Review: Inside American Pie

Review | By Joce Reyome

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“A deep dive into it all.”

What a fantastic way to start, this quote by Mike Ross, says it all about his new show Inside American Pie that is running at Harmony House in Hunter River. Ross and his wife Nicole Bellamy own Harmony House as of last year and boy, are we glad they do.

After moving back to Prince Edward Island from Toronto, Mike seems to have become a cultivator of incredible musicians and this means that the creative juices are flowing like the Hillsborough River. One of his more recent endeavours is that of creating a show based on the song “American Pie” by Don McLean. Now, before you get carried away, this show is nothing like you would expect. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Mike leads the performers on stage and suddenly we hear those lyrics that everyone recognizes ring out in the theatre:

A long, long time ago

I can still remember how that music

Used to make me smile

Coming into the famous chorus, Ross cheekily sets the tone for the show in saying, “We’ll get to that.”

Now, I have known Mike for almost a year and one of the most astounding things about him as a performer is his skill in delivery. The way he makes you think and question the song, and how he elaborates on the word-play and riddles that McLean has written, gives it new meaning and I doubt that you will ever hear it the same way again.

This show gives you glimpses into the songs, performers, and events that inspired McLean to write “American Pie,” most notably the untimely deaths of rock ‘n’ rollers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson.

On stage are musicians whose talent is unrivaled in the Maritimes, including Alicia Toner, Brielle Ansems, Greg Gale, and Kirk White. I have had the pleasure of working with all of them, as well as Mike Ross, and I am in awe of their skills as performers. The arrangements and twists on songs you know by heart are striking, smooth, and smart. With violin, electric and acoustic guitar, drums, and piano, each of these musicians shine in ways that you would think they wrote the songs. Four and five part harmonies make you feel as though you are floating in your seat and the blend of their voices go together like Kiwanis Dairy Bar and a walk through Victoria Park.

The questions you’ll ask yourself are some you’d never think of. What really happened that night in 1959? How do Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Janis Joplin make their way into all this? Who is Miss American Pie?

With the enrapturing storytelling, the masterful arrangements, and music coming from phenomenal musicians, this show is one that you must see.

Performances of Inside American Pie are on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm to August 27 at Harmony House in Hunter River.