Skip to main content

Theatre Reviews No Change in the Weather’s artful music is a breath of fresh Newfoundland air

The cast of No Change in the Weather perform onstage.

Chris LeDrew/Handout

  • No Change in the Weather
  • Director: Ruth Lawrence
  • Written by: Walter Schroeder and Bernardine Stapleton
  • Musical Director: Paul Kinsman
  • Venue: Seven Oaks Centre for the Performing Arts, Winnipeg
  • Year: Runs until Sept. 14th
  • Starring: Kelly-Ann Evans, Mark Whelan, Paul Rowe, Marquita Walsh, Calvin Powell, Brooke C. Adams, Keelan Purchase, Vicki Harnett, Olivia Heaney, Alex Abbott, and Robyn Huxter

rating

This well-sung Newfoundland jukebox musical, a political cautionary tale with former Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood as the anti-hero and (Hydro) Quebec as the villain, is a story within a story.

One plot focuses on the Churchill Falls hydro development debacle, which sees Newfoundland roundly fleeced for decades as a result of some catastrophic failures at a negotiating table, and the continuing political and economic fallout of these failures. These issues form the backdrop for the second narrative, about a charmingly dysfunctional Newfoundland family coming together one last time to honour its deceased matriarch’s final wishes by gathering at her house in the tiny hamlet of God’s Back Pocket, Newfoundland. After some initial exposition that feels a bit like a history lesson, these two stories combine with other tales into a heady family drama. But be careful – there may be ghosts about.

Story continues below advertisement

At first, this double storyline seemed a rather weak premise on which to hang a musical. Taking the time before curtain to read the 10 glossy pages of historical information in the program, although useful to understanding the drama onstage, eventually had my eyes glossing over. In the opening scenes, the family members argue about the HydroQuebec/Smallwood issue, seemingly having forgotten they’ve just lost their mom. But after this lengthy exposition set the scene, we finally had a song to break things up and the show reached new heights.

The cast’s singing featured the delicate phrasing needed for this material, with obvious attention to detail in its movement/choreography. The colourful timbres of the performers’ singing voices were matched by the rawness of the tin whistle, the fiddle and other traditional instruments. The uniqueness, unpredictability and tremendous variety of Newfoundland folk music was lovingly brought to life by the musicians and the musical arrangements. The band, overflowing with the best from Newfoundland’s vibrant music scene, was understated but brilliant, with effective and nuanced renderings of the music. However, I really missed seeing the musicians perform, as they were hidden in the wings. A show such as Come from Away and, more recently, Rainbow Stage’s Strike! both benefited enormously from having the musicians integrated into the stage action.

Trying to follow in the admittedly huge footsteps of Come From Away (which made it all the way to Broadway and then overseas, winning a Tony award on the way) is no easy task, but there is plenty of outstanding talent on display here. Producer/arranger Bob Hallett and musician Alan Doyle, former members of the iconic Newfoundland band Great Big Sea, give us original arrangements of traditional tunes, as well as new songs. One of the best original songs of the night was in fact Doyle’s Heavy Nets – its poignancy was well-paced and it was delivered with powerful anguish, the rising melody sweeping us along. The cast’s polished performances were enhanced by some exceptional zingers in the script and one highly entertaining plot twist. There was pure poetry to be found, albeit sometimes enmeshed in the political and financial jargon.

The show’s heartfelt last scene, with its semi-wordless embraces between characters, was a stroke of genius. All told, the intertwining of the two stories, one political and one familial, with some of the finest East Coast music artfully performed, reached my heart and stayed with me. The last fiddle tune, Black Duck Brook Jig, was still dancing in my head after I had left the theatre.

Live your best. We have a daily Life & Arts newsletter, providing you with our latest stories on health, travel, food and culture. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter