Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Stephenville Theatre Festival gets top marks for "The Country Show"



   by Keith and Heather Nicol 
 We recently attended “The Country Show” at the Stephenville Theatre Festival and we give this show "two thumbs up" for its variety and quality of the performance.  There was a large band and many singers and the cast covered lots of country favourites from Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and Shania Twain. The musical director is well known Newfoundland performer, Pamela Morgan and Dave Panting keeps the music flowing on stage. The cast performed 24 songs in all and started off strongly with a toe tapping version of “Jambalaya”. In the first act we also liked their renditions of “Ring of Fire” and “Good Hearted Woman”. In the second act, Pamela Morgan did an amazing job with “Ode to Billy Joe” and new singers came on stage and wowed the audience with “Jolene” (Emily Ramsdale) and “Man, I feel like a Woman” (Erica Anderson).  Even if you are not big fans of country and western music you will enjoy this high energy performance. There are just 3 more presentations of “The Country Show” so check the box office for details (ph 709-643-4553). The show we attended was sold out so you should get your tickets ahead of time if you plan to see this show.
Dave Panting is one of the main performers in "The Country Show"
The Stephenville Theatre Festival is celebrating its 36th year this summer and runs from July 11 to August 10, 2104. It is Newfoundland’s longest running theatre festival and overall there are 5 shows being presented this summer. “Jack meets the Cat” is their family show and is performed on Sunday afternoons. They are also doing the comedy “The Birthday Party”, “Music from Home” and their flagship performance “The Nobleman’s Wedding” as well as “The Country Show”. For more information see http://www.stephenvilletheatrefestival.com/  
The Stephenville Theatre Festival sings "Good Hearted Woman"  

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Golf by the ocean at the Harmon Seaside Links in Stephenville, Newfoundland



by Keith and Heather Nicol
We recently had a chance to check out the Harmon Seaside Links in Stephenville before we attended a Stephenville Theatre Festival performance that evening.  It made a great combination – Golf by day, play by night. The course is an 18 hole –par 72 golf course right across the road from Bay St. George.  This means that you often get a refreshing breeze which has been nice this summer with its record breaking heat.  The course is flat so is great for walkers and we had a very enjoyable afternoon exploring this course. There is quite a bit of water which adds to the scenery but it really only comes into play on a few of the holes. And although everything appears to be wide open you need to be accurate with your tee shots to avoid the rough along the sides and fairway sand traps. Despite the dry, hot conditions the greens were in good shape. 
Heather putting on the 5th hole
 The course provides good views of the Indian Head Range and the community of Stephenville can be seen in the background. On the day we played the wind was not too much of an issue but be aware that it often can be windy, particularly in the afternoon.  The front nine is more protected from the wind since it has been cut out of the forest and is an ideal choice if you only want to play 9 holes. Joan Tobin, the pro shop manager, told us that they are having a great summer and that quite a few visitors had dropped by to play. The 2014 Harmon Invitational will be taking place on August 1-3, 2014. This annual tournament will once again be a two-man best ball format, with the lower of the two handicaps being used for the team scores. The club also has a putting green, power carts, and a driving range.  Be sure to check out this web site for more information-  http://www.harmonseasidelinks.com/ 
Keith teeing off on the 9th hole

Friday, 18 July 2014

Be sure to take in the Stephenville Theatre Festival this summer



by Keith and Heather Nicol
    The Stephenville Theatre Festival is celebrating its 36th year this summer and its most ambitious performance is “The Nobleman’s Wedding” which is billed as a folk opera. Pamela Morgan, one of Newfoundland’s most well known musicians, has created The Nobleman’s Wedding from a folk song that she happened to learn in Stephenville many years ago from Jack and Ellen Carroll. We thought all of the performers were very impressive with both their acting and their singing. And the band (which includes Pamela Morgan) is first rate. The story line is easy to follow and deals with 2 lovers -Nancy (a nobleman’s daughter) and Thomas (a lowly sailor).  Their union is greatly opposed by Nancy’s parents and they conspire to separate them.  Can they find a way to be together? We loved the costumes and the music and fully recommend this play to anyone. 

Erik Mrakovcic (left) and Erica Anderson star in "A Nobleman's Wedding"  (credit photo Caroline Hunt)
     We have also just seen “Music from Home” which is Stephenville Theatre Festival’s tribute to Newfoundland music. A large cast of musicians and singers cover alot of ground in this performance which includes familiar Newfoundland songs like Sonny’s Dream and Heave Away as well as several short stories.  Since some of the cast has its roots in other countries they have also included some folk songs from Croatia and Israel. The musical director is Newfoundland icon, Pamela Morgan .  Dave Panting  (of Figgy Duff and Rawlings Cross fame) also plays a large role in the performance.  The entire group performs over 20 songs and stories in the cozy second stage which means everyone has a good seat.  This show has something for everyone. 
Matthew Payne (left) and Jonathan Silver perform in "Music from Home"
      The Stephenville Theatre Festival runs from July 11 to August 10, 2104 and overall there are 5 shows being presented this summer. “Jack meets the Cat” is their family show and is performed on Sunday afternoons. They are also doing the comedy “The Birthday Party” and another musical , “The Country Show”.  For more information see http://www.stephenvilletheatrefestival.com/  And for people visiting the Stephenville area, check out the Days Inn (www.daysinn.com) which has special "Stay and Play" packages.
 Music from Home sings "Heave Away"

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Whales and Sunsets in Gros Morne National Park



  by Keith and Heather Nicol                             
     On Friday afternoon, July 11 just as the skies opened up we started driving from Corner Brook  to Gros Morne National Park. The forecast was calling for good weather so we hoped the heavy rain was localized and sure enough as we headed north from Deer Lake it began to clear and by the time we reached Woody Point it was sunny again. We checked into the comfortable Victorian Manor Efficiency Units (http://www.grosmorne.com/victorianmanor/) and shortly thereafter our friends Martin and Molly Ware arrived. Our plan was to show them some short hiking trails that we had discovered the previous fall and have dinner at the Merchant Warehouse which just opened last year on the Woody Point waterfront. 


