By: Nick Travis
Spirit of Newfoundland Productions sits down with The Herald to discuss their new show based off ’70s pop giants, The Carpenters
Spirit of Newfoundland Productions is back with another new show. Their newest production, It’s Yesterday Once More, goes over the career of The Carpenters. Comprised of brother/sister duo Richard and Karen Carpenter, The Carpenters dominated the charts with songs such as Rainy Days And Mondays, Close To You and Top Of The World in a time where psychedelic rock groups like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin ruled the day.
We sat down with Peter Halley and Evan Smith at the Holy Heart Theatre around a grand piano to discuss Spirit of Newfoundland’s newest show. When Halley and Smith weren’t breaking out in song, we got to ask them some questions.
Ageless & timeless
We were as curious as some of the readers probably are when we asked, why do a show on The Carpenters?
“Their music is ageless and timeless,” said Halley. “And especially hearing someone with her voice. Karen Carpenter was completely unique, and they were a completely unique duo. So I’m really passionate about The Carpenters. It’s just a beautiful story of a brother and sister team who made it in the world of music when heavy psychedelic rock was popular.”
Many people, including Evan Smith, don’t realize how many of The Carpenters songs they already know.
“I didn’t really remember (The Carpenters) until I started looking at song lists and going, ‘Oh, I know that song, I know that song,” said Smith.
Recently, movies like Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody have brought musicians personal lives to the forefront of their public persona.
Karen and Richard Carpenter both have interesting and tragic personal lives — Karen Carpenter died from anorexia nervosa in 1983, and Richard Carpenter was addicted to the hypnotic drug quaaludes during the height of his career. Spirit of Newfoundland, however, doesn’t intend to follow the trend of creating dramatic biographies.
“It’s a tribute to their music with characters. There are things that are hard to avoid, but it’s not a show about mental health, or about anorexia, or about drug addiction,” said Halley. “It’s a look at the work and the people that they work with.”
Spirit Of Newfoundland Productions has been around since 1997, and in that time they’ve done countless numbers of shows. When asked what were their favourite shows to perform, Smith and Halley couldn’t pick just one.
“Most of the shows we’ve written ourselves, a lot of them we’ve rented. So when you ask that question it’s hard for me to say, you know, ‘One of the favourites is one I wrote,’” said Halley.
“You always loved the Sinatra show,” Smith chimed in.
“I love the Sinatra show! I love that music,” replied Halley. “I love Where Once They Stood. It’s a World War One show. I love doing it.”
“I always loved the duets show,” said Smith.
“Loved Go Duet Yourself, great music. What about you? Do you have a favourite one to do?” Halley asked Smith.
“Mamas and Papas is really fun, and their sort of a similar-ish vein in terms of style to The Carpenters,” said Smith.
“It’s hard to say, there are so many favourites,” said Halley. “We did a 60th anniversary for St. Pat’s Mercy Home last year, and writing it and putting it together was like, ‘Oh God, how do we make this fun?’ We did the show last night and it turned out to be one of my favourites — Stand by Your Nan.”
After listening to Halley perform a beautifully done snippet of Close To You on Holy Heart Theatre’s grand piano, we came back to the topic of The Carpenters.
“Their music is beautiful. We don’t want to focus on the fact that Karen died at, you know, less than 70 pounds at age 32 — it’s horrible. And Richard Carpenter is someone who doesn’t want that to happen either, because her legacy — their legacy is the fabulous music and how much success they had for only one decade,” said Halley.
“They beat all the odds in an industry that worshiped rock and roll. The love songs rose to the top. They had number one hit, number one hit, number one hit. And they were brother and sister, and they didn’t fight. That’s a little uncanny. He arranged and wrote a lot of their music and she was a drummer. Like it was just such a unique story.”
When asked where audiences could catch It’s Yesterday Once More, Halley also took the time to give us a glimpse in to the premise of their newest musical.
“July 11th and 12th at Holy Heart, this beautiful theatre. It’s a great little premise of a radio deejay back in the 70s who’s now no longer with us — his granddaughter and friend come in to this studio and they find all of his old tapes, and they play them back, and they play the old records and they take us through the journey of The Carpenters. It’s one of my favourite projects that I think I’ve ever worked on.”
Tickets for It’s Yesterday Once More can be purchased at the Holy Heart Theatre, by calling (709) 579-4424, or at holyhearttheatre.com.