About four years ago we spent five days in Newfoundland. Yes, we visited that stunning landmark Inn on Fogo Island as it had captured our curious design loving hearts. But, it was the rugged sparse land and sense of community that completes the whole image of Newfoundland. We had never visited anywhere quite like this and because of the time of year, we had very little to do yet we had so much to see and learn. Where else would people invite you to their family home that appears untouched by time and tell you stories and then take you to a shed where locals have gathered to pass the time and stopping to watch Caribou cross the road? I admit I knew very little about Newfoundland aside from having one friend from Gander and having seen Come From Away. But that one unforgettable visit left a welcoming door wide open. I have a soft spot for this part of our country that seems so far away. So, when I had learned about the Newfoundland musical No Change in the Weather, I was all in and without hesitation.
The No Change in the Weather musical is a fictional story as friends and family gather to bid a final farewell to Peggy O’Brien (Kelly-Ann Evans) before she is returned to the sea – her final resting place. As per Peggy’s final wishes they sneak her body and coffin out of the funeral home/tanning salon and gather. Her spirit or “fetch” witnesses and with a dose of fun haunting the minds of those who were at the makes shift wake.
There was plenty of familiar Newfoundland culture and a whole ton of personality injected into the musical – yes, welcome to that “kitchen party/shed party feel”. And gathered by the bursts of laughter from parts of the audience, there were nuggets tossed in for true Newfoundlanders. Currently searching up hairballs and sewer system? Death doulas? Funeral Ghouls?
Lots of historical morsels are stitched into the patchwork fabric of this story for those who may not be too familiar — the story touches on the once flourishing cod fishing industry and life of the fishermen, the Portuguese explorers, flat earth believers, but the devastating financial story of Churchill Falls was the most prominent as the two estranged sons (Steve Ross and Duff MacDonald) of Peggy served up a heavy dose of politics and family drama. Secrets are shared, last words are spoken and Peggy can finally rest.
But this is a musical and it works in some of Newfoundland’s traditional and familiar songs sounds and instruments in the production . I haven’t heard I’se the B’y since I was a child like and suddenly I find myself really listening to the words. Sonny’s Dream may also be familiar as are others. The music for the most part is beautiful and some hauntingly so. Some real gems here that could easily make for a easy snowy afternoon playlist.
It may take a bit to catch onto the Newfoundland accent and phrases at first but you’ll get the gist of most of it. Some will be explained but don’t worry too much if you don’t follow along word for word. You will still understand the story line and the how the resilience of the people continues as it always will.
Oh, and in case you are wondering it’s pronounced Newfoundland…like understand.
The musical celebrates the rich musical heritage of Newfoundland whilst telling a story about the personal and political shenanigans of Canada’s youngest province. An earlier version of the show played in St. John’s in 2019 before going on a Canadian tour. The pandemic provided an opportunity to revise and further hone the production. Producer Bob Hallett describes it as a jukebox musical, but the songs are not from one artist or group but from the canon of the province’s song book.
This newly imagined adaption musical has an original book by Bernardine Stapleton, adapted by Steve Cochrane, directed by Brad Hodder, and with musical direction by Kelly-Ann Evans and Josh Ward.
The all-Canadian cast of seasoned east-coast artists — and a few “Come From Aways” for good measure — includes Kelly-Ann Evans, Steve Ross, Duff MacDonald, Vicki Harnett, Seana-Lee Wood, Melanie O’Brien, Steve Maloney, Philip Goodridge, Julia Dunne, Renée Strasfeld, Erin Mackey and Liam Eric Dawson.
No Change in the Weather is playing at the CAA Theatre in Toronto for a limited engagement until November 27, 2021. For more information visit www.mirvish.com.