Tag: community show

Review: Broadway magic comes to the shores of Lake Erie

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

April 18, 2024

PORT DOVER — Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s 2024 Community Show The Producers proves that you don’t need to travel to Toronto to get top notch entertainment, bringing all the laughs and memorable tunes from Mel Brooks’ iconic musical to Port Dover’s famous theatre.

The cast of Lighthouse Festival’s 2024 Community Show, The Producers. From L to R: Daniel Traina, Justine Draus, Lisa Shebib, Jaden Banfield, J.P. Antonacci, Nikki Wiltac, Mac Buchwald, Don Kearney-Bourque, Jada Dawson, Shelby Mulder, Jason Mayo, Melissa Schoeman, Lyndsey Dearlove, Naomi Auld, Charly Buck, & Carmen Davis. Photo Credit: Keri Lynne Photography.

Directed by Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, ‘The Producers’ is impressive on multiple fronts. From Lighthouse’s trademark high production values to a cast full of local talent, the show is sure to tickle your funny bone while you marvel at its many theatrical tricks. From snazzy dance numbers to scene-stealing Nazi pigeons, Lighthouse’s rendition shines.

‘The Producers’ first appeared in 1967 as a movie starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. It was launched as a Broadway show in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who would go on to star in a film adaptation as well in 2005.

Stepping into the famed role of Max Bialystock in this rendition is J.P Antonacci, who shines as the sleazy, failed producer who cooks up a scheme with his rookie accountant Leo Bloom, played by Mac Buchwald, to get rich by producing the worst show possible.

That scheme revolves around Bloom’s observation that, as the IRS rarely investigates the books on a flop, it could be theoretically possible to make up to $2 million by selling an excessive amount of shares in the show, and then embezzling them when the show flops and cannot produce a return on investment.

Antonacci and Buchwald make for an amiable comic pairing, playing off each other’s quirks and quips effortlessly as they work to secure the rights to, and then mount a production of the worst script they could possibly find, titled ‘Springtime for Hitler’. This ramps up later in the show when they both fall for their new assistant Ulla, played by Jada Dawson.

The script for ‘Springtime for Hitler’ is a hilariously tone-deaf tribute to one of history’s greatest monsters, written by a former Nazi soldier now living in New York City and played by Carmen Davis. The best scene of the show involves Davis and her Nazi-flag waving pigeons intimidating Bialystock and Bloom as they attempt to secure the rights to produce.

The show features 16 performers, many who don multiple roles, including memorable turns as the senior socialites that Bialystock convinces to invest in the show through unconventional means, in a series of hilarious comic seductions that run throughout the play.

Also great are Jason Mayo and Don Kearney-Bourque, who play the show’s director and his assistant. Mayo ends up performing as Hitler in the titular musical, portraying the Fuhrer as flamboyantly gay.

‘The Producers’, it should be noted, is a decidedly adult show, featuring some language and scenarios that might not be appropriate for the younger set. That said, if you have laughed at a Mel Brooks film in the past (and who hasn’t with a lineup of comedy classics that includes Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights), then you should make it a priority to get out to Dover and laugh the night away.

‘The Producers’ runs until April 28 at Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. Tickets are $29 at lighthousetheatre.com.

After studying journalism at Humber College, Mike Renzella desired to write professionally but found himself working in technical fields for many years. Beginning in 2019 as a freelancer, he joined the team full-time later that year. Since then, Mike has won several awards for his articles thanks to his commitment to presenting an unbiased, honest look at the important news and events shaping our community.

“The Producers” is 2024 Comedic Musical Community Show at LFT

March 19, 2024

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Donna McMillan

Lighthouse Festival will be kicking off its 2024 theatre season opening with its hilarious community production of the Mel Brooks Musical The Producers.  Always a huge hit with audiences, this year’s community production has drawn 16 Norfolk/Haldimand actors to LFT three times a week since rehearsals started the beginning of January. The Producers, with its outrageous story line, zany characters and uproarious music, will be playing in Port Dover April 12 to 28.  Derek Ritschel is the Director.

Mel Brooks fans may remember The Producers as a movie that hit the silver screen in 1967 and then again in 2005. The Broadway Musical ran in New York from 2001 to 2007, with 2502 performances and winning 12 Tony Awards.

“I’ve been wanting to do it (The Producers) for five or six years,” Derek told the Maple Leaf last week. “This was the right time. We got the rights and it all came together.” He reflected on the success of an earlier Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein performed as a community play on LFT stage. “It was a big hit.”

