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REVIEW: The music is back at the Mayfield

One thing stands out when watching the Mayfield Dinner Theatre's holiday season revue: live music has been sorely missed all these many months. If you're feeling the same way, take in Keep Calm & Rock On--a feel-good blast of 70s and 80s hits presented in Mayfield fashion. And even though COVID-19 prohibits audience members from singing along, it's doesn't mean you can't groove in your seat.

There's not much of a storyline to the Mayfield Christmas/New Year offering--it's a party show, and all about moving from one high-energy song to the next. This year's entry from Will Marks is the latest of a 20 year-long tradition of Christmas-season musical shows. This time we're following former bandmates who come together again to belt out a few hits and throw some barbs at each other for good measure.

The story doesn't much matter--it's all about the songs and live music. Players Harley Symington (guitar), Paul Lamoureux (sax/keys), Steve Hoy on drums, Derek Stremel on bass and Jennifer McMillan (keyboards/vocals) are in fine form. This show is worth the price of admission just to hear the band (even if they're encased in plexiglass).

All five cast members (smaller than the number in the usual holiday affair by half) are excellent rock 'n rollers, so there's not a dud in the under two-hour show. Veteran Mayfield performers Kieran Martin Murphy and Brad Wiebe have the necessary pipes for numbers like the Beatles Came in Through the Bathroom Window or Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. Jahlen Barnes brings the tenor to his own high-energy numbers --and the dance moves too. 

Erica Peck and Pamela Gordon, both with big hair and 80s hard rock outfits, excel when strutting across the stage or wailing through numbers like Pat Benatar's Barracuda or How Do I Get You Alone by Heart. Peck's voice is especially suited to the rock numbers of the 80s, but Gordon's vocals and energy are a highlight too, as she dances through Pharrell Williams' Happy or trades musical phrases with Wiebe during Lady Gaga's Shallow.

The clever setting (and more plexiglass) meets current COVID-19 theatre restrictions by placing performers into a sort of sound booth whenever they sing. The cohort can dance and move freely on stage because the group is in the Mayfield 'bubble', living at the theatre's adjacent hotel through the 11-week run. That's dedication, and the audience is the beneficiary of it.

There's an expanded table service menu with favourites like beef striploin and Yorkshire pudding, plus a dessert sampler platter that includes cookies and rice pudding. Patrons won't go away hungry, and party-goers enjoying a Christmas get-together have a substantial drink menu to set off the evening. As per COVID-19 protocol, seats are all well-distanced, in a house now at one-third of the usual 450 seats.

Keep Calm & Rock On runs until January 17.





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