She was only a teenager when she performed the irascible Aunt Eller in Oklahoma and, while that part is usually played by someone longer in the tooth, Donna Garner owned it. I was Music Director for that show and several of my family and friends were in that production, an energetic group who started what turned out to be a small but mighty local theatre in our area.
My youngest sister, Donna, went on to become a thoroughly professional talent on the North American theatre scene. She sings, plays piano plus a host of other instruments, and catches your eye every time she walks on stage in a character role. She is funny. As Vi Petty in The Buddy Holly Story at the Charlottetown Festival her performance rang with authenticity, talent, and just plain fun. I’ll never forget the vision of her playing a rollicking keyboard number, her body lying back almost flat, away from the keyboard, and the sound just a-cookin’. It was great.
Last Saturday my husband and I caught Donna in Once at the Royal Alex theatre in Toronto. Part of a year-long tour this off-Broadway show is visiting spots all across North America. Here is the link.
As the audience trickles into the theatre they have the option of going up on stage, buying a drink at the bar which is part of the set and hanging out there as the actors saunter in, grab their instruments, and begin to play. I suppose I could have joined the singing if I wanted, the atmosphere was just that comfortable and real. But I didn’t. Instead I stood on the stage and watched my sister, Baruska in the show, who, when she saw me, raised her eyebrows completely in character but just for me. I had not seen her since early August.
The show was cleverly written, lively, and well-performed on the adaptable stage. We loved it. Afterwards we waited for Donna before going for an early dinner so that she could get back and do the Saturday night show. And in the restaurant she was recognized! It was all thrilling. We so wished Mom was alive to see it.
Here are some pictures:
1. Donna as Fairy Godmother on Disney ship.
2. Donna at one the the jazz concerts she often performs.
3. The poster outside the theatre with Donna in the picture. They have several, each one sporting different major characters.
4. My treasured program with my sister’s bio in it.
5. Donna after one of her jazz concerts this past summer in Toronto. Some of our family had gone to hear the performance. It was awesome.
Today’s post is a little far off the track for an historical fiction author but I know you’ll forgive me for praising my sister, just this one time. If you can, go see the show, Once, in a city near you. It’s a great story and will fill up your creative reserves, for sure.
Donna’s alma mater, Western University in London, is proud of her, too.