When singer/actor Justin Simard was asked to write a Valentine’s cabaret for Kings Playhouse, he started checking out his favourite musical sources.
“Then, someone made the suggestion to add a few skits and keep the night light and fun. And before I knew it, I was writing a dinner theatre,” says the Halifax native who now calls P.E.I. home.
But, he wanted the show to be more.
So, he looked for inspiration from the Roaring Twenties for the script.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the ‘20s, the jazz age era, since I read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in high school.”
Right around the same time, he picked up “A Movable Feast” from his parents’ library. The memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway describes his years as a young, struggling, expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s.
“A lot of the show is inspired by that book as well as the letters between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,” says Simard, whose research has resulted in a play, “Love & Marriage?”.
Described as a “fun, touching” look at relationships, the Valentine’s dinner theatre hits the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown today, Saturday and Sunday. The story is set in 1924 in a Paris café, where writers and artists gather.
Audience members are invited to join a going-away party for songwriter Cole Porter and his wife, Linda.
“It’s an evening in a fictional world where writers Scotty Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway finally have it out over Hemingway’s disapproval of Fitzgerald’s marriage to Zelda.
“It’s a two-act exploration of marriage and what it means to be married and loosely based on my own life . . . I’m a newlywed,” laughs Simard, who plays F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The show also features the talents of Ben Aitken and Samantha Elizabeth as Cole and Linda Porter, Mark Fraser as Ernest Hemingway, Helen Killorn as singer Edith Piaf and Becca Griffin as Zelda Fitzgerald.
Griffin is thrilled to play “the first American flapper.”
“Zelda was a fantastic writer. She was very independent and driven. That’s what I love about her. She was also quite sassy, something that was uncommon during the 1920s,” says Griffin, adding it’s going to be a terrific show.
“It’s exciting to watch these icons interact with each other. It’s also romantic, perfect for Valentine’s Day.”
Simard also likes that he’s able to share his realizations about love in the show.
“One of the things that makes love work is communication without bias. That means telling your partner what you need in a relationship. It’s opening yourself up completely to be yourself and trust another person to love that person. No one can lead you to that. You have to find that on your own.
“That’s what the show is about, love and marriage.”
If you are going
- What: “Love & Marriage?”
- When and where: Kings Playhouse, Georgetown, Feb. 12-13, 6:30 p.m., Feb. 14, 4 p.m.
n Music lineup: A varied program ranging from jazz to Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper and Billy Joel will be featured in this show. Performers include Justin Simard, trumpet, Ben Aitken, keyboards, Mark Fraser, drums and Helen Killorn, bass. Becca Griffin joins the others on vocals.
- Tickets: Contact the box office by calling 1-888-346-5666 or kingsplayhouse.com
Cole Porter (Ben Aitken), left, and his wife Linda (Samantha Elizabeth), second right, are guests of honour at a farewell party in “Love & Marriage?”, the Valentine’s Day dinner theatre at Kings Playhouse in Georgetown today and Saturday, 6:30 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. From left are Ernest Hemingway (Mark Fraser), Edith (Helen Killorn), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Justin Simard) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Becca Griffin).
©SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN