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Melody A. Johnson  Photo:NAC
Melody A. Johnson Photo:NAC

Theatre Review: "Miss Caledonia" in the NAC Studio

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"Miss Caledonia" is playing in the Studio at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa through May 25. Melody A. Johnson runs the gamut from farmer girl to beauty pageant contestant in a delightful eighty minutes.

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

The NAC English Theatre is closing out its season with a production in the Studio of MISS CALEDONIA, written and performed by Melody A. Johnson. Directed by Rich Roberts and Aaron Willis with musical direction and subtle violin accompaniment by Alison Porter, MISS CALEDONIA is based on the true story of Miss Johnson’s mother, Peggy Douglas. Set in the mid-50s, it chronicles Peggy’s effort to escape the drudgery of life on the farm by becoming a movie star. The first step on the journey is her attempt to win the local beauty pageant.

Miss Johnson is a very appealing performer who does justice to her material, especially in the description of Peggy’s mother luxuriating in the bathroom of a friend. (At home there’s no indoor plumbing.) Peggy refers to her mother as a “determined butcherette” during the lively activity of killing a chicken. Their school teacher boarder is described as “cardigan bound from birth” and Miss Johnson’s characterization of Reefer, the milk truck driver who gives out with various “countryisms” gave me the giggles.

Perhaps the high point of the piece is the depiction of the actual pageant which includes some of the other contestants, the MC and Peggy’s “special memory.” Her baton performance, complete with by-play with the violinist, is nothing short of outstanding.

MISS CALEDONIA provides 80 minutes of fine entertainment, both funny and poignant. If you’ve ever spent time on a farm, as I did in my childhood, no doubt the play will trigger quite a few fond memories.

On a scale of one to five the Lunkamud production of MISS CALEDONIA presented by the National Arts Centre English Theatre gets four and two-thirds Royal Canadian Mounted Police. For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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