A Story of Love, not War
Could You Wait?
Book & Original Lyrics by W. J. Matheson
Original Music by W.J. Matheson, Louise Pitre and Diane Leah
Performed by Louise Pitre and W.J. Matheson
Directed by Miles Potter
Grand Theatre, London
October 23 to November 11, 2007
Live! On Stage!
Review by Mary Alderson
Could You Wait?, a new musical to start the season at London’s Grand Theatre, has been billed as a war story. With Legion members greeting patrons at the Grand’s entrance on opening night, the impression was given that this was a World War II play. But Could You Wait? is a story of love, not war, set in the early 1940’s. Yes, there is a war going on, but it’s almost forgotten as the plot is wrapped up in the romance of Matt and Mary.
When the action begins on stage, we meet Matt and Mary, an elderly couple out on a seniors’ bus trip today. They are revisiting the Royal York hotel, which apparently holds significant memories for them. Mary is thrilled, but Matt says they should have taken the trip to Casino Rama.
Then the clock jumps back in time. Mary and Matt meet at a dance in Halifax. He’s in the Navy and is just heading off to war. He’s a Saskatchewan farm boy, or “plough jockey” and she’s a French Canadian Catholic. The romance develops shyly through the mail, and both express concerns about what their mother would think. Mary moves to Toronto, and Matt, on leave, has to find his way to meet him there, planning to pop the question and ask her to wait for her. The proposal is made in the luxurious Imperial Room at the Royal York.
Mary is played by Broadway star Louise Pitre (the mother in “Mamma Mia” in both the Toronto and New York productions) while Matt his played by her real-life husband Joe (W.J.) Matheson. You may remember them in the Grand’s outstanding production of For the Pleasure of Seeing You Again last February. Matheson wrote this show for Pitre, and the two obviously enjoy working together. They collaborated on some of the songs, together with musical director Diane Leah.
It’s a heart-warming story, and the music is wonderful. Their original works are mixed in with some old favourite war songs, such as “I’ll be Seeing You in All the Old Familiar Places” and “The White Cliffs of Dover”. Both Pitre and Matheson have beautiful voices – whether they’re rendering spellbinding solos, or singing together in harmony, their vocal performances are flawless.
The couple also dance together. There are some romantic waltzes, but a favourite is the lively jive to the great swing song “Steppin’ Out”. Credit goes to another husband and wife team who handled the choreography: Janet Kelley and Glen Kerr.
The story contains a few anachronisms, but Matheson can be forgiven for taking some poetic licence. The elderly Matt comes on stage carrying a Simpsons shopping bag, but says he’d rather be at Casino Rama – I don’t think Simpsons and Casino Rama ever existed together in the same time frame. Lyrics in one song mention Diefenbaker, but I doubt that Dief was making much news during the 1940s. And the song “Steppin’ Out” was not popular until after the Second World War.
But no one said that it was going to be a history lesson – instead it offers us much to learn about romance, love and life.
Could You Wait? continues at the Grand Theatre in London until Remembrance Day, November 11. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 519-672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593.
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.