October 2006

Words & Music by Bob Dylan
Selected and Performed by Peter Landecker

Featuring Michelle Rumball and Shawn Sage

September 21 – October 7, 2006The Brunswick HouseToronto
Bob Dylan remains incandescent and starkly relevant in this loving and well-conceived musical tribute to the legendary troubadour…
by Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
Iconic singer, songwriter and social activist Bob Dylan remains an enigmatic mystery — from his hardscrabble blue-collar beginnings to his position today as a living legend. The constant conundrum of his life was in full view, as the leading actor, Peter Landecker and his supporting cast took us through a fascinating tour of Dylan’s remarkable journey. Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in the frigid Northern town of Duluth, Minnesota and grew up in the even more desolate outpost of Hibbing (think Sudbury with less culture). After fleeing the confines of Hibbing (and taking on the assumed last name of one of his idols, Welsh writer Dylan Thomas), Dylan’s extensive travels through all strata of society and diverse human experience shaped his unique viewpoint, and created a new, commercially viable musical form — the artist driven composition. By the age of twenty-one, Bob Dylan was a superstar, and he has continued to intrigue and amaze us for the past forty years. Whether he should be considered a poet or a musical composer is a subject that is still open to debate — even by him.

The show’s creator and leading actor Peter Landecker, walked a theatrical high wire, as he interpreted the iconic Dylan by incorporating just the right amount of his familiar nasal mannerisms and verbal idiosyncrasies into his stage persona without reducing his performance to a mere two-dimensional caricature. No easy task, and most certainly a litmus test of Landecker’s considerable skill and taste. The loosely driven autobiographical plot follows Dylan through a number of his highly publicized phases: non-conformist folkie, political protester, lover, cowboy, husband, father, born-again Christian, divorcé and Orthodox Jew. Throughout Dylan’s personal journey, his essential honesty, unpretentiousness and purity of spirit are present in his art for all to see.

Peter Landecker bears a more than passing resemblance to Bob Dylan, and is also an accomplished writer/producer/story editor with a boatload of credits. He began developing this show while completing his theatre degree at U.C.L.A., and drew the material exclusively from Bob Dylan’s song lyrics, interview transcripts, album jacket poetry and programme notes. Landecker actually had two 'accidental' meetings with Bob Dylan himself (although we all know that there are no 'accidents'), from whom he obtained creative input and permission to debut the show in San Francisco in 1987. Landecker currently resides in North Hatley, Québec and has twice re-worked and presented Words & Music at the local Piggery Theatre.

The supporting musical cast, led by guitarist/vocalist Michelle Rumball (lately of the Juno nominated Canadian rock-folk band, The Grievous Angels) and charismatic songwriter/performer Shawn Sage were nothing short of mesmerizing. The onstage musicians are an integral and essential part of the play, and without the inspired support of Michael Holt on keyboards, J.S. Baciu on bass (also the Musical Director) and Jake Oellichs on drums, things would have fallen short indeed. Although all of the music in the show was drawn from Dylan’s considerable catalogue, the ensemble performed the material with their own unique interpretations, which were endlessly surprising, fresh and always highly musical — a true testament to Bob Dylan’s strengths as a meaningful and timeless composer.

The heady atmosphere of the newly renovated Brunswick House (established in 1876) was the perfect environment for Words & Music by Bob Dylan. The Victorian-era pub was intimate and acoustically excellent. The 150 odd year-old bricks and vintage furnishings complete the historical ambiance… exactly the kind of place that one imagines Bob Dylan himself would be found performing.

Peter Landecker
Many of Bob Dylan’s most famous tunes are included in Words & Music, such as “Blowin’ In the Wind”, “Hard Rain”, “The Times They Are A Changin”, “It Ain’t Me, Babe”, “Lay Lady Lay”, “All Along the Watchtower” and “Gotta Serve Somebody”. The show ended with the whole cast in a moving rendition of the much-loved Dylan classic, “Forever Young”. A fitting and appropriate closer for a portrait of an artist whose music, poetry and message simply refuse to age.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Lesley Mitchell-Clarke
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© The Live Music Report – 2006