“Where Once They Stood”

Hey blog world! Last night I saw the most incredible show at Spirit of Newfoundland, “Where Once They Stood” starring Peter Halley, Shelley Neville, Sheila Williams, Kara Noftle, John Williams and Keith Power. My Best Buddy Allison came with me and we both immensely enjoyed ourselves.

Allison and I hadn’t seen each other in a while. It was really nice to have her at Spirit last night and have a chat about what’s been going on in our lives and gush over cute boys! I’m going to miss that when she moves away next month. I’ll have to help her set up a Skype account!

Unlike the majority of Spirit of NL’s shows, this one is a drama and it tells the story of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and their involvement with the First World War. There weren’t many dry eyes in the theatre that night. I even heard sniffles coming from the sound booth! I myself cried several times. It was such a powerful and emotional show.

There were a lot of lighthearted moments in act 1. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite! I loved the opening medley of wartime songs like “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag”, “Oh! What A Lovely War” and “All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor”.

Kara had so many amazing moments in the first act. During the wartime medley that opened the show, I was astounded by the high notes she was hitting and couldn’t get over how phenomenal her voice was! She sounded and looked absolutely gorgeous. The red dress she had on was stunning! I wonder if that comes in my size?

She stole the scene during the doctors office recruitment. She played a nurse who was assisting the doctor in interviewing potential Regiment members and at the same time she was looking for her “Mr. Right”. The way she swooned over John’s character was so cute!

As a recruitment effort, Shelley sang a song about only going out with those in the Army, Navy etc. There was some audience participation in this scene. Shelley sat on the laps of a few lucky men and sang to them! I love it when they do that. The audience members reactions are always priceless! John really impressed me during this song. He played the slide trombone, something I’d never seen him do before! It’s really cool the hidden talents that people have.

Sheila and Shelley impressed me when they sang the tongue twister of a song “Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers”! Try saying that 5 times fast! It’s really hard! The chorus is even more so!

Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers. Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young sister Susie shows. Some soldiers send epistles saying they’d rather sleep on thistles than the saucy, soft, short shirts for soldiers sister Susie sews!

It amazed me how Sheila and Shelley were able to sing this tongue-twisting song in lightning speed flawlessly! That must have taken a lot of practice!

Keith really showed his versatility in this show. One minute, he’s Brendan Button from Bay Bulls, lying about his age, calling himself William Fudge and stuffing his pockets with mustard pickles to try and be eligible to enlist, the next minute he’s a soldier missing his family and fearing for his life. He’s known for his drag and comedic abilities, but I have got to say, he is equally as phenomenal in serious roles. I think he was a perfect casting choice for this show.

The final scene of act one had me holding back tears. The boys were marching off to go to war and their families were saying goodbye to them. Shelley’s character wasn’t sure about her Joey’s decision to do this. She had a pit in her stomach and was very sad and scared. Sheila’s character was too but she did her best to comfort Shelley.

The first scene of act two was so funny! A few ladies from Britain had met the men at the pier and welcomed them by singing “The Maple Leaf Forever”. They decided to act “leafy” when they sang about the leaf. It was hilarious! The boys told the ladies about the similarities that they have with Britain and they said that they have deep roots within the country. They sang “Rule Britania” and Keith blew me away! I couldn’t believe the high notes he was hitting! Holy cats! I’m surprised that glass didn’t shatter!

The scenes about Christmas really tugged at my heart. Christmas is a family time. The thought of them having to spend Christmas in that awful war away from their families broke my heart and made those scenes in the show all the more emotional. I cried when John read Keith the letter that his parents wrote him about how much they miss him during this holiday.

However, I laughed when they read the response back! Keith can’t read or spell so he asked John for help writing a response to his parents. John took advantage of this opportunity and added in a lot more than Keith asked for. Writing as Keith, he told the parents all about his new, handsome friend John and that he wanted them to send John a box of chocolates!!

John Williams has a hauntingly beautiful voice. If he ever records an album, I’m going to add it to my bedtime collection (I like falling asleep to peaceful, relaxing music.) He sang a verse of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and my heart felt warm and fuzzy. Later in the show, he sang “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” and it was so moving. I almost cried!

In one scene, they were in Scruffy Murphy’s pub in Sydney Australia. That particular day was special to the Australians because it was April 25th, ANZAC (Australia, New Zealand Army Corps) day, which is their Remembrance Day. My Brother in law Ben is from Australia. It was really interesting learning a bit about his country’s history. Now I can tell him what I learned and maybe he can tell me more! I love learning interesting new things. I wonder if any of his relatives were part of the ANZAC?

After a rousing performance of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” things quieted down and the spotlight landed on Peter and Sheila as the others left the stage. Peter played the piano as they both sang “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. I was holding back tears. It was sung so beautifully.

The last scene of the show was of two soldiers on the night before the battle of Beaumont Hamel. It was funny at first, they sang about what they would do when the war ended. Then, their Private came in and with just 5 words, the scene took a turn and my heart dropped. “Are we gonna be ok?” Seeing how scared they were and hearing them ask that question broke my heart. I cried and felt like praying for them.

The last song in the show was “No Man’s Land”, known more commonly as “Willie McBride”. Again, I was holding back tears. It was absolutely beautiful! What a way to end the show!

At the end of the show, Peter gave audience members the opportunity to speak up and tell stories about loved ones in the regiment. Hearing them all, especially that of a man whose great-great-grandfather was one of the surviving 68, was amazing. I didn’t speak up last night because I don’t know much about him, but my great-grandfather Harold Weir was a member of the Regiment as well.

I did some research today, wanting to know more about great-grandpa Harold and I discovered that he too was one of the surviving 68. His number was 8127 and he served with the Forestry Unit. Thank you great-grandpa Harold for everything you did for our province and our country. I’m very proud of you!

In my opinion, “Where Once They Stood” one of the best shows Spirit has done. I’m making plans to come back and see it again! This time with my Poppy Weir. I’m going to book as soon as I can because this show always sells out and I don’t want to miss our chance! You don’t want to miss yours either! This show is a rollercoaster of laugh out loud funny, touching and heartbreaking moments that will all make you proud to be a Newfoundlander. It’s something not to be missed! Call 579-3023 or email reservations@spiritofnewfoundland.com to make your reservation. Visit their website for dates and other details.

One thought on ““Where Once They Stood”

  1. Pingback: 20 Years of Spirit | Aspie Diaries

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