Jasper Station touches the heart and the funny bone
Time spent with the folks at Jasper Station is time very well spent.

review by Bonni Stevenson

THE PETROLIA TOPIC, August 26, 2003

The 2003 summer season at the Victoria Playhouse is offering a slam-bang finale to what has been a great series. Jasper Station showcases a superior ensemble cast in a production that is at once poignant and hysterically funny.

If there is a message to be garnered from Jasper Station, itís that everyone has a different definition of Heaven - a different take on the ideal life. Six people spend one evening of their lives waiting for a train and are forever changed by the experience. As they interact and ultimately connect, the characters of Jasper Station draw us into the process of bringing their dreams into focus, often with hilarious results. Then there is the music. The lyrics and music of Norm Foster and Steve Thomas are handled with tender loving care. The vocals are solid, with intricate harmonies and well-matched voices illuminating the plot line and drawing the audience in heart and soul.

Brian McKay, who deftly manoeuvres through an astoundingly diverse range of characters throughout the piece, is a wonder. The emotional depth of his vocals and his precise comedic timing bind the productionís mini-stories into one cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable whole. Of course, the rest of the cast bring their own individual strengths to bear as well. Brenley Charkow brings great energy and spirit to her role as Rebecca, the intrepid reporter from the small-town Spruce Grove Examiner. Charkowís character is nicely balanced by the brooding, low-key intensity of Nikki, played by Michelle Doyle. And providing a middle ground between the two, the gentle, intelligent Emaline, played by Jayne Lewis, helps to present a fine cross-section of the modern female psyche. In the midst of all this estrogen, some testosterone is needed for good measure. Enter Henry, the aspiring NHL hockey guy, played with gutsy vigour and youthful exuberance by Jason Chesworth. Rounding out the male contingent is the painfully timid Sterling, a role tailor-made for Ed Sahely. Sahely precipitates some of the most sidesplitting moments the VPP stage has witnessed in many moons.

It is rare that a theatre experience can move us to care so deeply so fast, but at this railroad station one special night, everything changes for six souls in search of a dream. And like privileged guests, the audience is invited to share the experience right to the startling end. Jasper Station has, at its core, a noble heart. It encourages its audience to make an emotional investment that provides a generous payback. This finale to the VPP season sparkles with the stuff dreams are made of and leaves us hungry for more.

Tickets for Jasper Station, which plays at Victoria Playhouse through Sept. 6, are available at the playhouse box office at 411 Greenfield Street in Petrolia or by calling 882-1221.