‘We have to stand up and be proud of who we are’: new musical celebrates northern Ontario
Andy Lowe shuddered and groaned loudly as he wondered how he was dragged back into the world of theater after some 30 years away.
And that includes returning to “actor’s dreams.”
“I could probably do without it right now, but it’s my community service, if you like,” said the veteran Sudbury singer-songwriter.
“And I get a real kick out of hearing the cast perform the songs I wrote.”
While Lowe is known for singing covers in downtown Sudbury bars and at Killarney Mountain Lodge, he has also written a collection of folk songs over the years about northern Ontario that are the basis of the new musical. No Fence.
“We’re doing it to show the regional pride through song,” said Lowe, who also wrote the play and directed it.
“We have a unique identity here in the mid-north and we need to celebrate it more in every way we can. We need to stand up and be proud of who we are. And that’s what this show is about. “
He said he first had the idea to make his songs about blueberry picking and miners and sunsets into a musical 20 years ago, but it came back to life after he sang them for a web concert during the pandemic directed by Sudbury Performance Group director Mark Mannisto.
Morning North6:36New musical based on the songs of Andy Lowe in northern Ontario
“I wouldn’t call it a musical jukebox, because I never had any hits,” Lowe said with a laugh.
“It’s a folk rock musical if you will. It’s set in a campground up north and they’re having their annual open mic night and there’s a variety of different characters that come and share their songs.”
Those characters are played by a variety of actors, including some community theater veterans and some first-timers.
“I think it’s definitely a new perspective,” said stage manager Jocelyne Lehto.
“And everyone can do their own thing and put it together.”
Lowe, who in previous years has also written plays about a faded popstar and one designed to warn children about the dangers of smoking, says with his rhyming dialogue and familiar subject matter, No Fence just a good time in northern Ontario.
“It’s not character-driven, it’s not plot-driven, it’s kind of fun,” he said.
“It’s driven by a passion for the places we love, the things we do.”
The new musical runs February 8-10 at Thorneloe University Theater in Sudbury.