Miss Caledonia

Melody A. Johnson is a woman of many talents in Miss Caledonia

Written and performed by Melody A. Johnson
Musical accompaniment and original score by Alison Porter
Directed by Rick Roberts and Aaron Willis

Alison Porter, Melody A. Johnson in Miss Caledonia. Photo by Nir Bareket.

The spring of 1955 was a wet, muddy one for a rural Ontario farm, according to one dreamy-eyed teenager’s account. For young Peggy Douglas, farm life was usually gloomy no matter how the weather behaved, as she longed to trade in her pitchfork and flannel shirt for the glamour of Hollywood. Peggy’s observations, dreams, and eventual journey to the pageant stage are just some of the charming features of Miss Caledonia—a true story about writer and performer Melody A. Johnson’s mother—now playing at the Tarragon Theatre.

A one-woman show performed by the energetic Johnson, Miss Caledonia captures the audience’s heart in the first few moments as we meet Peggy and her mother and father, who live on the Douglas Farm on Rural Route 2 in Caledonia. Although the stage features only Johnson, a wooden bench, and musician Alison Porter seated in a chair in the corner playing a violin, the audience can easily visualize the infamous lopsided log cabin and outhouse as described. Peggy shows off a wall of pictures of her favourite stars—Bing Crosby, Roy Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor, and Debbie Reynolds. These are the people she admires, and she is especially inspired by Debbie Reynolds, a former farm girl from Texas who entered a beauty pageant and got discovered. One afternoon, while relaxing after a long day of farm chores, she opens the Hamilton Spectator to find an advertisement for a new Miss Caledonia, and sets her sights on entering a beauty pageant, much to her mother’s apprehension. What ensues is both comical and heartwarming.

One of the many highlights of Miss Caledonia is Johnson’s outstanding ability to play a wide variety of different characters with a spectrum of personalities. She holds entire conversations with her mother, employing a soothing voice and a can-do attitude, as well as her father, her voice deeper and her tone more serious. She plays, to perfection, the stuttering milk-boy on the farm who has a crush on her, as well as the highly amusing girls she eventually competes against in the pageant. The production’s two best moments involve Bing Crosby (played brilliantly by Johnson) singing an encouraging tune, as well as a scene involving a song and a twirling baton (again, played fabulously by Johnson).

Miss Caledonia runs until November 22 at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, and is not to be missed. This is entertainment at its very best.

Visit tarragontheatre.com for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Fri, 2012-10-26 - Thu, 2012-11-22
Our rating:


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