Frances Kelsey Secondary’s ‘All Shook Up’ was a hilarious musical and a great antidote to winter. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Lexi Bainas column: Wow! 2019 was quite a year for entertainment in the Cowichan Valley

From blockbuster musicals to Shakespeare under the trees, it was a banner year

No doubt about it: 2019 was one heckuva year in entertainment in the Cowichan Valley.

The year started, as it frequently does, with musical theatre.

In late January, we were delighted to see the return of Cowichan Secondary with their production of The Addams Family. With its catchy music, and familiar story, everyone who crowded in to École Mount Prevost to see it was able to enjoy a fun night out.

The Cowichan Musical Society’s blockbuster was How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying: a show that really gave its talented cast the chance to shine.

The Chemainus Theatre was up for it, too, bringing in The Sound of Music to brighten those grey days with the tunes everyone loves.

The end of February saw Frances Kelsey Secondary present All Shook Up to rave reviews from the audience.

Meanwhile, the Cowichan Valley’s many dancers and dance fans were enthralled to hear that Duncan’s Carlow Rush and his sidekick, Jacksun Fryer of Nanaimo, were going to appear on the NBC TV’s big, brassy World of Dance.

The Cowichan Music Festival was also underway and the Valley’s dance companies were deep in rehearsals for their big spring shows.

In fact, at the Cowichan Theatre, it was a busy and exciting year, with such shows as Coppelia, Matthew Good, Tom Cochrane, International Guitar Night, lots of great tribute acts, symphony concerts, and more.

For 2020, they’ll be kicking everything off with the Snowed in Comedy Tour on Friday, Jan. 17, and have lined up such favourite performers as Matt Anderson, Natalie MacMaster, and Colin James. Don’t miss them.

By March, James Meyer completed an astonishing trio of 2019 shows — the other two being How to Succeed in Business and All Shook Up, joining the cast of the Mercury Players The Dog in the Night Time and earning bravos for his performance.

When April came around, everyone was glued to the TV, following Rush and Fryer’s Funkanometry on World of Dance. Performing with both talent and humour, they didn’t win, but they did the Island proud.

Adagé Studio brought the colourful story of Aladdin to the stage in April, the Mercury Players presented Beau Jeste, and Chalkboard Theatre stepped up with Back to the 80s.

The Chemainus Theatre presented the hilarious play, The Foreigner, to delighted audiences in April before launching their summer blockbuster, the tuneful, funny, and touching Mamma Mia!

A solemn memorial for the late Roger Sparkes was held at the Cowichan Theatre: the venue he loved and promoted. But, although tears flowed as friends remembered him, there were plenty of laughs, too. He was that kind of guy.

The newly-named Cowichan Bluegrass Festival was held for the first time at Laketown Ranch, moving to the Cowichan Lake area from Sooke, and presenting top drawer talent for fans.

Over the Canada Day weekend Laketown Shakedown drew everyone back to the Ranch, especially for the hugely popular Snoop Dogg show.

Meanwhile, in the Valley’s core, The 39 Days of July kicked off, with the first of its Duncan Has Talent events. These showcases bring out young performers and their families, offering a stage and a chance to win money as well as to get experience in front of an audience.

Also in July, the Islands Folk Festival was back with a full lineup on many stages, drawing big crowds to Providence Farm in the shadow of Mount Tzouhalem.

Shakespeare was back, too, as the Shawnigan Players presented Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure to admiring audiences, both at the 39 Days and at their home stage at the Gem O’ the Isle in Cowichan Station. It’s always a pleasure to see how much interest there is in Shakespeare, and how live theatre holds the attention of even quite young children.

Sunfest’s showstoppers in 2019 were Jason Aldean and Terri Clark, and their shows thrilled huge numbers of fans. However, many Valley friends gathered in front of the big stage for a show by local songstress Lindsay Elzinga as well.

The Chemainus Theatre presented an unusual musical, Lumberjacks in Love, in October, and if the wildly enthusiastic response from the audience is anything to go by, this show will likely be seen again before many years go by.

Another hilarious play to hit local boards was the Mercury Players’ Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike: ridiculous and touching at the same time, the show was a big hit.

The Chemainus Theatre’s holiday season show, Miracle on 34th Street, presented the classic story of Kris Kringle and his effect on a young girl’s somewhat jaundiced view of Christmas.

The Cowichan Musical Society was finally able to announce that their 2020 production would be Mamma Mia! They had been forced to wait because the show had been snaffled up by the neighbouring professional theatre.

As Christmas approached, the Kaatza Lakeside Players, who had faced closing down due to lack of volunteers, were able to hit the comeback trail with a successful production, Little Scrooge.

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On the big stage at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Adage Studio’s big production of Aladdin drew raves from enthusiastic crowds. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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