‘Aged’ opera singers rise to the occasion in Kanata Theatre stage production of Quartet

(The cast of the Kanata Theatre production, Quartet, rehearse for their May 9, 2023 debut at Kanata’s Ron Maslin Theatre. From l-r: Ian Stauffer, aka Reginald ‘Reggie’ Paget; Jenny Haynes, aka Cecily ‘Cissy’ Robson; Janet Rice, aka Jean Horton; and, Mike Kennedy, aka Wilfred “Wilf” Bond. Photos: submitted)

You are always guaranteed to see quality acting from the all-volunteer live theatre productions of Kanata Theatre. Quartet which opens on May 9 is no exception. The characters are charming, witty and light hearted as they act out their roles in which they share life’s lessons on growing old. The play relates the tale of four retired opera singers who live in a retirement home for retired professional musicians. Preparing to perform in the annual gala to celebrate Verdi’s birthday, the four singers come to terms with the fact that age has crept up on them, but they must rise to the occasion.

Tom Kobolak is the Producer of the Quartet production and told us, “there are two themes of the play: the sweetness of December romance and the deep need to seize every moment.” He believes the photos shared with us show the sincerity of the characters.

(An incredible countryside mural that covers a flat standing in back of a large onstage window. “While the mural serves a purpose on stage, it has occurred to many that the painter, Tony Walker, has created a real work of art that is deserving of recognition”, shares Tom Kobolak.)

As the Producer, Tom takes our readers through the preparations these ‘aged’ opera singers and crew members endure for the opening night of Quartet.   

As a play enters its final stages of production and opening night looms, the theatre’s backstage areas become all at once more interesting, animated, and baffling to the uninitiated.

From a seat in the empty auditorium, you can hear murmuring from the booth above and behind you, where the Stage Manager sits in a cramped little box discussing cues with the lighting and sound technicians. It will be their home for two weeks. Nearby, the lighting designer is contemplating how to remove an offensive and unwanted shadow that has somehow crept into his lighting plot. On stage, the set crew is debating how to move set pieces and furniture on and off stage efficiently and safely in near
darkness. In the wings, a props manager frowns, then walks off to search for a prop gone AWOL. Costumers plot how to quickly rip the clothes off an actor and stuff him into something else. Actors cluck and gargle and sing and moan to warm their voices. Everyone is living on fruit cups, cheese, crackers, Oreo cookies, celery and coffee. The director and the producer are sitting several rows away from you, trying to stay out of the way.

All this is on display at the Ron Maslin Playhouse as Kanata Theatre prepares to open its production of “Quartet”, by playwright Ronald Harwood.

(Reg Paget and Jean Horton may be old and aching but their affection for each other has never died.)

The play is about four long-retired and admittedly “old” opera singers, residents (“inmates” as one character remarks) of a home for aging musicians and singers, who valiantly attempt to relive their greatest moment on stage by presenting the famous quartet from Verdi’s opera “Rigoletto”. Challenges lie before them. Memories are becoming fragile and bones are creaking. Personalities clash. Bad moments and unfortunate actions from decades ago surface. And Heaven knows what they will sound like.

(Wilf may talk like an aging lothario, but he’s a heart of gold, and one can certainly see how much he cares for Cissy, who may be slowly slipping away.)

The cast of this charming production are too quaint to resist.

  • Jenny Haynes plays Cecily “Cissy” Robson
  • Ian Stauffer plays Reginald “Reggie” Paget
  • Mike Kennedy plays Wilfred “Wilf” Bond
  • Janet Rice plays Jean Horton
  • Howard Miller plays Bobby Swanson (voice-over)
(Reg, (standing above Jean, with Wilf seated behind him) in desperation, urges Jean to cast aside her past, purge herself of her “monstrous ego” and live for today, because there aren’t that many “todays” left.)

Quartet was intended to hit the stage in March of 2020, only to be crushed by COVID, a mere 8 days prior to opening. In effect then, the audience will see more than a fine play. They will see how an amateur theatre company finally deals with unfinished business. They will see how a group of volunteers, driven by determination and personal loyalty, gathers together to put a play back onto its feet. It promises to be a very special production.

Quartet opens at the Ron Maslin Theatre on Tuesday. May 9th and runs to Saturday, May 20th. To purchase tickets, subscriptions or further information, visit Kanata Theatre’s website at kanatatheatre.ca. Tickets are also available through the box office by calling, 613-831-4435.


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