It’s no news on the Peninsula that locally-raised Kerry O’Donovan – who cut his performing teeth in Gilbert & Sullivan Society shows, in the long-retired EMS-based alt-rock band Svelte and the musical theatre quartet The Group On Stage – is a mega-talent.
A gifted singer, actor, pianist and songwriter, the Marriott grad has also established a formidable reputation as a musical director and rehearsal pianist for Lower Mainland musical theatre productions over the past two decades – in part because of the kind of understanding that comes from having been in the spotlight so many times himself.
But there’s a down-side that comes with that ability – you can end up spending all of your time music directing for other people’s shows.
That won’t be the case with his upcoming production at Coast Capital Playhouse – an evening billed simply as Kerry O’Donovan with special guests Phil Dickson and Steffanie Davis (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m.)
As he laughingly refers to it, it’s “The Kerry Show’ – a simple pared-down, informal evening in which he gets to do what he loves best, sing and play the piano, along with guest numbers by singer-songwriter Dickson, a close family friend, and Davis, a frequent musical theatre collaborator.
“I’ve been moving away from just music directing lately and getting back into performing,” said O’Donovan, whose last major role at the Coast Capital – outside of being musical director for the G & S Society’s HMS Pinafore in 2014 – was starring as Seymour in the White Rock Players/Fighting Chance co-production of Little Shop of Horrors in 2012.
He acknowledges that being asked to play the role of Motel the Tailor in Fiddler On The Roof for Royal City Musical Theatre earlier this year – he first played the character for them in a production 16 years ago – is “part of what caused to want to get my feet wet again.”
In many ways, the upcoming role will be an extension of the kind of work he’s been doing in his Wednesday night residency at Vancouver’s XY Lounge since last October, he said.
“It’s a musical theatre/show tune sing-a-long night,” he said. “People fill out a request sheet and sometimes they’ll get up and do the song.”
But there’s usually a set in which O’Donovan ends up playing and singing whatever he feels like playing and singing (“I call it my hour of indulgence,” he said) and that’s the same feel he wants to reproduce at the Coast Capital.
“I’m not going to print out a song list, because that’s limiting. The format is basically just my favourite songs – songs that have meant something to me over the years, including the first song I remember my dad (Pacific Showtime and First Capital Chorus stalwart Denny O’Donovan) teaching me and getting me to sing along to.
“It’s not going to be ‘This Is Your Life, Kerry O’Donovan’ – I’m only 37 – the songs I’ll pick will be because I like them. There’ll be everything from Billy Joel to Flanders and Swann, Rodgers and Hammerstein to Fleetwood Mac. There’ll be songs that people know and songs that people have never heard of, and I’ll probably throw in a couple of originals, too. Not just musical theatre – although there will be some – but also pop songs, rock songs.
“I want everything to be a surprise.”
One thing he is willing to give away is that, during intermission, audience members will be asked to fill out request slips for Broadway tunes.
“I’m going to try to do a little bit of what I do on Wednesdays – I’ll pick three and hope I can do them,” he chuckled. “Fortunately I have hundreds of songs on my iPad.”
One thing there is no question about is the calibre of his guests, he said – both of whom have a strong White Rock-South Surrey connection.
“Phil is a great talent, and he’s had a lot of success with his music. And the Dicksons and the O’Donovan’s have been friends since I was three years old. I’ve seen Phil from when he started learning guitar to becoming a fantastic guitar player.
“I remet Steffanie when I was accompanying a production of The Rocky Horror Show at Capilano University. I’d forgotten that she was in The Wizard of Oz at Gateway when I was 20 and she was one of the Munchkins – she was 11.
“She’s one of the best singers I know – she has a voice that could fill the entire Coast Capital without amplification.”
Coast Capital Playhouse is located at 1532 Johnston Rd.
Tickets ($23 including service charge) are available from the box office, 604-536-7535 (open 1-5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday).