The Times They Are a-Changin’
celebrates the 60s
Segal Centre presents a wonderful compilation of key songs from a turbulent decade
By Byron Toben
Collectively entitled after Bob Dylan’s iconic ballad, The Times They Are a-Changin’, the 28 strong song list includes popular tunes, mostly by Jewish creators, capturing the turbulent events of the 1960s.
A powerful band of five musicians backs up the two dynamic singers. The husband/wife team of Louise Pitre and W. Joseph Matheson (last seen here in the April/May 2018 triumph, The Angel and the Sparrow) energetically voice the selections against a giant backdrop screen of images of the era, ranging from John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King to the Mississippi Freedom Summer murders of youths Cheney, Goodman and Schwermer and the Napalm girl Phan Thi Kim Phic (now a Canadian citizen).
Highlighted among the many pieces, besides Dylan’s title piece, are such as Paul Simon’s 1964 The Sound of Silence, Leonard Cohen’s 1967 Suzanne, Carole King’s 1963 One Fine Day, Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 Alice’s Restaurant Massacree and Janis Ian’s 1965 Society’s Child.
Earlier plaints such as Pete Seeger’s 1949 If I Had A Hammer were also referenced.
This show first appeared in 2018 at the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company in Toronto where it ran for a month. It was there, and here, directed by Avery Saltzman, a 30-year acting veteran.
Kudos to the on-stage local band of Nick Burgess (bandleader and keyboard), Simon Legault and Jason Field (guitars), Evan Stewart (bass) and Peter Colantonio (drums), all of whom literally didn’t miss a beat, pleasing Musical Supervisor Mark Camilleri.
A powerful band of five musicians backs up the two dynamic singers… Louise Pitre and W. Joseph Matheson… energetically voice the selections against a giant backdrop screen of images of the era…
All in all, as important as the awakenings and changes of the 60s were, many societal ills persist.
The show reminded me a bit of Rick Miller’s one-man medleys, although of longer time period and with more emphasis on rock music, BOOM and BOOM Two, both at the Segal Centre in years past.
Real change arrives all too slowly, but as Director Saltzman urges, “Turn to your neighbour sitting next to you and say hello… Changin’ starts with one person at a time.”
Hopefully, Segal audiences can enjoy Pitre (called the Grande Dame of Canadian musical theatre) and Matheson (Shaw and Stratford festivals) again in the future. Check out their online presences at louisepitre.com and joematheson.com
The Times They Are a-Changin’ continues at the Segal Centre until March 22.
Images: Andree Lanthier
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.