Bingo Ladies


Port Stanley News Review

Bingo Ladies is the most delightful farce I’ve seen in decades. You’ll be singing along to lyrics you don’t even know, and fall in love with the most crotchety old woman to hit the stage in two centuries… If you’re going to do yourself one favour this summer, make it taking in a performance of Bingo Ladies – you’ll laugh till your sides hurt.


Everyone is a winner with Bingo Ladies The Musical at HVT

Perhaps hard to believe today, and not too long ago at that, Bingo was the name of the game for tens of thousands of thrill-seekers and wannabe winners throughout Quebec. And indeed Canada. This was before governments began actively promoting their own multi-million-dollar programs on TV and in retail outlets to such an extent that it makes one’s head spin. Considering that it was once considered to be illegal. And on-line poker is readily available on the ‘puter.

But no such problem with Bingo. Armed with their own markers and daubers, and often with lucky mascots in tow, the Bingo brigade with a few bucks in their pockets would flock to community and church halls, and even to more professional so-called Bingo Palaces, for a flutter on bouncing balls and different coloured cards.

With part of the proceeds, however miniscule, going to a designated local worthwhile charity.

Sometimes more than once a week, depending on their dedication – some might even call it addiction – to the game believed to have been taken back to England by British soldiers returning from troubles in India in Victorian times. Apparently, they had played it to while away the time when not otherwise actively or pro-actively engaged. Bingo being an Indian word for ‘Got it!’

At least that’s the story I once heard and have never been given reason to doubt it.

Well, there is certainly no doubt in my mind at least that Hudson Village Theatre has certainly ‘Got it’ this month with one of the funniest, brilliantly staged and performed, and most moving musicals I’ve seen in years. And a winner in every sense of the word.

The creation of playwright-composer-lyricist, Grant Tilly, and directed by Elizabeth Gilroy – both of whom were in the audience on opening night last week – it is titled Bingo Ladies The Musical running through August 30.
First staged in its complete form at the Port Stanley Theatre Festival last summer to rave reviews, let’s set the scene, again a winner by set designer, Jo-Anne Vezina. It’s Friday night at the Bingo hall and the gloves are off.

Carol, a middle–aged waitress (played by Elinor Holt) desperately needs to win to pay off her sizeable debts. Her best friend, Sandi (Laura Caswell) tags along because she’s entertaining romantic ideas about the Bingo caller, Lou (Mark Allan) whose still grappling with the loss of his lifelong dream to front a rock band. And rounding out the quirky cast is Irene (Mary Pitt) a cantankerous septuagenarian know–it–all, oxygen tank in tow, who always wins.

How far are these diehard Bingo fans willing to go to win the big jackpot? Or even just four corners to cover the price of their card?

Ah, but that would be telling. Suffice to say that each cast member is simply superb in their role with solo voices and harmonies to match. Spot-on timing with surprises galore. And, without giving the game away, all may not be as it appears with dear old Irene!

Have to admit I think I’m now addicted to Bingo Ladies The Musical. And would see it again in a heartbeat. It’s that good!


“Bingo Ladies” a Jack-Pot for Audiences at Port Stanley Theatre

“Bingo Ladies” whisks us through the doors of the Bingo Barn and plops us into a sociological microcosm where popping bingo balls are merely a backdrop.

This is a story of three ladies. Irene (played by Mary Pitt) represents the woman who always wins despite struggling with her physical ailments. Sandi (performed by Laura Caswell), a young woman obsessed with finding a man, appears to know the names of everyone who attends the Friday night Bingo. Carol (Lisa Horner in this role) is the superstitious type, her table covered with trolls, including her favorite, Thor.

The stage is set early on as Carol decides to sit in Irene’s seat for a better dance with fate, hoping the luck of Irene sits solely on this very chair. This sets up the scenario for events to unfold in “Bingo Ladies”, Grant Tilly’s musical comedy about the joys and agonies of competitive bingo – and life – as we learn why these characters spend every Friday night at the Bingo Barn.