The Producers sees a formerly successful Broadway Producer, now down on his luck,  scheming with an accountant on how to get rich by convincing investors to put their money in the worst show in the world called “Springtime for Hitler.”  It features a bad script and lack lustre performers. Rather than fail, it is wildly successful; all resulting in a recipe for lots of laughs and riotous songs from “The King of Broadway”, “Der Guten Tag Hop – Clop” and “When You Got It, Flaunt it” to “In Old Bavaria”, “Keep It Gay” and “Along Came Bialy.”

Nikki Wiltac is performing in her first community play with LFT. Last week, she told the Maple Leaf she is thrilled to be part of the Ensemble, playing a number of roles including a bad chorus girl, a pigeon, an old lady, a police officer and a Bavarian peasant to name a few. She has been interested in acting since elementary school, remembering her first performance to be in Ramona and Beezus. She has also done community theatre in Simcoe and Tillsonburg as well as being in a 10-minute play competition in Brantford. “I wanted to step up and do something more professional,” she said. “It’s been an incredible learning experience. I’m learning so much from everyone from the director, the leads, ensemble and costumes.”

Mac Buchwald has always done theatre from Old Town Hall kids in Waterford to Simcoe Little Theatre. He told the Maple Leaf he was thrilled to get his first role in a LFT Community Show, playing one of the leads, Leo Bloom. “I’m a big Gene Wilder fan,” he said, noting Gene played Leo in the 1967 film version. Leo is a neurotic accountant, obsessed with his blue security blanket, he shared. Buchwald, who is working as a new English teacher at WDHS, is enjoying seeing the LFT Professional Production team supporting the amateur actors.   

For Melissa Schoeman, performing in The Producers is her first play since university ten years ago, she shared.   A number of people suggested she should act and she loved the movie, The Producers, she said. She remembers her first role was in Surfing Santa at Oneida Central School.  She performed in elementary school and in high school at Cayuga Secondary.  She has a degree in English from Wilfrid Laurier University.   Melissa plays a montage of many people as part of the ensemble, she said, including old lady, auditioner, prisoner, cop, chorus girl and more. “Oh my Gosh. It has been an amazing experience,” she told the Maple Leaf. “A lot of work. There is a certain ‘vibe’ around theatre people.  This feels like home.”   

This writer attended an hour of rehearsal last week. Without a doubt, this will be another “must see” community play that will have the audience in stitches in their seat and “wondering how something so outrageously offensive could be so funny,” as mentioned in the playbill. There is a great cast of new and popular return actors we know from past community plays. It runs from April 12 to 28.

The full cast includes: J.P. Antonnaci (Max Bialystock), Mac Buchwald (Leo Bloom), Jada Dawson (Ulla), Carmen Davis (Fran Liebkind), Jason Mayo (Roger De Bris), Don Kearney–Bourque (Carmen Ghia); Ensemble: Naomi Auld, Jaden Banfield, Charly Buck, Lyndsey Dearlove, Justine Draus, Shelby Mulder, Melissa Schoeman, Lisa Shebib, Daniel Traina, & Nikki Wiltac. For tickets, contact Lighthouse Festival Theatre at their Main Street, Port Dover box office, call 519–583–2221 or visit the website www.lighthousetheatre.com.

For Immediate Release: Lighthouse Festival Celebrates World Theatre Day 2024

A Call to Support Live Theatre in Our Community

PORT DOVER, March 27, 2024 – In honour of World Theatre Day, Lighthouse Festival is reiterating our unwavering commitment to the arts and welcomes our vibrant communities to support live theatre’s vital role in fostering creativity, bolstering the local economy, and enriching our cultural landscape.

World Theatre Day, celebrated globally on March 27th, serves as a reminder of the transformative power of the theatre: to entertain, educate, and inspire. Live theatre acts as a mirror to society, offering a unique outlet for creative talent and thought-provoking storytelling that challenges perceptions and ignites imaginations.

At Lighthouse Festival, we are proud of our legacy in bringing high-quality, accessible, and enriching live performances to our audiences. Our stage has been a home for emerging and established talents, showcasing the diverse voices and stories that resonate with our community, plus providing some of the best laughter around!

