Spirit troupe resurrects
three musical icons

 May 5, 2006, by Danette Dooley - Special to The Telegram

From left, Tanya Penney, Larry Foley (top) and Darren Martin portray, respectively Joan Morrissey, Dick Nolan, and Harry Hibbs in the Spirit of Newfoundland production of Every Joan, Dick and Harry.

A musical journey through the lives of three of this province's most gifted singers and songwriters opens tonight at the Majestic Theatre on Duckworth Street in St. John's.

Written and directed by Spirit of Newfoundland's Peter Halley and Sheila Williams, Every Joan, Dick and Harry is touted as a hilarious musical which pays homage to Newfoundland icons Joan Morrissey, Dick Nolan and Harry Hibbs.

"Someone suggested at one of our staff meetings that we do a Newfoundland-based show," Halley says.

"Kathy Hicks said she thought that Harry, Dick and Joan had a good ring to it.  So, we went on the ring of that title and we came up with Every Tom, Dick and Harry," he says.

Newcomer Tanya Penney plays Joan Morrissey, Larry Foley, best known as the lead singer for The 8-Track Favourites and The Punters, takes to the stage as Dick Nolan while Darrin Martin - known for his vocal ability in Spirit of Newfoundland's The Beatles, Neil and Grand Old Opry - steps into the shoes of Harry Hibbs.

Sandy Morris, who Halley says worked with each of the late musicians and knew them all personally, leads the band.  George Morgan and Steve Power are also band members.

According to Halley, the show opens and ends with a nostalgic video focusing on how people remember Morrissey, Nolan and Hibbs and how their lives have been influenced and affected by these musical icons.

"The video gives people the idea that these three artists were like the soundtrack for people's lives in the '60s and '70s.  The video will leave people feeling like they've met these characters," Halley says.

The show opens with a train station in Gander, with other scenes set in the Old Mill in St. John's, the Caribou Club in Toronto, and the Admiral's Keg at the former Newfoundland Hotel.

"There's also a fairly substantial recording studio scene," Halley says.

Williams says the show will give Newfoundlanders a real sense of pride and connection to the province's culture, heritage and tourism.

"People will say, 'Oh, remember that, Mom used to love that song.'  And, 'I remember when Mom went to see Harry and they used to dance to this," she says.

The three singers playing the roles of Morrissey, Nolan and Hibbs were hand-picked after Halley and Williams did their research on the lives of the three music legends by researching their work and speaking with family members, friends and other music lovers.

"We knew that Joan was a vivacious, vampish, strong singer, strong personality and beautiful performer," Halley says.

"And we had Harry Hibbs who was very shy, quiet and reserved.  So Darrin Martin was just perfect for that.  Then Dick Nolan was a little bit more out there - the risque person.  And Larry Foley has done a lot of work with our production company and he seemed perfect for that role.  He knew Dick personally and he had the pleasure of backing up Dick for his last performance," Halley says.

For Williams, the name Joan Morrissey conjures up images of The Mobile Goat, Dick Nolan's Aunt Martha's Sheep is also a song that has stayed with her through the years.

However, it's the music of Harry Hibbs that takes her back to her childhood.  Her father mirrored the accomplished accordion player, she says.

"I grew up listening to Dad listening to Harry and learning accordion from him."

Willilams and Halley chose to write and direct this time around, rather than perform in the production.  Both are now busty preparing for the Spirit of Newfoundland's 10th anniversary extravaganza, which show cases the first week in July.

"That show will include Sheila and myself and Shelley (Neville) because we're the three founding members who are still with it today." Halley says.

Right now, however, they're concentrating on bringing to life three artists who, through their music and unique special touch, were welcomed into the hearts and homes of many Newfoundlanders.

Like Williams, Halley is confident those who turn out for the performance will not be disappointed.

"While it's really hard to do a show about all three of these characters, we're giving people a glimpse into their lives.  Because each of them (had) a life worthy of a show of their own."

Every Joan, Dick and Harry opens Friday May 5 and runs May 5, 6, 12, 14, 19, 20, 26 and 27.  Tickets are $52.50 and include a three-course meal.  Call 579-3023 for information and reservations.

Dick Nolan | Spirit of Newfoundland | Joan Morrissey | 8 Track Favourites
Punters | George Morgan | Sandy Morris