Each of these actors pours out their hopes, dreams and fears, often with engaging humour and frequently with bursts of deliciously wild song. Sandi and Carol carry the audience along with them right to the edge of outlandishness without going too far, and Irene is one of the most lovably cantankerous characters of all time. Mark Allen plays perfectly the character of Lou the Bingo Caller, stepping to centre stage just enough to remind us that those in the background also have a story.

The set design by Eric Bunnell paints a true portrait of an aging bingo hall, with the frosted half windows, the yellowed walls, old wooden double doors and a wall type ventilation fan to rid the building of its smoky environment.

Members of the cast are all accomplished actors – their singing and acting abilities set a high bar. They have pulled off a well-written Grant Tilly musical comedy with class and exuberance giving the audience a believable representation of what takes place inside the Bingo Barn.

“Bingo Ladies” is here for a short visit until July 26th at Port Stanley Festival Theatre. If you love comedy, this play has it all. The performance I attended received a well deserved standing ovation – this is sure to be another hit with audiences at the Port Stanley Theatre.


Bingo: Not Everything is as it Seems

There is great fun to be had on a night out at Bingo with the ladies at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre. But just when you think it’s only a silly musical comedy, you are hit with a thought-provoking message about judging others. And there is also a warning about gambling addiction.
Bingo Ladies is a new Canadian musical comedy written by Grant Tilly. Originally from Calgary and now living in Toronto, he is a singer/songwriter, actor and writer, with a knack for witty dialogue, as evidenced by the conversations the Bingo Ladies have. He also has a knack for music and lyrics as the songs and the story are woven together.

Carol and Sandi have had a losing streak at the bingo hall, so they sit next to Irene, the Bingo Queen, who regularly wins. Lou, the bingo caller, is a former heavy metal band member, who catches Carol’s eye. A lot of thoughts are shared and truths are told during the course of the evening, and the ladies learn that not all things are what they seem to be.

To get this premiere off the ground, the Director Liz Gilroy has assembled a superior cast, well experienced in eliciting laughs from the audience.
Mary Pitt is perfect as the oxygen tank toting Bingo Queen, just crotchety enough to be funny and funny enough to be a likeable. Lisa Horner is Carol, whose credit card debt shows she has an addiction problem and all her good luck trolls aren’t helping. Horner is flawless in the feisty role, and belts the original songs with great energy. Laura Caswell is delightful as Sandi, who can’t win at bingo or love. Mark Allen as Lou rocks out of the songs and charms the audience.

All four actors deliver the lines well, whether on their own or in the songs.

The set is a complete bingo hall – so realistic you can almost smell the smoke – if it wasn’t for the sign saying “No Smoking – May 31, 2006.”

Take in this new musical after a day on the beach in Port Stanley, and enjoy the realistic action of a bingo hall, and its effect on the four characters. You will also be in for a few twists and turns as the plot moves on. Watch for the clear (and happy) conclusion.


Get obsessed with the quirks of Grant Tilly’s Bingo Ladies

For some people, bingo is a pleasant diversion. But for others it’s an obsession.

It is the blissfully-obsessed who are the subjects of Lunchbox Theatre’s delightful new musical comedy Bingo Ladies.

With book, lyrics and music by the talented Grant Tilly, Bingo Ladies is a loving spoof of some people’s favourite sport.

There’s Irene (Esther Pur-vis- Smith) –the queen of the Bingo Barn — who drags her oxygen canister with her and uses an amplifying headphone so she can be heard when she yells bingo which is one or two times a night.

For Sandi (Katherine Fadum), bingo is her social life. She knows everyone in the bingo hall and she keeps surveying the tables for an eligible man but her sights are really set on Lou (Joe Perry) the bingo caller.

Carol (Elinor Holt) arrives with her numerous totems which she hopes will bring her luck. There’s even a horse shoe that she uses to further anoint every little troll doll, plus Lou and the bingo machine.

Buried under make up and wig, Purvis-Smith is barely recognizable and she has great fun playing this aged harridan.

It’s what Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence used to do so well on the old Carol Burnett Show and Purvis-Smith would fit right in.

Irene is crafty and it takes most of the play to see just exactly how crafty.

Fadum is giddy and girlish even though she admits she’s a bit past her prime.

We see just how needy Sandi is when her bingo security blankey is threatened.

