Photo. Barbara Zimonick.
“Waiting for the Parade” by John Murrell has become a Canadian classic. First produced in Calgary in 1977, the play looks at WWII through the eyes of five women on the home front, their relationships with each other and with their families. The play’s structure is flowing and cinematic, consisting of slice of life vignettes and presentational monologues. These are connected by songs and sometimes dances of the period that also allow for minimal costume changes and changes of mood.
The five characters are rather predictable types. The oldest of the group is Margaret played pretty much on one note by Janet Michael, whose older son has enlisted and she’s left alone to cope with her rebellious teen-age son. Andrea Houssin plays Eve whose husband is excited about the war while she’s excited about film star Leslie Howard and not much else. Marta, well-played by Anita Wittenberg, has been a Canadian citizen since the age of 9. She has to deal with the prejudice caused by her German heritage and the arrest of her father.
Janet, played in a rather stereotypical manner by Deborah Drakeford, is in charge of the group and is indefatigable in her efforts to support the troops, perhaps to make up for the fact that her husband didn’t enlist. He has the “necessary” job of reading radio news twice a day. The most fully drawn character is Catherine and Shannon Currie shows us all the levels of this complex young woman. She’s a lively glamour girl who misses her young husband Billy. Her monologue about losing the memory of him “one piece at a time” is perhaps the play’s most powerful moment.
Drew Facey has done a nice job with the set, a large open room surrounded by walls with long windows and with a couple of pillars that provide alcoves. There’s also a studio piano up left used by Janet. His costumes are for the most part excellent, especially the exact hemlines and the period shoes, hair and wigs. The exception is the overly padded costume for Janet in an unsuccessful effort to make this attractive actor look middle-aged and dumpy. By the way, Miss Drakeford is the best dancer of the bunch.
Doug Perry’s sound is just fine and Ross Nichol’s lighting excellent. The end of the picnic scene is particularly effective. Steve Greenfield has done a fine job with the music and the cast sounds great on all the harmonies. Shelly Stewart Hunt’s jitterbug choreography is lively, if a bit repetitive.
Director Ashlie Corcoran has done a nice job of staging the piece. Both the end of the picnic and of the play make memorable stage pictures. Both Marta and Catherine need to get more comfortable with smoking, though. Also the last jitterbug leading directly into the final moment seems totally out of place. Although there are some nice dramatic moments such as the exchange at the picnic between Marta and Catherine, I wish Miss Corcoran had helped her actors develop fuller characters.
Part of the problem is the episodic structure of the play itself. With no dramatic through line, we don’t develop enough feeling for the character. Instead the songs just push us into generalized nostalgia.
“Waiting for the Parade” at 1000 Islands Playhouse through Sept. 20 Tkts: 613-382-7020
“Waiting for the Parade” produced by 1000 Islands Playhouse in association with Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, BC.
Director: Ashlie Corcoran
Set & Costumes: Drew Facey
Sound: Doug Perry
Vocal Director: Steven Greenfield
Lighting: Ross Nichol
Choreographer: Shelly Stewart Hunt
Catherine: Shannon Currie
Janet: Deborah Drakeford
Eve: Andrea Houssin
Margaret: Janet Michael
Marta: Anita Wittenberg