The impact of live theatre extends beyond the stage; it plays a significant role in stimulating our local economy — from employment opportunities for artists and support staff to generating revenue for nearby businesses, including restaurants, hotels, and retailers. Theatre also strengthens our community’s social fabric, fostering a sense of belonging and shared experience that is crucial in today’s fast-paced, divisive world.

However, many in the theatre community are facing unprecedented challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic. The arts sector, among the hardest hit, is in a critical phase of rebuilding. Attendance numbers have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. Now, more than ever, the theatre community needs your support to sustain this vital cultural institution.

Lighthouse Festival, with professional theatres in Port Dover (Norfolk County) & Port Colborne (Niagara Region), and a community theatre, Simcoe Little Theatre, in Simcoe (Norfolk County), remains steadfast in our mission to bring laughter, entertainment, and thought-provoking art to our audiences. As we navigate these unprecedented times, we invite you to reconnect with the joy and communal spirit of live theatre. Whether you’re a long-time theatre lover or a curious newcomer, there’s something magical waiting for you in the theatre — shared laughter, a collective gasp, or the thunderous applause that follows a stirring performance.

In celebration of World Theatre Day, we encourage everyone to experience the magic of live theatre once again. Come and see a show at Lighthouse Festival. Let us together laugh, reflect, and be moved by the incredible talent within our community and beyond. Your presence not only supports the arts but also contributes to the revitalization of our collective cultural identity and economic resilience.

Join us in this crucial time to support and uplift the theatre community. Together, we can ensure that live theatre remains a vibrant and essential part of our community’s cultural landscape for generations to come.

For information on our upcoming shows and how you can support Lighthouse Festival, please visit our website at www.lighthousetheatre.com.

Let’s celebrate World Theatre Day by supporting live theatre. We’ve got a seat waiting for you!

#WorldTheatreDay #GoSeeAShow #RallyForTheatre

About Lighthouse Festival
Lighthouse Festival is a charitable organization devoted to the development and production of   new and existing Canadian plays. Lighthouse Festival strives to be artistically excellent, support and encourage local and regional artists, and be a source of enjoyment and pride in local communities while promoting local tourism. Operating in two towns on Lake Erie, our theatres operate on a central policy of hospitality, accessibility, and affordability for all.

Media Contact
For media inquiries, please contact:
Don Kearney-Bourque
Marketing & Communications Manager
Lighthouse Festival Theatre Corporation
Direct:(226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410


For Immediate Release: Simcoe Little Theatre Presents “The Savannah Sipping Society” as the second production of their 2023/24 Season


A local cast of 4 talented women bring this charming and relatable play to life

Port Dover, ON – February 9, 2024 – Simcoe Little Theatre is thrilled to announce its second show of the 2023/24 season, The Savannah Sipping Society, written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten. Directed by Sarah Finch, this delightful comedy promises laughter, friendship, and heartwarming moments for audiences of all ages.

The Savannah Sipping Society follows the journey of four Southern women who, despite their differences, form an unexpected bond and embark on a life-changing adventure filled with laughter, misadventures, and plenty of sweet tea. Set against the backdrop of the charming city of Savannah, Georgia, this production is sure to captivate theatregoers with its wit, charm, and relatable characters.

Director Sarah Finch expresses her excitement for the upcoming production, stating, “I am thrilled to bring The Savannah Sipping Society to life on the Simcoe Little Theatre stage. This play is a celebration of friendship, resilience, and the joy of embracing new adventures. Audiences are in for a treat!”

The show features a talented, local cast, including Melinda Campbell, Nancy Gibbs, Anna Reu, and Roselle Slaght, who bring their unique personalities to each character, creating a dynamic and engaging performance.

Nancy Gibbs, who portrays one of the lead characters, shares her thoughts on the production, saying, “Being a part of The Savannah Sipping Society has been an absolute joy. The camaraderie among the cast and crew is palpable, and I believe audiences will be drawn to the heartwarming story and unforgettable characters.”

Stage Manager Susan LaBone reflects on her experience working behind the scenes, stating, “As the stage manager for this production, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the dedication and talent of everyone involved. Even from early rehearsals, the energy and enthusiasm surrounding The Savannah Sipping Society have been incredible.”

Tickets for The Savannah Sipping Society start at $24 each and can be purchased online at simcoelittletheatre.org or by calling 519-583-0505. The play runs from March 7th to 17th at Simcoe Little Theatre, located at 33 Talbot Street North in Simcoe, ON.