As talented as her co-stars are, this show belongs to Holt as the desperate Carol with all her little rituals and frenzied fears.
Holt belts out Tilly’s songs like the little musical theatre gems they are meant to be — letting us savour every clever lyric and nuance.

Pamela Halstead’s direction stresses all the silly nonsense in Tilly’s play, which should royally delight Lunchbox audiences.

Scott Reid’s set is a hoot and Rebecca Toon says oodles with the costumes she has given the four actors.

The gang at Lunchbox know Tilly’s Bingo Ladies is meant to be unadulterated fun and they’ve pulled out all the stops to make it work.


Bingo Ladies liven up Lunchbox stage

The Bingo Barn isn’t likely the first place that pops into mind when you’re thinking of places to meet that special someone, but Sandi (Katherine Fadum) doesn’t mind.
She’s there every Friday night, with her lucky pony action figures and her bingo markers, and her special spot — until tonight, when her best buddy Carol (Elinor Holt) throws things for a loop by choosing new seats for the two of them to play games of chance at.

That’s because Carol moves into Irene’s (Esther Purves-Smith) seat, because despite being 80 something, and dragging an oxygen tank and a microphone around with her every where she goes, Irene is a force of nature at the bingo hall.

She might find it difficult to be heard — hence the microphone — but she gets plenty of opportunities to exercise her vocal cords, because she’s the luckiest lady at Bingo Barn more nights than not.

That’s the scenario that unfolds in Bingo Ladies, Grant Tilly’s musical about the joys, and agony, of playing competitive bingo.

Talk about Les Miserable!

That’s not entirely truthful. While the characters in Les Mis were French people who often had none, what drives Bingo Ladies is that Sandi, Carol and even 80 something Irene all possess hope in abundance — and it’s a musical, so they sing about it.

If that sounds kind of fun, it is. Holt is a great singer, and here, with (what feels like should be) curlers in her hair, gum in her mouth and a bag full of lucky trolls, she belts out odes to bingo (by Grant Tilly).
Her hope is not very grandiose or idealistic — it turns out she’s managed to turn her relentless hope into a near-ruinous credit card debt — but in a clever bit of spinning, she bursts out with a song about how she’s not addicting to gambling, she’s addicted to helping the arts, (because part of the Bingo Barn’s proceeds each night go to different arts companies).

Sandi, meanwhile, has her eye on the bingo caller, Lou (Joe Perry), a young, handsome cowboy he’s too terrified to talk to.

But it’s really Irene who’s the star of the show.

From the moment Purves-Smith, slithers out on stage, hunched over an oxygen machine, railing at Carol for taking her lucky spot, Bingo Ladies takes flight and doesn’t really let down until Irene does, too, in what appears to be a life-and-death moment at The Bingo Barn.

Which is something you’ll have to make the trip to Lunchbox to find out, but living or dying, Purves-Smith is never less than a laugh and Bingo Ladies never less than a pleasure to watch.


Christian Republican Fundraiser


You win some and you lose some to Zombies

The trouble with most Fringe musicals is that they have a witty book and an appalling score. The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee turns that cliché on its ear. The book is far from appalling, although it’s basically connective tissue between the songs, but ah, what songs!

Grant Tilly knows how to write country-rock, not cheap parody. This show’s score is more tuneful than most large-scale Canadian musicals we’ve snored through in recent year. What you can’t teach is Tilly’s gift of writing a song that sticks with you the minute you hear it and happily stays in your ear long after you leave the theatre.


Blog TO “Best of Fringe” Review

Well, another Fringe Festival has come and gone. But like every year, there are a few shows that will go on to bigger things. In 1999, there was the Drowsy Chaperone. In 2002, Job: The Hip Hop Musical got all the buzz. Last year gave us the Gladstone Variations and An Inconvenient Musical.

And in 2008, we have The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee. I reviewed this show during the Fringe and loved it. But since Christian Republican Fundraiser is playing next week as part of Diesel Playhouse’s “Best of the Fringe”, I thought I’d tell you a bit more about what makes this show so good.