Walking the Beach Trail in Woody Point
     After a short hike along the Beach Trail (trailhead 21 0433316 E 5482899 N) we wondered down to the Merchant Warehouse and chose a table on the deck overlooking the ocean. No sooner had we sat down than we spotted a couple of minke whales cruising for their dinner. Our waitress told us that minke whales had been frequent visitors to the Woody Point area this summer but we think it is the very first time we have seen whales from our dining room table!! 
We saw minke whales from the deck of the Merchant Warehouse
     For supper we had a mix of dishes and we really enjoyed their most popular dinners – the “cod bites” served with a caesar salad as well as the deep fried cod . The Merchant Warehouse is more than just a place to eat. One of our favourite groups, the “Once” was playing there to a sold out crowd the next  night. Contact the Merchant Warehouse to find out what other musical events they have planned for this summer-ph. 709-453-2485.
The deep fried cod and caesar salad were delicious
   After supper we headed to Trout River where we wanted to walk on the waterfront boardwalk and see the sunset.  We weren’t disappointed and the warm weather had lots of people strolling along the beach. A high band of cloud came along and the sun highlighted the cloud as it set.  Awesome!
Head to the Trout River boardwalk for great sunsets
    The next morning (Saturday, July 12) we enjoyed a great breakfast on the deck of the Victorian Manor. The sun shimmered off of Bonne Bay and we could see Gros Morne Mountain in the distance. This deck is a real bonus and we feasted on eggs and sausages while we planned the day.
We enjoyed eating breakfast on the deck of the Victorian Manor
     We suggested to  Martin and Molly that they might like to check out one of the community trails in Trout River so after packing up we drove to the Old Man – Lighthouse trailhead in Trout River (21 U 0418042 E 5481221 N) . The 800 meter (1 way) trail climbs steeply at first before traversing the flat marine terrace. This trail has very good vistas of the community of Trout River as well as its fishing boats and wharves.  The route traverses past fields of wildflowers and we saw buttercups, hair bells , blue flag iris, and daisies along the way. There is a 140 meter side trail to the Old Man which is a pinnacle shaped rock formed when sea levels were higher at the close of the last ice age.   
Walking on the Lighthouse Trail near Trout River
     For our picnic lunch we headed to the Parks Canada day use area at scenic Trout River Pond.  Then before heading back to Corner Brook, we drove to one of our favourite lookouts in this area which provides an excellent view of Trout River Pond. The coordinates of the lookout are: 21 U 0418535 E and 5479155 N. The southern part of Gros Morne National Park has much to recommend it and we will be back before the summer is over to check out more of its hikes and other activities.
The southern part of Gros Morne Park is also home to the unusual Tablelands

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Be sure to see the Stage West Theatre Festival in Corner Brook this summer




 by Keith and Heather Nicol
    Stage West Theatre Festival (SWTF) is celebrating its 6th year and offers residents and visitors to Corner Brook more great entertainment for an evening out. One of their five evening shows runs almost every night from July 2 to August 1 at either the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre or the Royal Canadian Legion. All shows start at 8:00 pm and you can pay $17 per show or buy a season pass for just $65.  So far we have seen the first three shows. The Artistic Directors Mike Payne, Stephen Perchard and Jordan Stringer must be very happy with the great turnouts for these events and the audience’s enthusiastic response.
The Fine Tyme Cast

        First up was “A Fine Tyme”, which is SWTF’s flagship tribute to Newfoundland and its music. We thought this performance was a good mix of traditional tunes and many were new to us. Some songs were sung with all 6 performers and others allowed  the vocalists to shine on their own, and shine they did. Overall “A Fine Tyme” presents close to 20 songs and it is a show everyone will enjoy.
The Nuns of "Nunsense"
      Next we saw “Nunsense” (by Dan Goggin) which was a long running off Broadway musical in the mid 1980’s.  There was a very good turnout for this performance at the Arts and Culture Centre and it promises to be a popular show this season for the SWTF. The backstory is that due to food poisoning which has killed most of their flock, a group of nuns must raise money to bury them. They decide on presenting a variety show which has the 5 nuns singing and dancing to entertain the crowd. There is lots of humour and Anne Gregory, Janice Spencer, Pam Gill, Wendy Woodland and Miranda Power do a fine job with their singing and bringing each quirky character to life. This is a show that all ages will find entertaining.
Ian Locke (left) and Emma Anderson star in "Proof"

         “Proof” by David Auburn is a serious play about mental illness, caregiving and strained family dynamics.  Catherine (Emma Anderson) has been looking after her father Robert (Jordan Stringer) who was once a brilliant mathematician.  As he slides further into madness and dies, she is concerned she may have inherited his insanity as well as his genius. Toshon Dawe plays Catherine’s sister who has a great life in New York and has come back for her father’s funeral. Ian Locke plays Hal, one of Robert’s former students. The play was the winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the 2001 Tony Award for Best Play and was made into a movie in 2005. We thought all four actors did an  incredible job with their roles. Don’t miss this play! There is a warning for mature content and language. 
      Stage West is also performing “Say Nothing Saw Wood” and “A Steady Rain” later in July and we are looking forward to those shows. New for this year are two children’s shows that will be performed in the afternoon on the Majestic Lawn.   For more information and for a complete schedule check out: http://www.stagewesttheatrefestival.com/