by Beat Rice
Wow, anything played on the banjo really does sound good. Add a full band, some actors with strong voices and a stage, and you’ve got The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw, a 90 minute bluegrass musical. It identifies itself as an opera although most of the storytelling is done through song with some text in between. The cast of 10, with four live musicians, create some really big sound in the cavernous Passe Muraille. The music is really what it’s all about, from slow ballads, to stomping banjo battles, it’s done so well it allows for us to overlook some of the cheese in the story.
Weedy Peetstraw (Jamie Mac), is a restless young man from a farming family whose dream is to be a famous banjo player. His recently widowed mother, (Nicole Robert), abhors this idea as well as the girl he loves, Jeeva, (Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster). As the story goes on we meet Mr. Fleas (Chris Stanton) and his Hell Hound, (Randi Helmers). Both work for the Devil and need to collect souls for their employer, starting with Weedy Peetstraw.
Every member of the cast has a strong resounding and versatile voice, although some songs sounded as though there were a little bit outside of the actor's voice range. There were a few obvious stumbles but it was opening, and they all put on a great show.
Running Time: 90 minutes