The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee tells the story of an insurgent group of liberal musicians who go undercover as a Toby Keith-esque country band in order to agit-prop a Republican gala. It’s a clever story, and it gets a nice treatment in Grant Tilly’s script. But here’s the first reason why the show is great: at its core, it carries an impressively nuanced political message. Political change is all about speaking to actual people and the circumstances of their lives, not endless browbeating with hackneyed slogans and high-minded ideals. The characters learn this lesson the hard way, and by the end of the show, we’ve picked up on it too.

Reason the second why Christian Republican Fundraiser rocks: the music is amazing. All of the songs are performed by the actors onstage, and there is some serious talent on display. It never feels like these are actors attempting to be country musicians. These are country musicians who also happen to be actors. I’ve heard rumours that the cast is planning to record the soundtrack. I really hope they do- when it comes out, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

If there is a weakness to the show, it happens in the moments between songs. The script occasionally falls into cliche, and the delivery can sometimes feels a little forced. The actors play their character broadly, almost like cartoons. This fits with the over-the-top nature of the show, but I could have definitely used a bit more detail and subtlety in the non-musical performances.

In the end, you hardly notice the weaknesses for all the energy and fun. Here’s the final reason why this show deserves a long life after the Fringe: it’s just a good time. A smart story and fantastic music makes for a brilliant performance, and you’ll be smiling all the way through.

The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee plays July 23, 24 and 27 at the Diesel Playhouse. For tickets and information, check out the Diesel website.


Classical 96.3 Review

The Diesel Playhouse picks the Best of the Fringe for a second coming. A giant hit this year is The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee, a hilarious country rock musical by Grant Tilly.

The premise is outrageous. The Republican right wing is holding a secret fundraiser with the heads of mega-corporations in Dayton, Tennessee. The hired band called God’s Country is really a group of liberals. Complications arise when lead singer Jackson comes on to the host’s virginal 26-year-old daughter. The talented four-member band can not only sing but act, while the right-wingers hold their own.

With toe-tapping songs like “Mormons Won’t You Love Your Gay Children?” and “Outbreed the Red Whites to Blue”, how can this show miss? Tilly and Ed Sahely have co-directed the musical with just the right touch of sly satire. This riotous show deserves a commercial run.

The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee continues at the Diesel Playhouse until Sunday.


Now Magazine

CRITICS PICK: NNNN (The Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton Tennessee) “Inspired songwriting and a tight live band make this show a real humdinger.”


Toronto musical features the city of Dayton

A musical set in Dayton proved to be a big hit in Toronto, Canada, this month.

The politically-opinionated production, “Christian Republican Fundraiser in Dayton, Tennessee,” ran as a part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, and is designated a country-rock musical.

The musicalʼs creator and director, singer/songwriter Grant Tilly, said he chose Tennessee because it was a southern state he was familiar with, after having been involved in another musical set in Tennessee, though he has not been here himself.

“As far as Dayton goes, I knew that it was the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial, a major showdown between evolution and creationism,” Tilly said, “and I thought that it would serve our show well, as we have a clash between liberals and republicans.”

In the play, a group of left-wing activists infiltrate a Christian, Republican fundraiser in Dayton, which is hosted by a virgin, Deborah, and her father, Jennings. The two characters are the only Daytonians in the play.

“While the older man tends to be, well, old-fashioned, his daughter is a forward thinker,” Tilly said about the characters.

Tilly said he originally thought the musical would be more controversial, but so far, it has been warmly received by most audiences.

The show ended last week, but is being “remounted,” according to Tilly, in a larger location, due to sold-out performances and great reviews.

The Herald-News, Dayton Tennessee (JULY 18, 2008)

Before My Eyes Album


“Tilly opens ears and eyes with songs from the folk pop album Before My Eyes from the light, lost-love track Somebody Else to the hilariously tongue-in-cheek My Gods Better Than Your God.”


“Grant Tilly blew the roof off the Solocentric fundraiser last night”


The World Keeps Passing By Album


“Grant Tilly: “The World Keeps Passing By” (album review)

Sometimes there’s an album that really sneaks up on you. You pop it in without any expectations and you slowly but surely fall for its the charms. That’s definitely the case with Toronto-based, Calgary-born folk singer/songwriter Grant Tilly’s forthcoming record The World Keeps Passing By.

