This summer will mark the world premiere of Dear Rita at The Charlottetown Festival. The show celebrates the life, tenacity, and musical legacy of the late Rita MacNeil.
Developed closely with Rita’s family and featuring a cast of six performers, the story is told through the direction of Mary Francis Moore and a script by Lindsay Kyte. The cabaret musical features new, re-imagined arrangements of Rita’s music by PEI composer and musician, Mike Ross.
The complete cast of actor-musicians include Michelle Bouey, Sheldon Elter, Kristi Hansen, Melissa MacKenzie, Joce Reyome, and Brendan Wall.
“We picked songs from Rita’s catalogue, from her popular hits to ones that made her bandmates weep, and created narratives around these to offer new perspectives,” shares Kyte, the playwright. “I keep getting asked, ‘Who plays Rita?’ The answer is that it’s not one person. Everyone is Rita—everyone on the stage, and everyone whose heart she touched with her music. In Dear Rita, we invite Rita’s spirit into the room so her songs can live on through our own experiences.”
Additional musical accompaniment is from guitarist Chris Corrigan (who recorded and toured as Rita’s lead guitarist for many years), and drummer Trevor Grant.
Performers MacKenzie and Bouey share the distinction of both being Islanders making their Festival debuts through Dear Rita and are also both alums of the Confederation Centre Young Company.
Hansen and Reyome are also both marking their Mainstage debuts with the Festival, although Reyome has performed in several recent LIVE @ the Centre concerts as a singer-songwriter.
Elter is a versatile actor, writer, and musician, known nationally for his one man show, Metis Mutt, which he performed at the Festival in 2018.
Wall has become a Centre mainstay the past few summers, including Festival turns in Spoon River, Kronborg, Spinning Yarns, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Dear Rita will play June 29 to August 6 at Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.