Drayton Entertainment is bringing a sellout show, the Kings & Queens of Country, to the King’s Wharf Theatre, Penetanguishene. Conceived by artistic director Alex Mustakas, the show follows the successful Legends series, which encompassed Canadian music, rock and roll and the British Invasion.
The Kings & Queens of Country takes the form of a music revue and features more than 80 songs, arranged in medleys, of the genre’s pioneers. Featured artists include Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, among others.
“This idea came to me because I’d spend some time in my father-in-law’s garage,” said Mustakas. “He was always working on cars and things like that and all he would listen to was classic country, and I fell in love with it, such great storytelling. It was a way to pay tribute to these great classic country singers and songwriters.
“What’s really interesting, I wasn’t a huge country fan before digging into this and we have a relatively young cast who really haven’t been exposed to this music and they all have fallen in love with it. They actually get together after rehearsal sometimes just to play it.”
The cast of eight are all musicians as well as singers. An MC rounds out the show, introduces some of the music, taking on a character from time to time and adds “hee-haw humour.”
Mustakas attributes the success of the show and audience reaction every time it has been staged over the past year to nostalgia.
Born in Cyprus, Mustakas came to Canada with his family in 1966, at the age of six. Theatre was in his blood, even though neither of his siblings went into the profession. He did have an uncle who was one of the most famous film and theatre actors in Greece and who marked the first movie he ever made with Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek.
“He was a comedian,” says Mustakas. “He would have been their version of Bob Hope.”
Mustakas’ family is also in the business. His wife Jackie is an actor and both children, a 13-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, have appeared in various shows. They live in a village north of Waterloo, home to the only working covered bridge in Ontario.
Mustakas started working for Drayton Entertainment in 1991, after acquiring an economics degree and a masters in theatre management in England. Today, he programs seven Drayton theatres, directs and produces shows, occasionally develops them and, every once in a while, acts. This year he will take on the title role in Man of La Mancha at the Hamilton Family Theatre Cambridge.
“I do it occasionally, to remember why I work so hard,” he said. “It’s the biggest role I’ve ever played and it’s the reason I got into theatre. I saw it as a kid.”
Kings & Queens of Country runs Sept. 13-30 at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene. Visit kingswharftheatre.com for tickets.
Photo: Michael Cox, Al Braatz, Tyler Check and company in Kings & Queens of Country at the King’s Wharf Theatre in Penetanguishene, Sept. 13-30