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Toller Cranston Comes to Town.

This is the evening of March 1st, 2021, so I would like to post a memory of March 1,2,3, of 1985, when the TOLLER CRANSTON SHOWCASE was presented in Owen Sound, by the Georgian Bay Symphony, the Owen Sound Figure Skating Club and the Tom Thomson Art Gallery.

It started off on the Friday evening of March 1st, which featured the opening of Toller's stunningly beautiful art exhibition at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, filling the entire main floor (both large rooms). Toller was there wearing a bright turquoise tie, and was being led around the gallery walls by Director Jim Logan. Mayor Ovid Jackson was on hand to present a gift from the City to Toller - it was an exquisite wooden box created by artist Tome Carnahan of Makers (forerunner of the Artists Co-op).

On the next day, Saturday March 2, at 8PM a sold out ice show entitled the Magic Wardrobe, featured members of the Figure Skating Club, voices of Norm and Ruth Broomfield (from OSLT), along with Marni Moreau of Meaford, Toller Cranston himself as the heroic Firebird, all performing to the music of Maestro Kerry Stratton and the Georgian Bay Symphony (with a Saxophone section and a jazz piano), which was situated right at ice level, in what was then a very new Bayshore Community Centre. Sunday afternoon there was another sold out matinee performance at 2PM, followed by Toller's presentation of a carnation to each of the skaters in the club.

The art exhibit drew a greater attendance at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery than any in the Gallery's history. That weekend guests from Belleville were in attendance to see the event, and were able to do their own version of the show in Belleville the following year, with their Skating Club, and their Orchestra (coincidentally where Kerry Stratton had gotten his start as a conductor). Other well known local people involved in this event included Carol Hopper of the OS Figure Skating Club and Stan Gadziola who collected the paintings (some were very large) from Toller's home in Toronto to bring to Owen Sound and hang on the walls of the gallery here. There were many more volunteers behind the scenes that made the TOLLER CRANSTON SHOWCASE such a success.

Mary Bolton of Meaford conceived the story line of the ice show, while Bob Cringan who had retired to a rural home south of Meaford, created all of the music arrangements except one that was arranged for the Orchestra by Don Buchanan.

Cubby Cruickshank and his staff at the Bayshore were also terrific to help with the staging of this special event. Clare Christie facilitated things from City Hall, as Recreation Director. Ernestine McKenna was a big help too, at the Gallery.

I would also give a nod to the late Ross Gibbons, for it was through his hosting of an event at Georgian College in early 1984 to look at ideas for a performing arts centre for Owen Sound, that I met a person who had with him the name and phone number for Toller Cranston's agent at IMG. I was in touch within the week, and about a year later the TOLLER CRANSTON SHOWCASE was a reality.

It has certainly been a highlight in my life, and I still remember getting choked up, and unable to play clarinet for a bit when Toller skated out for his first entrance on the ice - as I thought to myself - "It is finally real!" Fond memories, indeed. I will include some images here too. This is the commemorative poster created by Doug Wood and printed at RBW Graphics. There is also a clipping about Toller's first arrival a couple of weeks before the show (to see what he had gotten himself into) - he visited the Bayshore, and also the music room at WHSS where the Symphony was rehearsing and Marni Moreau was singing "Takin' a Chance on Love", to which he said - "I wish I were skating to that song". We had a press conference at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, and lunch at the 101 Café.

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