Neptune Theatre’s summer tradition returns as The Argyle Street Kitchen Party welcomes a rotating line-up of East Coast musicians.
Co-created by Neptune’s artistic director, Jeremy Webb, and Dartmouth-based singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Ian Sherwood, it is a show that celebrates East Coast music and culture.
“Kitchen parties are something of a tradition here on the East Coast and something I have both attended many times growing up and played at myself,” says Sherwood. “When Jeremy and I started talking about the idea, he started thinking about how we bring that party to the stage.”
Unlike the traditional theatrical presentation usually seen on Neptune stages, Sherwood makes no excuses for its intent.
“It is very simple,” says Sherwood. “There is no script or narrative through-line. There is no fourth wall as we talk directly to the audience. It is a concert of some of the best East Coast music.”
Although it may sound a little unstructured on its surface, there is much work before the show hits the stage.
“Just by the nature of putting it in a theatre, you want to be consistent with it,” says Sherwood. “I’ve been to a lot of kitchen parties where things can get pretty loose at times, but we are well-rehearsed, and it is pretty much the same show every night.”
But while the core show remains the same nightly, with a bounty of songs and medleys from East Coast music luminaries such as Stan Rogers, The Rankins and Rita MacNeil, the big difference comes from the show’s guest performers who join Sherwood, Malia Rogers, Karen Lizotte, and Dominique Leblanc each night.
This year’s guest line-up includes Jimmy Rankin, Lennie Gallant, Bette MacDonald, Christina Martin, Ben Caplan and Heather Rankin.
“They literally knock on the door, and from the moment they walk into the kitchen the show is basically theirs,” says Sherwood. “A lot of them bring other musicians, and in the past, we’ve joined them too, which is always great because it adds to that kitchen party feel where people are all jamming along and playing songs.”
While Sherwood is not involved in booking the acts for the show, it is evident that the show appeals to the guest performers.
“If we can get artists like those joining us this year, it’s a good indication that this is something that people want to do and be a part of,” he says. “I’ve been a musician, singer, songwriter for years around here, and I’ve never been involved in something like this before.”
To add to the festive nature of the show, a limited number of seats are available on stage for those looking to have a more intimate experience.
“Having audience members on the stage is a lot of fun,” says Sherwood. “With people right next to you while changing an instrument, you can give them a little wink, nod, or hello. And people love it. They’re having a good time, and often they understand that they’re being watched, so they’re being a little extra into it and clapping along a little harder.”
Proof that the concept has legs, the show found itself in London, Ontario, earlier this year with a three-week residency at the Grand Theatre. Rebranded as The East Coast Kitchen Party for its Central Canada run, it featured local artists as part of what organizers billed as “an authentically Nova Scotian experience.”
“It was amazing,” says Sherwood. “We had many people show up who vacationed out east, have lived on the East Coast, or had some other connection to the area. And even those who weren’t from here had a loose idea of what the kitchen party was about and the local component added to the the energy behind it.”
Now back in Halifax, Sherwood is excited to once again bring this East Coast tradition to the comforts of Neptune Theatre’s Fountain Hall.
“It’s going to be a great time,” he says. “And before you know it, it’s going to be getting dark again, so bring some slippers.”
The Argyle Street Kitchen Party runs August 15-27. Visit neptunetheatre.com for more information.