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You've Got to be Kidding...

Welcome Back


Jonathan van Bilsen

October 7, 2021

Welcome Back

I recently saw an ad for the Town Hall Theatre in Port Perry and a new production they were putting together. I was extremely intrigued, as it has been a very long time since I was able to go to live theatre.

It started me wondering when was the last time I actually attended a concert? I love musical theatre and have always made a point of seeing most new productions in Toronto, and every production in Port Perry.

So, here is where the irony comes in. The last live production I went to was at the Town Hall Theatre in Port Perry. It was a show, presented by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Durham. I remember it well because it was in March of 2019, around my birthday, when the world shut down.

Walking into the theatre was eerie. Most of the seats were empty and we sat by ourselves. There was a quiet solitude around us, as most people were nervous and unsure of what to say. I could tell several were wondering if they made the right choice in coming.

It was all so new then. Masks were hard to get, sanitizing lotion was scarce, and there was a shortage of toilet paper, which I still can’t get my head around. We stayed and the show went ahead and it was wonderful. The fear of the unknown was subdued by the great performance.

Flip the calendar ahead 20 months and once again I was able to see live theatre in Port Perry. Not only was it the same theatre, as my last live show, but we sat in the identical seats. The theatre did a wonderful job of separation. People adhered to wearing masks, showing proof of vaccination, and staying well distanced in tiny bubbles (I had to bring Don Ho into this somewhere).

The production was a Welcome Back show, celebrating the 150th birthday of our little town. For anyone who has lived, played and worked in Scugog, the list of performers was a virtual who’s who. Irwin Smith crooned out those tunes from days gone by, and even played one piece accompanied by his granddaughter. Catherine Pavlik sang a piece from Phantom of the Opera, in her wonderful alto-soprano voice. It was treat to hear Rebecca Rodley sing from her upcoming musical, The Little Mermaid and Bill McKee made the trek from the Far East (of Ontario) to bellow out not only his town cries, but a fantastic rendition of Old Man River, that had the audience cheering. The Dukes (Durham Ukuleles) played some great sing-a-long tunes, and Liz Austin, who is one of our most multi-talented residents, did an unbelievable rendition of a Mama Mia medley. Alissa Smith coordinated it all with her great musical ability and talent.

It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to and thank you to all involved. Yes, the talent was amazing, but it was also good to get out and enjoy life, with a flicker of how we remember it. I am grateful to the people of Scugog for obeying the rules, being kind, and putting others first. That is why, as a community, we have the pandemic on the run.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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