SKINNER'S POND, P.E.I. - Chad Matthews - Stompin’ Tom Connors impersonator extraordinaire - will take his talent to Toronto next month.
Matthews, who played Stompin’ Tom at a dinner theatre in Skinner’s Pond at the Stompin’ Tom Centre, will portray the legendary P.E.I. singer during three shows with renowned tenor John McDermott next month.
“I couldn’t really believe it when he asked me to begin with — little Islander going up that way to portray Tom,” Matthews said.
Stompin’ Tom, after all, had spent his childhood and adolescent years in Skinners Pond before embarking on a cross-country trek that would ultimately launch his career as a singer and songwriter.
McDermott asked to speak to Matthews during a break in one of the dinner theatre shows last summer at the Stompin' Tom Centre. He invited Matthews to perform with him in February shows at the Hugh’s Room on Toronto’s Dundas Street.
“So, I was pretty excited,” Matthews said.
He performed as Stompin’ Tom through two dinner theatre seasons in Skinners Pond in “My Island Home - A Stompin’ Tom Story”. There were originally 12 shows scheduled, but the demand was so high there was still a long waiting list after 26 performances in front of 2,500 dinner theatre audience members.
“Some people leave there happy; some people leave there with a tear in their eye. It’s just a bunch of emotions everywhere. There’s laughter, there’s sadness and a good story."
Last summer, the Stompin’ Tom Centre added a second dinner theatre, “My Stompin’ Grounds – A Stompin’ Tom Story”, and Matthews went on to perform as Tom in 42 more shows and in front of 3,800 people. He also appeared as Connors in an episode of the TV show "Still Standing" with Jonny Harris.
Next month he gets to do it all over again in front of audiences in Toronto.
Matthews said he will give brief performances as Connors during the John McDermott Trio shows on Feb. 7 and 8 and perform a full set on Feb. 9.
The John McDermott Trio consists of McDermott, Jason Fowler and Mark Lalama. Paul Langlois, guitarist with the Tragically Hip, will be the featured performer Feb. 7 and Dala, the folk music duo of Sheila Caradine and Amanda Walther will be the featured guests Feb. 8.
For Matthews, 45, who has been playing guitar since he was 15 and playing in various bands since he was 17, theatre is still fairly new to him, but he says he enjoys the experience.
Matthews gravitated toward Stompin’ Tom’s tunes while learning to play the guitar and impersonations of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis in the late 1990s. He said he didn’t really appreciate how Stompin’ Tom had impacted people until he saw the reaction of his dinner theatre audiences.
“Some people leave there happy; some people leave there with a tear in their eye. It’s just a bunch of emotions everywhere.
“There’s laughter, there’s sadness and a good story."