Orangeville Citizen
Ned Durango: a coup for Theatre Orangeville
By Constance Scrafield
Diana Coatsworth, Bill Colgate and Keely Hutton in Ned Durango. 2011. Photo by Norm Foster

Ned Durango is a great evening or afternoon out. Everything you might want from a musical is here. It is funny, but not syrupy; it is entertaining yet carries some weight; the music is super.

As is true in most small towns, the local café in Big Oak is the hub of the lives in the village. So, make yourselves comfortable at the Crossroads Café while the stories of the five characters in Ned Durango are spun for your entertainment and intrigue.

Geoffrey Tyler, in the role of Tom, is your host as owner of the Crossroads. Tom is struggling to make ends meet, struggling with the frustration that is his life and the disappointed ambitions of his heart. Working for him in the only job, in the only place he will ever want to be, is Orson, beautifully portrayed by David Rosser – who loves the part, as he later commented. Orson is brave and timid in turn, straight shooting and full of falsehoods as the moment pushes him. Not at all a villain, Orson’s failings all come from his rather humble opinion of himself. Actually, he is loving and mainly interested in the well-being of others but not at all sure that he is the one to deliver happiness.

The gorgeous and effervescent Diana Coatsworth, who comes to us with a huge list of impressive credits, sets off fireworks as Big Oak’s mayor, Catherine. Naturally, she has her tale to tell us in the course of the play and, when plans for Big Oak set her own plans in motion, we see a side of her we did not expect. It is wonderful that young Keely Hutton came to Orangeville from Newfoundland especially to audition for this production. She is a terrific asset, playing the part of Kay, who begins her time within the framework of the story well outside the town. She is the element of surprise in more ways than one: firstly, in her actual connection to Big Oak and, then, once she arrives, her influence on its fate and the fate of those whom we have met within its boundaries.

Finally, and, of course, far from least, is Ned Durango himself. William (Bill) Colgate delivers Ned Durango for us and a very fine job he makes of it. He is a complete natural for the part. Apparently, he has his own band -Bill Colgate and The Urbane Guerrillas – and I am longing to see them perform, having heard Mr. Colgate sing in this musical. He is larger than life and as small as your granny. His still has a full blown ego but bears a terror of his future.

Big Oak is a town is financial distress, which looks to have an opportunity for big improvement if only the people of the town can show that it is worthy of the potential investment. Their annual parade might offer the right occasion if only there is something else, something more, to give it that extra excitement to draw the crowds. Ned Durango to the rescue! Maybe. This is, after all, a story written by Norm Foster, master of your not- so- fast,- there,- trying- to- figure- outmy plot. The twists and turns in these many tales are classic Norm Foster, and so is the humour.

But this is a musical and Leslie Arden lives up to her reputation with songs that are witty and wise, moving and humorous. For the most part, the songs move the story along, replacing dialogue to some extent. They tell bits of the stories; they enhance the thinking of the plot and they are beautifully written. It is interesting and fun the way Ms Arden has put the singers together in pairs and more, sometimes bringing all five of them on stage, not singing together necessarily – in a way, each is singing his or her own thoughts – yet the blending and harmonizing is brilliant. There is no clumsy rhyming or no strange chords; there are just good songs written by a lyricist/composer who really knows what she is about.

Ms. Arden accompanies the show on the piano, along with Bruce Ley – and it is always a pleasure to have Mr. Ley back with us – on guitar and his frequent co- musician, Bob Hewus on the bass.

Kiri Lyn Muir has come to Orangeville to choreograph the production, which she did with enough and not too much dancing. She, too, manages to drop hints that move the story along by the way in which the actors sometimes interact with each other while they are singing. The set, as always, is really perfect. The whole play takes place in the café and it is a pleasure to spend the time there. Kudos, as ever, to Steve Lucas for his lighting and set design, and Beckie Morris and her team for the execution.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this musical; it is such a good time. There is enough weightiness – Norm Foster always creates the best balance – to make it worth seeing more than once. We attended the opening night and, at the reception, the lady I went with commented that it is long. I had not noticed: “Oh, was it long?” I asked. Perhaps, but so good.

Ned Durango runs until May 22. Tickets, of course, are at the box office – 519-942-3423, or online at