Don’t miss your chance to experience this heartwarming comedy that celebrates the power of friendship and the beauty of embracing new beginnings. Get your tickets today and join us for an unforgettable theatrical experience!

About Simcoe Little Theatre

Simcoe Little Theatre is a non-profit community theater located in Simcoe, Ontario in beautiful Norfolk County. For over 60 years, Simcoe Little Theatre has been dedicated to providing quality theatrical productions and fostering a love for the performing arts in the local community. With a talented team of actors, directors, and volunteers, Simcoe Little Theatre continues to entertain and inspire audiences of all ages. For more information, visit www.simcoelittletheatre.org. Where Community Stars Shine!

Media Contact

For media inquiries, cast interviews and further information, please contact:

Don Kearney-Bourque,
Marketing & Communications Manager
Simcoe Little Theatre & Lighthouse Festival
Direct: (226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410

For Immediate Release: Lighthouse Festival Presents The Producers – A Hilariously Offensive Musical Comedy

Local cast brings to life this Tony Award-winning musical on the Lighthouse stage

PORT DOVER, January 29, 2024 – Lighthouse Festival is proud to announce its highly anticipated 2024 Community Show, The Producers, a satirically offensive musical comedy featuring a talented cast of local actors. Directed by Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, this uproarious production promises to delight audiences with its irreverent humor and unforgettable performances.

The Producers takes center stage at the Lighthouse Festival Theater in Port Dover from April 12 to 28, 2024. Tickets for this must-see event are priced at $29 each with no hidden fees and are available for purchase at lighthousetheatre.com or by calling the box office at 888-779-7703.

Set in New York City, The Producers follows the misadventures of down-on-his-luck Broadway producer Max Bialystock and his neurotic accountant, Leo Bloom, as they scheme to produce the biggest flop in theatrical history. What ensues is a hilarious rollercoaster of mishaps, musical numbers, and larger-than-life characters that will leave audiences in stitches.

Director Derek Ritschel expressed his excitement about bringing this iconic musical to life on the Lighthouse Festival stage, stating, “The Producers is a comedic masterpiece that pushes the boundaries of satire. Our production will capture the essence of Mel Brooks’ vision while adding our own unique flair to the mix. Audiences can expect a production full of non-stop laughter, music and entertainment.”

Community Show veteran and crowd favourite Jason Mayo, who portrays the flamboyant director Roger De Bris, shared his enthusiasm for the show, saying, “Playing Roger De Bris has been an absolute blast. This character is larger than life, and I’m thrilled to bring his over-the-top antics to the stage. Get ready for a wild ride!”

Mac Buchwald, who takes on the role of Leo Bloom, Max Bialystock’s anxious sidekick, commented, “Being a part of The Producers has been an incredible journey. This musical has everything – humor, heart, and some truly unforgettable moments. I can’t wait for audiences to experience it.”

Jada Dawson, who embodies the role of Ulla, the Swedish bombshell with dreams of stardom, shared her excitement, saying, “Ulla is such a fun character to play. She’s sassy

yet silly, she’s bold, yet fun, and she knows what she wants. I’m thrilled to bring her energy to the stage and be a part of this fantastic production.”

Finally, Shelby Mulder, in her Lighthouse Community Show debut where, she plays multiple roles in the ensemble, expressed her admiration for the show’s versatility, stating, “The Producers is a whirlwind of creativity and humor. I love the opportunity to play different characters and showcase my range as an actor. This is a show unlike any other, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Don’t miss your chance to experience the hilarity and heart of The Producers at Lighthouse Festival Theatre. Book your tickets now for an evening of laughter, music, and unforgettable moments.

For ticket information and showtimes, visit www.lighthousetheatre.com or call (888) 779-7703.


J.P. AntonacciNaomi AuldJaden Banfield
Mac BuchwaldCharly BuckCarmen Davis
Jada DawsonLyndsey DearloveJustine Draus
Don Kearney-BourqueJason MayoShelby Mulder
Melissa SchoemanLisa ShebibDaniel Traina
Nikki Wiltac  
Director: Derek Ritschel | Technical Director: Hailey Parker | Musical Directors: Tony & Michelle Proracki | Choreographer: Kiri-Lyn Muir
Stage Manager: Heather Reichheld | Costumes & Props: Sally Bellamy & Jan Rainey

About Lighthouse Festival

Lighthouse Festival is a charitable organization devoted to the development and production of new and existing Canadian plays. Lighthouse Festival strives to be artistically excellent, support and encourage local and regional artists, and be a source of enjoyment and pride in local communities while promoting local tourism. Operating in two towns on Lake Erie, our theatres operate on a central policy of hospitality, accessibility, and affordability for all.

