THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO --- February 2, 2015 --- I have a routine when I go to Thunder Bay's Magnus Theatre; part of it is arriving early enough to get one of the last few parking spots in the theatre’s parking lot. When I arrived I saw all sorts of people walking down Waverley Street from their parked cars, towards the theatre. I was not the only one who underestimated the draw of this show.
The selection of this production Driving Miss Daisy for ThunderBay's Magnus Theatre is at once a stroke of genius and our good fortune. From a marketing sense most people remember the movie from several years past. Jo-Anne Waytowich plays Jessica Tandy (in the movie) who played the part of Miss Daisy. Miss Daisy’s son played in the movie by Dan Aykroyd, is handled by Stuart Dowling. The indomitable chauffeur “Hoke” was played by Morgan Freeman in the movie is superbly performed by John Campbell. I mention the movie references because I am sure so many people were drawn to this show by their memories of this superb story by Alfred Uhry. The play version of this story is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Patrons of Magnus Theatre will have all of their expectations met with the current production. One look at the packed house told me that everyone was enjoying this theatre experience to the max.
Mario Crudo is professionally at the top of his game in recent years. Last season he produced this very same play for Vancouver’s Arts Club Theatre. John Campbell played the role of “Hoke” in that production as well. Stuart Dowling played “Boolie” Miss Daisy’s son at Port Hope’s Capital Theatre last May. Mario no doubt improved Vancouver’s production with the current show at Magnus. He has seasoned and experienced performers on stage and a professional theatre staff to work with here in Thunder Bay. To add to the draw, city native Jo-Ann Waytowich returns to the stage in a leading role of Miss Daisy. Mario knows how to craft a show, package it and market the production like no other Director I know. What makes this show exceptional is the performance and the story make it all worthwhile.
One thing that I thought was most effective was the choice of music for the Entr’acte segments of the show. It was perfect background for this compelling story which takes place over a 25 year period. During this time Hoke’s need for employment and Miss Daisy’s need for assistance changed from a tense employee/employer relationship to that of a deep and abiding respect for one another. Towards the end of the show this was summed up by Miss Daisy when she said to Hoke, “You are my best friend”.
If you go, I suspect you will leave the Theatre very satisfied. It’s not a humourous production, indeed the message behind the story reveals a lot about life in the Deep South much of which can still be found to-day. The show will refresh your memories of one of the best stories of our generation. The polished performance under the Direction of Mario Crudo and his crew of professionals defines theatre excellence; I doubt that you can find a better performance of this play anywhere. The show runs until Saturday February 14. Get you tickets early!
Arts Editor: Lake Superior News