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Last of the Red Hot Lovers is bringing red hot laughs

Photo: Dale Cogswell / BOTG
Photo: Dale Cogswell / BOTG

The weather outside may be cooler off with autumn temperatures, but things inside the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts are heating up.

Burloak Theatre Group (BOTG) is opening their newest season this week with their production of Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers. As their first show of the season, the group hopes audiences are ready for big laughs.

This play is the first of three shows in the group's 2022/23 subscription season being at the Oakville Centre this year. (The other two will be Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband next January and the popular musical Cabaret in April. Their pantomime show Cinderella Potter will also play the Centre this December.)

BOTG President Tim Cadeny explains that "a season is about all its shows. And we wanted to feature something for everyone."

Set in late 1960s New York, the show's official description reads, "Middle-aged and married, overworked and overweight, Barney Cashman (Mike Ingram) wants to join the sexual revolution before it's too late." 

The rest of the play follows three seductions: the first is Elaine (Maria Michelli) who proves to be a foul-mouthed bundle of neuroses. Next is Bobbi Michele (Rebecca Birrell), an actress who goes from crazy to crazier. Finally there's Jeanette (Michelle Righetti), a gloomy housewife...who happens to be married to Barney's best friend.

"Neil Simon is a master of comedy," continues Cadeny. "This show, as illicit as it may seem, is full of heart."

Co-producer on the project Beth Poad touts the impressive work of the show's four person cast, citing "we couldn't have asked for better actors in this show. The cast works so well together and it's just great."

She's right in recognizing the efforts of the four actors. Michelli, Birrell and Righetti are all terrific comedic actresses who steal each of the scenes they're in. And Ingram, as star Barney, is giving a true (and rarely seen) tour-de-force: for the play's two-hour run time, he's on stage for the entire show.

"Rehearsing this play has been a learning experience for me," says Ingram. "With so much material to remember I had to use new tools and tricks to help my brain retain it all."

He adds, "...the folks at Burloak have been wonderful to work with. They're such a welcoming group of people.  Working with our director has been an absolute pleasure. He has an infectious energy and such a positive outlook. I've learned a lot from him during this process."

But his favourite part? Ingram doesn't want to give it away, "but there is a moment later in the play where Barney lets loose and exudes frantic energy. It's a lot of fun."

Last of the Red Hot Lovers is coming at an imperative time for BOTG. Although their production of the musical Rent earlier this year was a financial and critical success, the not-for-profit company was also forced to move into a new studio this past summer, reconfiguring their production model at the largest scale in decades. And that's even before their continued COVID-19 recovery efforts.

"We hope this play will be the start to rebuilding our group after the hardest three years the arts have endured in a long time," said Cadeny. "We're beyond excited to have our first full season to present since 2019. But we can’t do it without our audiences."

The group wants audiences to "forget their problems outside, have fun, and come laugh with us" at the red hot play this weekend. Even if it's your first time seeing locally-produced theatre in Oakville, it certainly won't be your last.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers

by Neil Simon

Now playing at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts until October 22, 2022.

Tickets are available online here.

Starring Mike Ingram, Maria Michelli, Rebecca Birrell and Michelle Righetti.

Audiences should be advised the show is recommended for those aged 13 and up, and it contains both mature language and subject matter.

Editor's note: while this story is not sponsored by Burloak Theatre Group or the Oakville Centre, the author of this story is affiliated with the group and contributed to the production on a volunteer basis.


Tyler Collins

About the Author: Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is the editor for Oakville News. Originally from Campbellton, New Brunswick, he's lived in Oakville more than 20 years. Tyler is a proud Sheridan College graduate of both Journalism and Performing Arts.
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