By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
In the romantic evening that comes to Fort Edmonton’s vintage Capitol Theatre this weekend in honour of Valentine’s Day, the mysteriously supple talent of Andrea House wraps itself around a musical icon you might not expect — at first.
Chasing Willie Nelson is the latest of the “storytelling concerts” that have become something of a House specialty, after such hit shows as Forget Me Not, Valentine’s Train, and Song of the Martingale. Says director Davina Stewart, the singer-songwriter (cum actor/ playwright) was a little surprised herself at the start to realize how many of the same songs she and Willie Nelson covered. How could that be?
The logic of it began to form, as titles flashed by and House and Stewart considered the multi-faceted career and repertoire of the legendary Texan songwriter who’s still touring at 83. Nelson sang Texas swing tunes, like San Antonio Rose. He sang country classics like Fred Rose’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. He sang Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia On My Mind and Stardust, the now-jazz standard that gave his 1978 album its name. He sang Blue Skies by the musical theatre tunesmith Irving Berlin.
Musically, “Willie Nelson crossed boundaries; he can’t be pigeonholed,” as Stewart puts it. And his is a resilient six-decade left-leaning career that has never stopped turning corners. In his ‘40s, for example, fed up with the confines of the music industry, he up and left Nashville and moved to Austin. He’s acted in movies; he’s written memoirs (Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die). He’s embraced activist causes (Farm Aid).
“It’s so inspiring,” says Stewart of the life and works that frame the new House tribute. “And Andrea married it with her own life,” as she often does in her shows. House, after all, is not only a musician and composer, she’s an actor and playwright.
In Chasing Willie Nelson, the man comes to her in a dream, Stewart explains, of a show that wonders how songs get embedded in our minds. The cast includes Dana Andersen as the spirit of Willie Nelson. Mat Busby plays his son. And House leads a five-piece band on the dreamy musical journey.
Chasing Willie Nelson: A Tribute By Andrea House
Directed by: Davina Stewart
Starring: Andrea House, Dana Andersen, Mat Busby, Andrew Scott, Harley Symington, Bob Blair, Chris Andrew
Where: Capitol Theatre, Fort Edmonton Park
Running: Saturday (7:30 p.m.), Sunday (2 p.m.), Tuesday (7:30 p.m.).
Tickets: eventbrite.ca or at the door. Dinner and a night at the Selkirk Hotel are possible add-ons.