Sweeter than Maple Syrup and Made In Canada

If you have seen any theatre around Halifax recently that required an actor under the age of twenty, it is likely that you have seen one of the Cruddas siblings. In J*Tel Presents Canadian Folk Songs Super Hits Sound Explosion not only are you given the opportunity to see four of the Cruddas siblings perform in the same show; but it is also one written and directed by their mother, Janice Cruddas. This show features the talents of twenty-two young performers between the ages of nine and eighteen, and it absolutely meets its cuteness quota. It is also one of the gentlest and sweetest satires you may ever see.
This show harkens back to the K-Tel infomercials of the 1980s, and here these talented young actors portray spoofs on various Canadian Folk icons (Susan Ofbluebark- witty!), and others blessed with a talent for salesmanship attempting to sell the recipe for raising the perfect child. The recipe, of course, is an absurdly large collection of compact discs featuring the full compilation of every folk song performed, written, almost written, hummed, and imagined in Canada; all for the remarkable price of three easy payments of $49.95. Call now.
Chorally and musically, this group produces a beautiful sound. They present many familiar songs (especially for anyone who has ever sung in a school choir) such as “Farewell to Nova Scotia” “I’se the B’y”, and “Ah! Si Mon Moine” and also various more obscure songs. The most impressive song, in my opinion, is the beautiful, a capella “The Welcome Table” which was absolutely perfect. It’s clear that all of these performers enjoy singing, but there are a few children for whom it shows that performing music is in their bones because they shine as they sing straight from the soul. Emma Cruddas and Ampai Thammachack are especially captivating to watch and Cruddas has a beautiful voice. She is one to watch.
The acting in this production is a bit bumpier than the songs, but it is understandable that there are a few fumbles over lines as each sentence that is spoken during the infomercial seems to go on for eternity, and the performers must speak in exceedingly rapid voices. Some of them have become articulation experts. I’d love to see Emma Cruddas read Dr. Seuss’ book Oh Say Can You Say aloud. I bet she would be remarkable. Amelia Cruddas has spark and gusto as the dancer Karen Pain and Liam Frank shows the comic timing of a professional as Gordon Heavyhand. Josh Cruddas is infomercial perfection as Trompin’ Stan Rankin and indeed, all the performers have the rhythm and the insincerity of these advertisements quite down pat.
My only real issue with this production is the fact that it pastiches the infomercial so entirely, that as repetitive and monotonous as infomercials are, this show is also repetitive and it can become a little grating on the nerves when you have seen the exact same projected video three or four times. As in real infomercials, the same message is being relayed to you again and again, by different people, using slightly different words. However, the music provided a nice break from the show’s penchant to be repetitive and it is clear that the infomercial concept was conceived as a creative way to weave this music together.
All in all, J*Tel Presents Canadian Folk Songs Super Hits Sound Explosion is an extremely sweet family-oriented show which showcases some very promising young performers. There is a definite gentleness in this production that is not often seen at the theatre, but it is absolutely appropriate for families to bring children of all ages to enjoy the young voices of Canada raised in song.

Venue: Neptune’s Studio Theatre. $6.00
Times: Sat Sept 12 at 8pm

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