Emmy award winning actress returns to VPP in 2016

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Emmy winning actress Michael Learned is driving back to Petrolia, taking the title role in Driving Miss Daisy for the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia’s 2016 season.

Co-Artistic Directors David Hogan and David Rogers unveiled the new season Sunday, just before the last show of the 2015 season was about to take the stage.

Learned, known to many as Mamma Walton on the iconic TV show The Waltons, was last in Petrolia to perform Love Letters with her former co-star Ralph Waite. It would be the last time they would spend time together as he passed away less than a year later.

“She loves to be here,” says Hogan adding Learned will take time to talk with her fans during “An Evening with Michael Learned” where she will talk about “what it is like to be a Hollywood star” and making the transition into the US mainstream after living in Canada. The three shows will raise money for the VPP’s campaign to buy new theatre seats.

The 2016 season will start off with Scotland Sings May 4-20. The show will feature VPP favourites Jesse and Leah Grandmont and will showcase the reels and jigs of Scotland with the bagpipe and the fiddle. “It will transport you to Scotland without the airfare,” quipped Rogers.

The popular Church Basement Ladies are back with A Mighty Fortress is Our Basement. This show takes place in the 60s. Hogan says the first two shows sold out so the VPP is bringing back all of last year’s cast for this event.

This season will also feature an original play called Little Miss County Fair – A Pageant Parody. Contestants from Essex, Kent, Lambton, Middlesex and Oxford vie each night from Aug. 9 to 20 to become Little Miss County Fair. Each night, Rogers says there will be judges from the audience and each night the winner will be different. Michael VanHevel will join Jessica Wall in the production.

Rogers says he’s always wanted to do a parody of a pageant and when they did a “Little Miss County Fair” skit for the 50/50 draw during intermission this year, he knew the concept would work.

He and Musical Director Mark Payne will write all the music for the show.

Rogers and Payne will also team up Aug. 24 to 28 to showcase the music of Rogers and Hammerstein in Around the Piano. Rogers says the show concept came to him while watching Payne in I Love A Piano. “As I was watching it, I wanted to be up there with him.”

Michael VanHevel and Jesse Grandmont will team up together again, along with some other hombres in the final show of the season The Men of Country Sept. 7 to 25.

Rogers and Hogan are excited for the new season saying the shows have come about by listening to their customers. “We have a catrillion shows in our heads and people ask us ‘how do you top this season?’” says Hogan. “We listen to our audience, follow our heart and make good business choices to bring patrons in for all of us in the town.”

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