GUEST COLUMN: Top-notch entertainment has always been available right here

Nadine Wark

More than once I’ve heard it said: “There’s no need to travel to London or Toronto to see great theatre.”

Nadine Wark

And because our Imperial Theatre is a venue for top-notch entertainment, that statement is a reality for many theatre-goers.

Besides booking professional artists, the theatre supports the local arts community, which graces the stage with impressive talents. Theatre Sarnia and groups such as Bluewater Musical Productions, Stars of Tomorrow and Hidden Talents, to name a few, and in recent years audiences have been thrilled by the musicals Chicago, 42nd Street, Beauty & the Beast, Mary Poppins and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Looking back, Sarnia-Lambton has showcased some amazing talent through community, church, school and theatre groups, some lasting decades.

The Polysar Glee Club comes to mind — a group of enthusiastic performers who provided so many memorable performances. Another quality group was the Art Christmas Aggregation, which performed many of their shows at the VPP in Petrolia.

As a member of that group in the early ‘90s, I loved the theatrical aspect of its performances, which featured a top-rate orchestra backing the singers.

Art Christmas was a music teacher and well-known musician who played with big bands, so he knew how to get the most out of the group. Some shows were Broadway-type, with singing and dancing, while others featured the ‘triple threat’ of acting as well.

The MelodYaires were a choral group I was honoured to be a part of, singing a wide range of music and formed through association with the ‘YMCA/YWCA.’ They were directed by Pauline Levy, a local music teacher, who ‘knew her stuff’ and put singers through their paces with a high standard of excellence. Concerts were held at the Sarnia Library, various churches, and other venues.

A favourite group to sing with was the Nightingale Chorus. Founder and director Carrie Beauchamp directs a Victorian Christmas show each December with beautiful sets, costumes, singing, dancing and acting. Appreciative Sarnia audiences anticipate this magical show annually.

The Nightingale Chorus provides local youth start in musical theatre, and many shows are a family affair with siblings and parents taking part. Many later audition for other groups and some leave town for a theatre arts education.

The executive director of the Imperial, Brian Austin Jr., has booked a solid block of Canadian entertainers for this fall and into 2018. Theatre Sarnia also has an impressive lineup of plays and musicals.

So before paying for travel, food, lodging and theatre tickets out of town, consider staying right here in Sarnia. You will not be disappointed.

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia