Highly impressed by ‘Impresario’

Published on May 19, 2017

Philip Goodridge (L) as John Anderson Sr. and John Williams as John Murray Anderson

©Sean Jessome photo

The stage is set, and the audience is tittering with excitement. As the lights dim, the cast of “Impresario” floods onto the stage. It’s opening night of the bio-musical focused on Newfoundland theatre legend John Murray Anderson (JMA), and the pressure is on — JMA was, after all, “one of the greatest theatre impresarios of the 20th century,” the play explains.

The energy onstage at the LSPU Hall was contagious, as the 13-person cast, backed by a four-piece band, told the life story of St. John’s own John Murray Anderson.

We meet young, precocious JMA when he is just a boy, newly infatuated with the arts. He has found his passion, but his family is apprehensive.

His passion growing as he ages, JMA soon leaves to study abroad. A swift switch mid-song delivers a more age-appropriate JMA to the audience, and we travel together through the sands of time.

The story is almost unbelievable, as it follows a man who took many risks, refused to take no for an answer, and ultimately, believed in himself and his passion even when it seemed like no one else did.

Sitting in Row B, I can feel the floor shaking as the cast of talented actors and singers perform their choreography. The audience follows JMA through across the world, as he moves through a whirlwind romance, quick marriage, an ailing wife, and her eventual passing.

The cast of "Impresario" which is playing at the LSPU Hall
Sean Jessome photo

Throughout these emotional struggles, financial and artistic struggles are also present. At this point, neither the audience nor JMA know that “the harbour boy” will soon become “kinda a big deal,” as one show tune would later explain.

Once broke and hungry, JMA soon had so much fame and talent that he ended up drawing ire from Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., who didn’t enjoy the competition from this young rising star. This little rivalry would eventually fade, as JMA continued to create popular shows and prove his worth in the New York theatre scene. Mom, Dad, and even Ziegfeld would express their pride.

Partially presented as a matter-of-fact history lesson, “Impresario” provided a detailed account of this little known genius’s rise to fame. As someone who knew nothing of this piece of amazing Newfoundland history, this information was greatly appreciated. As the thrilling story continued, I was happy to soak in as much of the history lesson as I could. It was obvious throughout the show that its creator had enlightenment on the mind when crafting the script.

I’ll give credit where credit is due  … author, musical director, actor and singer Kyle McDavid has done what I had previously thought was near impossible: he created the first musical that I enjoyed not only on an artistic level, but on a personal level as well. Colour me very happily surprised. I’d continue this standing ovation if my word count wasn’t pressing me for this final note: Best Kind Productions, you’re best kind. Two thumbs up.