It’s the songwriting that stands out with Tilly. His lyrics are thoughtful and unpretentious. He’s honest without being sappy or laden down with self-pity. This alone sets him apart in the all-too earnest world of folk music.

A dash of humour adds to the charm. After all, who can resist a song like “Until I’m With You” that rhymes ’emails’ with ‘Cream Ales’. Tilly also takes a cue from Charlie Daniels on “The Interview”, a track that updates the country legends’ “The Folksinger”.

For the most part, the arrangements provided by Ayron Ortley (The Mahones), David Baxter (Justin Rutledge), and the rest of Tilly’s players are unobtrusive and admirably efficient. Songs like “We Can’t Go Back” and “A Simple Dream” however, have a fun Spirit Of The West-style east coast vibe.

The World Keeps Passing By is a pleasant little record that will keep rewarding you the more and more you listen to it.

Best tracks: “Until I’m With You”, “The Interview””



“Grant Tilly as Ritchie Valens is another standout, providing excitement with an explosive performance of “La Bamba.”


“Grant Tilly is sweetly loopy as Doody, the guy who’s clueless about anything more complicated than the four chords he’s learned to pick on his guitar.”


“Grant Tilly’s (Doody) sweet tone is also pleasing, especially in his solo, Those Magic Changes. His energy on stage is contagious.”


“Among a mediocre cast, only Caswell — along with understudy Grant Tilly in four ensemble roles and Jayne Lewis as Dr. Parker’s wife Meredith — provide anything like redeeming performances. (They can also sing, which helps in a musical.)”



The evening’s most poignant song is Grant Tilly and Konrad Pluta’s To the People That We Lost Last Year.


Slabe has found a certified holiday gem in Grant Tilly’s Thank you, Christians. It’s a devilishly clever and pretty darn astute look at how non-Christians view Christmas.




The indisputable high point is Grant Tilly’s musical comedy Why You Should Think Twice About Cloning Yourself. Beginning with a gleefully cynical, Young Canadian-style tribute to the “sanitized, homogenized, Calgary Alberta dream,” it tells the tale of Hubert and Yvette, a pair of newly-weds for whom life isn’t complete without a baby. When Hubert is tragically rendered infertile by a cycling accident, adoption and sperm donors are out of the question and the couple turns to cloning as the only logical option. Clone Hubert, suggests the bizarre Doctor McCollun, and when the rapidly aging clone is old enough to mate, Hubert’s legacy will be there for the taking.

The play features relatively sophisticated musical arrangements for a festival venue like this, and a large skilled cast of singers and musicians. Notable in particular are Reyna Giroux as Yvette and Thomas Wilmut as Hubert- their command of music, comedy, and character development is outstanding. the play is well staged by the playwright himself, with smooth transitions between three locations, and the team has created a gem that shouldn’t be missed- but you only have until June 2nd.”



Normally we’d caution Fringe-goers against the dreaded “bait and switch”. You know: play titles that suggest sex where there is none, comedies that turn out to be melodramas, respected names who end up boring the crap our of their audiences in the name of “art”.

In the case of Why You Should Think Twice About Cloning Yourself, the bait and switch game gives the cautionary take a real zing. This energetic and politically incorrect musical is not what it seems- and that’s part of the fun.

The show starts off as a golly-gee-let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn country and western musical cabaret complete with a line dance opening number as a satirical poke at Alberta’s oil economy. It ends in a black comedy exploring the issue of human cloning with the most horrific scenario possible. Whew! These kids pack a lot of material into this thing and it never seems hurried or confused. The juxtapositions between the former and the latter themes are in fact hilarious.

Hubert and Yvette (playwright Grant Tilly and Jenny Anderson) are typical Alberta newlyweds ready to start a family when disaster strikes: Hubert loses his testicals. Adoption is out of the question, as are sperm donors. The only logical answer: Clone Hubert and then use the clone’s sperm. No problem for this Catholic couple since the church says there is no “soul” until the sperm and egg meet. Ergo, clones have no soul.

