By Andrea Nemetz, Entertainment Reporter
The Chronicle Herald
Those who didn’t find their eyes wet with tears – or at least misty – at the end of “Two Minutes of Silence: A Pittance of Time” at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium on Tuesday night are likely made of stone.
The musical-theatrical production, which features music by singer-songwriter Terry Kelly along with A First World War love story written by John Meir and Sandy MacKay, is well done throughout with an exceptionally moving ending.
Tuesday was the first performance of the show, which Kelly hopes to take on a regional tour next year around Remembrance Day. Tonight it will be performed at Ottawa’s Centrepoint Theatre.
Inspired by Kelly’s song “A Pittance of Time”, which appears on his CD “The Power of the Dream”, the two-hour show is structured a bit like the runaway hit musical Mamma Mia.
Mamma Mia features hit ABBA songs but isn’t about the Swedish supergroup. The entirely unrelated plot is advanced by the infectious disco rhythms of the iconic 70’s band.
A Pittance of Time features some of Order of Canada member Kelly’s biggest songs –“Moment to Moment”, “Safe Home”, “In My Father’s House” as well as “A Pittance of Time” – with the modern day songs used to illustrate the emotions of the two main characters whose lives play out more than 80 years ago.
Those characters are newlyweds Elsie (Jen MacDowell) and John Murray (Josh MacDonald) whose wedding has been rushed ahead before John departs for Europe.
Mine manager’s son John has volunteered for service even though his father could have secured him an exemption after Albert, his best friend from childhood, convinces him it’s the right thing to do.
The story is told through letters written by John, first on his journey overseas and then from the trenches, and by an increasingly despairing Elsie left behind at home. It begins on Oct. 1, 1914 with John jauntily declaring he’ll be home by Christmas and ends on April 15, 1917 with the battle at Vimy Ridge.
The sets are simple – Elsie at home with a wooden writing desk and box of letters and John behind a wall of sandbags – and the costumes evoke the period.
The spotlight shines on each character as they read the letters in which they pour out their hopes, fears, thoughts on the war and love for each other.
In between letters, Kelly, on electronic keyboard, Floyd King on guitar and Joe Butcher on bass perform Kelly’s hits as well as war songs including “ Pack Up Your Troubles”,“Its’s A Long Way to Tiperary”,“Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” and the “Whiffenpoof Song”.
After John learns he will be a father Kelly illustrates his euphoria by singing “We Can Do Anything”. When Elsie moves in with her parents after giving birth to little Victoria, Kelly shows her seeking the safety and warmth of family by singing “In My Father’s House”.
Kelly is at his best pouring his heart into his own material while MacDowell is outstanding, capturing the shifts of emotions of the woman left behind with ease and grace. And MacDonald is every inch the young idealistic soldier.
The production ends with a screening of the video for “A Pittance of Time”, a tribute to soldiers of yesteryear and the peacekeepers of today.