running Phantom of the Opera. June Crowley is a veteran of the Stratford and Shaw Festivals and has been on stage all over North America. She is also best known for her role in Phantom of the Opera, as Christine. Susan Gilmour played Fantine in Les Miserables in Toronto, on Broadway, in Los Angeles and around the world. She has also starred in numerous productions such as Evita, Cats, Into the Woods, and Joseph.
Rebecca Poff has performed in Phantom of the Opera and Show Boat and is a favourite at Huron Country Playhouse, having starred in the past as Marion the Librarian in The Music Man, Aldonza in Man of LaMancha, and in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Marcus Nance is familiar as the Beast in London’s Grand Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast and as the Mikado in The Mikado at Huron Country Playhouse. He has also appeared in My One and Only and To Kill a Mockingbird in Stratford. Cory O’Brien spent four seasons with the Stratford Festival, most recently in Cabaret. He has also been in numerous Toronto productions such as Iolanthe, Lord of the Rings, and Man of LaMancha.
With six such experienced and talented performers, The Heart of Broadway can’t help but be an excellent show. In fact, the cast received standing ovations at the end of Act One, and again at the end of the evening. Act One concludes with numbers from Les Miserables. Susan Gilmour sings “I Dreamed a Dream” as she did as Fantine. Then two Les Mis show stoppers are presented: “Bring Him Home” followed by the entire cast giving an amazing performance of “One Day More”.
At the end of Act Two, David Rogers and June Crowley sing “All I Ask of You” and “Think of Me”, followed by Rogers singing “Music of the Night”, from Phantom of the Opera.
Marcus Nance singing Show Boat’s “Old Man River” is a crowd pleaser, followed by Gilmour having some fun with “Blow Gabriel Blow”. Rebecca Poff provides comedy with “Arthur in the Afternoon”, and later she introduces the Dream songs with Abba’s “I have a Dream” from Mamma Mia.
Cory O’Brien sings “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago, and later O’Brien and Rogers garner some laughter when they perform the duet “Agony” where two princes compare their sorrows in Into the Woods.

Cynthia Dale in Concert
Performed by Cynthia Dale
Accompanied by Charlene Nafziger

Cynthia Dale, is of course, well-known as Stratford’s leading lady of musicals, appearing such classics as Camelot, Man of LaMancha, My Fair Lady, Anything Goes and South Pacific. She brings selections from these shows and many more to Sarnia in concert. Among the audience favourites are “Meadowlark” from The Baker’s Wife and “Moon River”.
Dale is very personable, with friendly patter between songs. She talks about Pete (her husband, CBC National News anchor Peter Mansbridge), son Will, and their home in Stratford. She sings a very touching number dedicated to her young son.
She concludes with “Impossible Dream” as her encore number and gets a warm standing ovation.
It is indeed wonderful to see such high-calibre professionals in Sarnia’s Imperial Theatre. Credit goes to the local community theatre group, Theatre Sarnia, for restoring this old movie house to a beautiful Art Deco live theatre. My only concern with the venue is the seating: instead of staggering the rows of seats, the chairs are placed one directly behind another. For the Cynthia Dale concert, I was seated behind a woman who had beautiful upswept hair with large fluffy curls framing her head. It was nearly impossible to see Dale when she stood by the grand piano at centre stage, which she did much of the time.
Also part of the Starbright Summer Festival are two other productions: You’ve Got a Friend and Tuesdays with Morrie. You’ve Got a Friend features the Mantini Sisters and David Rogers singing favourites from the seventies. The Mantinis have been favourites on the stage at Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia. Tuesdays with Morrie is a poignant play written by Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom about one his favourite professors. Cory O’Brien plays Mitch, while Aron Tager reprises the role of Morrie, which he performed so well at London’s Grand Theatre.
An amazing amount of talent assembled on one stage – Starbright Summer Festival is a wonderful surprise for Sarnia.
Starbright Summer Festival continues at the Imperial Theatre, Sarnia until August 16. For tickets, call the Imperial Theatre box office at 1-877-344-7469 or 519-344-7469 or see

Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.