It’s not hard to see where this is going. That the various ethical and moral dilemmas involved with human cloning are explored with a sledgehammer is no problem here. Swell numbers include Happiness is just a family away, There’s a Fresh Young Man in the Attic, and You take his Testes, I’ll take his Liver, and we’ll see What he can Deliver.

A song is worth a thousand words.

The performances are all terrific, especially Jenny Anderson as the seemingly innocent wife, Tilly playing two roles, Guilly Urra as the unscrupulous family doctor and Lyndsey Patterson as the evil cloning scientist.

The science may be dodgy and many of the plot twists completely illogical, but through the absurdity and campy country music theme, a worthy message shines through. The title of the play says it all.”


Love Notwithstanding


Set in the intimate venue of Red Sandcastle Theatre and written and acted by accomplished performer Grant Tilly, Love Notwithstanding gives us an up close and personal glimpse of a relationship at its crossroad.

Combining the talented efforts of two established Toronto actors with a story most people can relate to at one point in their life, this production is engaging and accessible.
Jet-setting between Vancouver and Toronto, Chris, performed by Tilly himself, is a self-proclaimed “New Age, Buddhist, Agnostic”, reconnecting with Jenna in Vancouver. As the two agree to keep their relationship limited and within a month’s time, truths and emotions begin to surface forcing them to question their fate with one another.

Most of the play is centered around each character’s complicated view on love, life and relationships. The dialogue is heartfelt and honest. Tilly’s characters are well-crafted and the writing is intelligent and humorous.

Sarah English as Jenna, is calm, collected, controlled and candid. Natural and real, English has a lovely stage charm. Tilly as the unattached yet sensitive Chris is the perfect contrast of energy and impulsivity, bursting with uncertainty about life and his career. Both Tilly and English show great chemistry, creating believable roles.

The Red Sandcastle Theatre works well once again as the backdrop for the apartment setting. This is the second show I’ve seen in this space, however, from a different angle this time. Contemporary furniture and small space living add to the sense of living in Vancouver.

Most of the action moves from the kitchen where much of the wine-drinking and conversations take place, and sometimes moving to the couch. I especially loved the moments we got to hear Chris share his songs with Jenna. Tilly not only shows good acting chops but the voice to go with it.

Love Notwithstanding is a play about making authentic connections, making choices and sometimes having to make sacrifices. A consummate artist, Grant Tilly creates for us a sweet and endearing play.


Spleendid! : 

probably my favourite article I was ever interviewed for. Ever.


Only Grant Tilly can pull off a musical in which the plot revolves around the human spleen. With help from musical director Konrad Pluta, stage manager Joanna Topor, and Nickle and Dime Productions, Tilly’s musical Spleendid will be performed at noon from Jan. 16-19 at the Reeve Theatre Secondary.

Tilly’s love for biology and drama gives him the knowledge to create unique plays such as Waiting for God and Spleendid. One main question about this particular play is why the spleen?

“Well, because it is largely ignored,” says Tilly. “There [are] a couple of things in the play about how it is always there for us and yet it is ignored, why do some organs get all the spotlight, like the heart? Why not an organ that puts up a fight?”

This play involves a sick doctor obsessed with spleens. During an emergency operation, the doctor finds the most beautiful spleen he has ever seen and jeopardizes his patient’s life to possess it. Then a strange love triangle develops between the doctor, his assistant and the spleen. The patient dies from complications and his three sons hear his voice from the grave calling the to seek revenge.

This six-person cast involves three Italian mobsters who are played by Javier Vilalter, Dom Poulin and Guilly Urra. The doctor is played by Caden Douglas and the doctor’s assistant, Gretta, is played by Diane Huynh.

Tilly wrote Spleendid for a high school drama festival five years ago. Its second performance was during Tilly’s first year of university, also for Nickle and Dime Productions, which lengthened the musical a bit and pushed the song number up to four.

Now four years later, the same musical is even longer and has eight songs, which Tilly wrote himself.

“[I] just started with the melodies and then did simple accompaniments,” says Tilly. “It is pretty simple in a way; I like it that way. It is hopefully the type of music that doesn’t scare off people that don’t usually go to musicals.”