Stuart McLean packed King’s Theatre in Annapolis Royal on consecutive nights May 23 and 24 and there were waiting lists for tickets. In the sold-out shows McLean captivated the crowds with his humourous but touching monologues and his Dave and Morley stories.
By Lawrence Powell
The Vinyl Café was in town last week and Stuart McLean-spotting was the trending topic locally.
McLean arrived in Annapolis Royal a few days early to soak up the vibe. Two sold-out shows were booked for May 23 and 24 at King’s Theatre and if you had a ticket for the 220-seater, you were one of the lucky ones.
McLean set up housekeeping in a little red and rustic apartment beside Market Square -- and a stone’s throw from the theatre. He toured the Habitation in Port Royal, visited Fort Anne, and came to know real Acadian history through Alan Melanson who would introduce Canada’s most famous storyteller to the King’s Theatre crowds.
The Friday night show was a big crowd pleaser. Reports of its success were posted on Facebook late that night and early the next day. And McLean was up bright and early to take in the Farmers and Traders Market the next morning. He sampled the local goods at the market stalls and posed for pictures.
Musical guest for both shows was Jennah Barry and her band from Mahone Bay. And true to form McLean had the crowds in the palm of his hand with several Dave and Morley stories – two never-heard-before ones Saturday night. Those who missed the show will have to wait until sometime in July when the Annapolis Royal episode of The Vinyl Café airs on CBC Radio.
Saturday evening he started his show with a 10-minute monologue talking about his five-hour trip from the airport (most of it down Highway 1), his stop for a photograph with the Paradise sign, the history of Annapolis Royal, touring historic sites, and taking part in Alan Melanson’s candlelight graveyard tour.
“The point of all this is that history is alive here,” McLean said. “What I have read about in books you have and are living still. Living in Annapolis Royal is like living in a museum. But nothing is under glass. Living here is like being part of the exhibit. You don’t buy admission to the fort, you toboggan there in winter. You don’t visit the oldest road, you drive along it. You don’t tour the oldest house, you drop in for a tea and a chat.”
McLean talked about meeting Acadian guide Wayne Melanson at Port Royal and his twin brother Alan at Fort Anne – and the surprise and confusion that must cause tourists. The King’s Theatre crowd cracked up at that point. But a moment later McLean paid the community a large compliment:
“We are all boats in the river of history, but the water runs deeper here in Annapolis Royal than it does in most places,” he said, “and the people here understand the currents better than most; understand what we hold today we only hold temporarily; that our job is to take care of what we have been given and then pass it on, in better condition if we can; to honour our connection to our ancestors and nurture what they have left us.
“What was once the most dangerous place in the world; this place of volcanic fissure; this most fought-over piece of Canada – there were 13 battles here; territory changed hands between the British and the French seven times – is today both safe and in safe hands.
“This is not only the cradle of the Acadian people; it is the cradle of Canada,” he said. “It is a privilege to be here. You do me an honour by your presence at my show. I am honoured to be at yours.”