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Harvest Gold

Theatre Orangeville produces a winner with moving Harvest Moon Rising

By Robert Reed
The Record

Susan Gilmour Until the mid-point of the last century Canada was a predominantly rural country.

As we look back from the dawn of the new millenium, many of us are no more than a generation or two off the farm.

Yet farming has never been easy.

From the homestead days of clearing an inhospitable land through to the present, when families are being herded off ancestral farms by the cruel force of foreclosure, farming has tested both the mettle and the faith of those who form the backbone of our rural heritage.

Canadian Theatre has honoured and celebrated this heritage in a number of landmark productions - beginning in the 1970's with The Farm show and Ten Lost Years, through Another Season's Promise in the 1980's and death of a Hired Man in the 1990's.

Happily, Theatre Orangeville has gotten in on the act by launching its 2000 season with Harvest Moon Rising, a musical about a modern couple struggling to hold on to a family farm that hsa been in the family for 150 years...

The standing ovation that greeted curtain call simply confirmed what everyone knew by intermission - Harvest Moon Rising is a winner.

Subtitled The Women Behind the Men Behind the Plows, the musical looks at the trials and tribulations of farming through the eyes of women. This perspective is reinforced byt he cast, which includes and one man in a very much subordinate role...

Susan Gilmour, whose credits include Fantine in the Toronto, Broadway and Los Angeles productions of Les Misérables, plays Sarah, who is struggling with her husband Jack (Jan Filips) to save the farm...

Part of its success is the result of the natural way the story flows from the present back in time to the 1850's...

Harvest Moon Rising celebrates the strength, courage and indomitable spirit of thse five very different women who come to represent a Farming Everywoman. That it does this without presenting their struggle through rose-colored glasses is a major accomplishment.

Harvest Moon Rising is that rare musical in which dramatic tension is not sacrificed to music. This is a deeply moving story, artfully as well as entertainingly told.

Although this is no happily-ever-after fairytale the musical is not depressing because it affirms life by reminding us that a farm is not a house, barn, livestock, crops, but a home, family, ancestors, friends, livelihood, lifestyle, dreams. In short, it is life.

The show is co-produced by Thousand Islands Playhouse where it travels to later this summer.