By Cathy Pelletier
Comical counterfeiting, ghostly wanderings and staged séances are all part of a new play making its Canadian premiere in Thorold this month.
Inside Trinity United Church Hall, an alleged haunted manor is home to a hidden printing press, where $20 bills are cranked out and characters vie to cash in on the proceeds.
Penned by husband and wife team, Michael and Susan Parker, Money Matters will be presented in fine farcical form by the Thorold Community Theatre (TCT).
“We’ve done a number of his (Parker’s) shows,” said longtime TCT co-producer, Marilyn Colbert. “The more we read it, the more we liked it. Everyone (at TCT) said, ‘This is way too funny; we have to do this.’ We’re very excited. This is the first time this show has been done in Canada.”
The Canadian presentation is not the only first for Money Matters. During the upcoming November performances, veteran Niagara actor John Dickhout will make his directorial debut.
“We’re very fortunate to have him as our director,” contends Colbert. “His acting resumé is two pages long. He knows what he likes to see onstage and he’s a director with flair. We just think the world of him.”
Dickhout, who began his lengthy career with community theatre in his hometown of Dunnville, later teamed up with Garden City Productions and also appeared in several shows at the former Port Mansion theatre.
“This is my first gig as director,” he said, adding that the timing and circumstances were right for him to take the next step after 30 years of acting.
Money Matters is “very much a typical farce,” in Dickhout’s view. “My take is to play it very straight” and let the humour resonate organically. “Because this (play) is so silly, actors would have a tendency to ham it up so I have hired good actors” who do not overact, he explained.
“I have worked with a few of the actors before and all of them have done work at other theatres,” including Krissy Neumann, “a very strong, seasoned actress from the Port Mansion,” who plays the daughter in Money Matters.
Rounding out the cast are Rob Goslin as the male lead; Ryan Lunn of St. Catharines and George Doros of Welland. Both Lily Groulx and Lou Bradley have performed at Fort Erie’s Garrison Little Theatre, and according to Dickhout, it was Bradley who “convinced” him to come to TCT.
So far, Dickhout seems happy with his decision.
“I’m enjoying directing more than I thought I would. I’m a bit of a teacher at heart so that part has been very enjoyable, to help other people develop themselves and their characters beyond what they thought, and having that overall vision of how the show should work.”
“Nobody’s going to leave with any deep thoughts,” the director chuckles, “but there are lots of laughs.”
According to Colbert, “If you’ve ever thought of counterfeiting some money and not getting caught, this is the show to see.”
Colbert’s career began backstage at a play 20 years ago when her husband’s daughter, Charlene, asked for help with her boustier. Amidst all the “lacing and tying and hoisting up hooters,” Colbert recalled being bit then and there by the theatre bug.
After helping with costume changes, “They needed someone to flick the lights so I did, and then they needed someone to get the coffee, and the next thing we knew we were both (she and her husband, Jim) on the executive, helping with sets.”
Two decades later, she — along with her thespian co-crew — is preparing to launch TCT’s 30th season in 2016 by showcasing special surprises.
“Next year is our 30th anniversary and we have some extra events in between our two regular spring and fall shows, so watch the website for details.”
Thorold Community Theatre has built a solid reputation among audiences, bringing in crowds numbering from 1,000 to 1,200 people for each production.
The group’s popularity, she believes, stems from “providing good quality entertainment for your dollar. People leave the show smiling.”
As a non-profit group, TCT relies solely on donations from community-minded local businesses to keep the admission cost at $15 a ticket, said Colbert, from Henderson’s Pharmasave, which absorbs printing costs for flyers to Select Equipment, which has provided a scissor lift free of charge for the past several seasons.
In addition, Colbert said, everyone — from the director to the actors to the prop personnel — is a volunteer. “We beg, borrow and steal,” whether it’s sofas or costumes from estate sales, or artists and carpenters to create/design sets. Anyone interested in helping with construction or any other aspect of the theatre is asked to contact Colbert through the website at thoroldtheatre.ca.
“We realized we have to keep up with the times, so now for the first time ever, you can purchase your tickets online for a specific performance only” (plus a $2 PayPal fee).
TCT has also partnered with three local restaurants that offer up to 15 per cent discounts off the food portion of their bill for patrons who show their TCT theatre ticket stub. These include Donnelly’s Pub and the Panini Café in Thorold, along with Johnny Rocco’s, strictly at the St. Catharines location.
As part of TCT’s ongoing efforts to support Community Care, donations of non-perishable food items will be collected at all shows at Trinity United Church Hall, located at 15 Pine St. South.
Performances take place on Nov. 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20 and 21. Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m.