October 18, 2004
The Daily News – Halifax, Nova Scotia

"This DRUM! rolls from start to finish"


REVIEW – It sounds a bit kooky — putting Mi’kmaq, African, Acadian and Celtic drummers on a stage, all at the same time. Amazingly, in the form of Drum! — a newly opened show at Pier 20 in Halifax — it works. And how.

Of course, each of the Nova Scotian founding cultures gets its own spotlight, and there are singers and plenty of other instruments to round out the sound, but there’s no denying the production rocked the house at its premiere Friday night.

“Drum! has been a dream for many years. Fortunately, many have shared that dream and passion with us, and many of you are here tonight,” producer Brookes Diamond told the crowd.

That passion was evident in the performers, from the opening sweetgrass ceremony, with images of waves pounding our shores projected on a large, drum-shaped screen.

The aboriginal drummers — George Paul and Trevor Gould — set the beat from the centre of the semi-circle stage, hammering out a rhythm on a large ceremonial drum before being joined by an Acadian dancer in a scarlet skirt, her lively dance accompanied by the clickety-clack of spoons and, shortly, accordian and fiddle.

By the time the female singers launched into a moving Celtic ballad and bagpiper Katie Buckland made her presence known, the crowd — seated on risers in the newly constructed theatre — was mesmerized. And that was before precision drummers Squid (my son loved their glow-in-the-dark sticks), the Celtic dancers and African-Nova Scotian singers Dutch Robinson and Jeremiah Sparks joined the fray. Their rousing rendition of I’ll Fly Away had everyone clapping and singing along with the talented showmen.

Directed by Timothy French of Toronto stage sensation The Producers, with musical direction by Doris Mason — the talented Nova Scotian also does keyboard duty and sings — the show is two hours long, with a brief intermission, yet never drags.

Even an audience participation segment featuring Under The Boardwalk just felt right. And if you’re skeptical about a Caribbean-infused beat morphing into an Irish jig successfully, I’d urge you to see this show.

With about 20 performers and everything from hubcaps to washboards to guitar supplementing the plentiful and powerful drums, it’s an amazing achievement to bring together music from these four distinct cultures and blend them so seamlessly.

Drum! continues at Pier 20 on Oct. 19, 21, 22, 23, 28 and 30, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.95 and are available at the Metro Centre box office and participating Sobeys outlets.

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