This summer, the Blyth Festival will open its season with the world premiere of "Mr. New Year's Eve: A night with Guy Lombardo," written by London playwright David Scott, a part-time writing professor in the School of Language and Liberal Studies at Fanshawe College.
Guy Lombardo and his brothers, known professionally as The Royal Canadians, were born and raised in London. They launched their career playing in Port Stanley, Grand Bend and other small towns in southern Ontario. Scott, who also teaches writing and speech part-time at Western, felt compelled to write a biographical play to help keep alive the story of the legendary local music family.
"My main motivation was to share the 'bigger story' of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians that many don't know – and that I wasn't aware of when I started this almost 10 years ago," Scott says. "It's also one of those stories that needs to be told and shared now when there are still those alive who saw him perform and danced to his music. Meanwhile, there is a generation who isn't aware of the musical achievements he made from the 1920s to the 1970s."
Together with his band, The Royal Canadians, Lombardo sold more than 300 million records internationally, played at the inaugural balls of six U.S. presidents and led the biggest holiday broadcast on the continent, the Times Square News Year's ball drop, for 48 consecutive years. Scott adds that famed performer Louis Armstrong was known to be a big fan of the Royal Canadians.
"The Royal Canadians rose to fame in the glory days of radio in the 1920s," he explains. "They found success in prohibition Chicago in the 1920s when gangsters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran ruled the streets."
In the works for nearly a decade, Scott's Lombardo play was workshopped three times with Equity actors at the Grand Theatre in London between 2008 and 2014, when Susan Ferley was artistic director.
"I am happy that Gil Garratt, Artistic Director of the Blyth Festival, showed interest in producing the play," Scott admits. "I'm even more thrilled that it kicks off Blyth's 2017 season with a $3-million renovated Memorial Hall."
Scott's first play, "There's Nothing in the Paper," a comedy about a small-town community newspaper, premiered at the Blyth Festival 20 years ago this summer in 1997. It enjoyed additional productions at community theatres in Manitoba and Ontario. His second play, "The Ballad of Stompin' Tom," about Canada's legendary troubadour, Stompin' Tom Connors, was produced at Blyth in 2006 and 2007. It also had productions in Gananoque, Drayton, Penetanguishene, Ontario; and Charlottetown and Summerside, PEI.
Scott was also involved with Jonathan Holiff's 2012 award-winning documentary film, "My Father and the Man in Black," in which Holiff explores his estranged relationship with his father, Saul, who committed suicide in 2005. Saul was Johnny Cash's London-based manager during the peak of his career from 1960 to 1973.
"I helped Jonathan over a period of about three or four years as a script editor (credited in the film) doing edits and offering feedback on at least seven versions of the screenplay," he says. "I also helped him track down some archival information at Western Libraries – old articles and photos that were used in the film."
Scott served as a reporter for Seaforth's Huron Expositor, Grand Bend's Lakeshore Advance and the Goderich Signal Star. He was editor of both the Huron Expositor and Lakeshore Advance from 1995 to 1999. He was the past Huron County correspondent for the London Free Press and has also written a number of freelance columns for the paper.
"Mr. New Year's Eve: A night with Guy Lombardo" runs from June 28 to August 19. Tickets are available to the public and opening night is sold out. For more information, visit http://www.blythfestival.com/lombardo .