Media Contact

For media inquiries, cast interviews and further information, please contact:

Don Kearney-Bourque,
Marketing & Communications Manager
Lighthouse Festival Theatre Corporation
Direct: (226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410

Review: ‘Clue The Musical’ brings board game to life on stage

Clue Cast
Cast of Clue: The Musical

A fun night of dance, song and superb acting… it’s a “must see”

By Donna McMillanPort Dover Maple Leaf

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

It was hilarious! It was boisterous! It was suspenseful! Above all, it was thrilling to see the launch once again of the Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s community play after a three- year Covid absence. A stellar cast of local actors energized the theatre as they sang, danced, connived and bantered their way through “CLUE The Musical”, bringing CLUE, the sleuthing Parker Brothers board game, to life.

Directed by Derek Ritschel, LFT Artistic Director, CLUE The Musical, is a Classic “Who Done It” Mystery with a possible 216 answers of who did what with what and where to keep the audience guessing. The cast of eight, with six suspects who skulk from room to room to complicate the crime scene diorama, are iconic CLUE characters and include: Mr. Boddy – JP Antonacci; Mrs. Peacock – Julie MacLeod; Professor Plum – Charly Buck; Miss Scarlett – Carmen Davis; Colonel Mustard – Brian Reichheld; Mrs. White – Robyn Cunningham Edl ; Mr. Green – Adam Liefl; and The Detective – Jason Mayo.  Literally, each actor “killed” their part.   

Mr. Boddy is the host of the event and planner of mayhem.  “It’s his house.  It’s his game.  He is going to be killed and he delights in being murdered,” JP told the Maple Leaf in an earlier interview.    Mr. Boddy, with sinister intonations, narrates, confuses and provides riddled clues to help the collective audience solve his heinous murder.    Each suspect finds him to be an odious character for varied reasons.   They all have axes to grind.  JP was superb in this role.

Clue Cast
L-R Jason Mayo, Robyn Cunningham-Eld, Julie Macleod, Charly Buck & Carmen Davis

Each of the suspects represent colours in the board game.    Mrs. Peacock, elegant in blue, has lost four husbands under mysterious circumstances and now husband number five, Mr. Boddy, is dead.   Miss Scarlett, flashy in red, dates wealthy bachelors.  Was Mr. Boddy on that list?    Both Julie MacLeod and Carmen Davis were flamboyantly wicked in their respective roles. Smooth talking Mr. Green and Colonel Mustard, smitten by Mrs. Peacock, were well performed by Adam Liefl and Brian Reichheld. Over worked and underpaid, Mrs. White, played by Robyn Cunningham Edl, was hysterical as she aired her complaints with a heavy cockney accent. Professor Plum certainly offered a “degree” of suspicion; so ably played by Charly Buck.   

L-R Carmen Davis, Julie MacLeod, Robyn Cunningham-Eld, JP Antonacci, Brian Riecheld, Charly Buck & Adam Leifl

“So, I’m dead” at the start of Act 2 confirms the demise of Mr. Boddy and brings the hilarious “hard nosed detective”, Jason Mayo in drag, onto the stage.   He was added comic relief that had the audience roaring.   “Rub a dub dub; six suspects in a tub” was his puzzle to solve.    The detective scurried from room to room with the big question on stage: wrench, candlestick, pipe, knife, revolver, rope……and by whom.   

The play gave the audience a fun night of dance, song and superb acting. It’s a Must See!

L-R Adam Liefl, Carmen Davis, Robyn Cunningham-Eld, Julie MacLeod, Charly Buck, Brian Riecheld & Jason Mayo

 Heather Reicheld is Stage Manager for CLUE The Musical.    Meredith Woods is Musical Director.  Hailey Parker is Technical Director.  Kiri – Lyn Muir is Choreographer.   Sally Bellamy and Jan Rainey are responsible for Costumes and Props. Colin Mahon built the stunning set.   

CLUE runs until April 21 and is a Must See.   For tickets, visit the Box Office in Port Dover, online at lighthousetheatre.com or call 519 – 583 – 2221.