Stone Fence Theatre tells the story of ‘Fred”

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    In December 2002 Stone Fence Theatre presented its first show: Ottawa Valley Christmas Past at the Wilno Tavern in Wilno, Ontario. One hundred people packed the small tavern for an afternoon of stories, song and comic monologue.
    Since that wonderful night, the talented men and women have brought to life so many incredible productions that all have one common theme. They celebrate the music, the culture, the people and the history of the Ottawa Valley and the folklore and stories of generations who call the ‘Valley’ home.
    This year, the cast and crew have outdone themselves and have highlighted one of the true characters whose reputation was as tall as the man himself.
    For 50 years or so, “Fred’s” – the Hotel Chapeau in Chapeau, Quebec – was the destination of choice for diners, drinkers, and dancers, lumbermen, hunters and soldiers, tourists and locals, celebrities and salt-of-the-earth.
    It was known for two-inch thick prime steaks, for fine wines, for great music and for fun and tricks of all kinds. Mention the “silver beaver,” the “hare-a-lope,” the clock running backwards or the “time-out room” anywhere in these parts and you’ll get a sly wink of recognition.
    Stone Fence Theatre’s new musical, Up at Fred’s – Allons-y! is the story of Fred Meilleur, his family, his guests, and the remarkable little town of Chapeau, Quebec.
    The show was written by company producer and musical director Ish Theilheimer, who played at the hotel as a young man. 
    “It seems I can’t go anywhere locally without someone accosting me with their memories of great times at Fred’s,” he said. “Somehow, that place came to represent all the things we love about the Ottawa Valley.”
    For the show’s creative director, Chantal Elie-Sernoskie, who is half French-Canadian and half Irish and who grew up in Embrun, Ontario, the show is an important statement.
    “The uniquely French-Canadian character of the Meilleur family shaped the hotel’s environment and its charm and gave everyone who walked in there a sense of home, ” she said. “They gave back a great deal to the community.”
    The show features a strong cast, including Stone Fence Theatre and Yukon theatre veteran Conrad Boyce as Fred Meilleur, supported by Stone Fence Theatre veterans Danielle Bissonnette, Evan Burgess, Ambrose Mullin, Fran Pinkerton and Derek Tolhurst. Newcomers include Andrew Galt, Beverly Lewis and Robert Tremblay as well as musical siblings Dexter and Serena Sernoskie.
    Musicians are Peter Brown, keyboard; Emilyn Stam, keyboard, accordion and fiddle; Jonathan David Williams, button accordion and clarinet; Ish Theilheimer on fiddle, mandolin and guitar; and Derek Tolhurst on bass.
     The show opens July 11 in Rankin, with most shows scheduled there, from July through October. One special show will be performed in Barry’s Bay on August 8 and in Chapeau, on August 10. The full schedule and tickets are available on the company’s website, www.stonefence.ca or by calling 613-401-1497 or, toll-free, 866-310-1004.