Review: BLOOM: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fable (4th Line Theatre)

by Lynn on July 22, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

At 4th Line Theatre, Millbrook, Ont.

Written by Beau Dixon

Directed by Kim Blackwell

Songs written by Beau Dixon and Dave Tough

Musical direction by Justin Hiscox

Costumes by Meredith Hubbard

Set by Esther Vincent

Choreography by Monica Dottor

Cast: Griffin Clark

Liam Davidson

Matt Gilbert

Justin Hiscox

Mark Hiscox

JD Nicholson

Shelley Simester

Owen Stahn

Kate Suhr


4th Line Theatre in Millbrook, Ont. is a magical place because the plays take place outdoors in the barn yard of Winslow Farm.  The farm has been in the family of Robert Winslow who started 4th Line Theatre 28 years ago. The plays are all original and focus on the history and stories of the surrounding area.

They do two plays per summer. Bloom: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fable is the first. Carmel is the second and will run in August.

Bloom: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fable is  written by actor-musician-composer Beau Dixon and celebrates the many and various bands started in the small towns in the Kawartha area of Ontario and also around Toronto. Dixon also wrote the many songs with Dave Tough.

The play is about a band started by two boyhood friends, Neph and Eli, called The Spruce Street Ramblers.  The two friends wanted to bust out of their small town of Assumption, Ont. and see the world singing their original songs. They play with a group of guys they went to school with and then Theresa Wilson joins the group when she meets Eli.

Theresa is beautiful, talented and a songwriter in her own right. She becomes the centre of the group. They get notoriety. They make records and they have great success when they do concerts.   Eli is smitten with Theresa and Neph is furious because he feels he’s lost his friend and left out of discussions about the band’s future. The dynamic between the two friends changes.

It’s directed by Kim Blackwell with a good use of the huge space of the farm—the meadows, the various buildings etc. She knows how to raise the stakes with careful direction of her young charges.  It’s quite impressive to see characters running forward out of the meadow into view as they come closer to the barnyard.  The cast is usually a mix of trained actors and those in the community who want to be involved.

The quality of the acting while earnest is a bit uneven from those from the community. Jack Newton as Young Neph Burnstall and Rhys Morgan McClean as Young Eli Tanner, race over the meadows joshing each other yearning to leave the stifling town. You cut them slack because they are not professional actors. Their enthusiasm makes up for it.

The acting is tighter from the professional actors.  I was mighty impressed with the sweetness and determination of Griffin Clark as the adult Eli Tanner. Owen Stahn as the adult Neph Burnstall is excitable, a bit of a hothead and very firm in his convictions. And Kate Suhr has that ethereal look as Theresa Wilson and sings beautifully.

There is a drum kit and instruments close to one of the buildings. The actors are not faking playing their instruments and singing.

I can appreciate Beau Dixon being taken with the notion of writing about garage bands. The music is a cross between country, folk, and contemporary. The music and songs capture a whole generation. The songs are melodic, evocative of a wounded heart and are played and sung beautifully by the adult actors now making up the band.

Young people want to get ahead in the world and leave their small towns behind. The story is believable but the format of telling the story is a bit hard going.

The story does go back and forth in time beginning in 1956 in Assumption and goes all the way to 1986. There are so many characters playing younger and older selves that ones mind is a whirl trying to keep them all straight.  I don’t think it helps that the actors are listed in alphabetical order in the programme and not according to order of appearance which would be easier. I think the play needs another pass to tighten it up and make it clearer.

Produced by 4th Line Theatre.

Began: July 2, 2019.

Closes: July 27, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.


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