WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Glory is based on the true story of the Preston Rivulettes a successful Canadian Women’s Hockey team that dominated during the 1930’s. Created as almost a fluke by two sets of sisters: Nellie and Hilda Ranscombe and Marm and Helen Schmuck; they played softball together in the summer and were looking for a sport to play in the winter. The Rivulettes faced huge obstacles that most people wouldn’t have overcome: including working full time jobs while trying to squeeze in practices at odd hours (late at night-early morning) because men’s hockey teams had ice time preferential. But perhaps the biggest challenge was the sexism and bias they faced on a continual basis. They are told repeatedly that hockey is a man’s sport.
Despite this, they were an incredibly successful team, winning ten Ontario titles between 1931 and 1940 with a winning record of 95%.
Written and choreographed by Tracey Power “Glory” is theatrical storytelling at its best. Usually stories told over a long period of time, and episodically, don’t work well in the compacted dramatic form, but this script has both velocity and depth, moving quickly most of the time. CBC radio broadcasts emitting from an old style 1930’s radio frame the show and bridge transitions for the many scenes. Furthermore the radio broadcasts track the blight of the depression and the eminent approach of WWII. The brewing war and the early days of the holocaust create added tension, especially between the German coach and the Jewish sisters.
Although a standard hockey team has six players on the ice, including the goalie, the only hockey players portrayed here are the four founding sisters with the cast being completed by their coach Herb Fach (Andrew Wheeler). Katie Ryerson plays the captain of the team, Hilda Ranscombe, while Morgan Yamada plays her sister Nellie Ranscombe. Advah Soudack plays Marm (Margaret) Schmuck. She is incredibly feisty, but getting more and more frustrated with the anti-semitism she and her sister, Helen Schmuck (Katie Dion-Richard) encounter.
There is no real standout in the ensemble, because frankly, they are all great. Soudack as Marm certainly has a flashier role and she plays it perfectly, as she stomps around the stage incensed at injustices, with her very short fuse lit often. No less impressive is Katie Ryerson as the dignified Hilda, who despite having inherent grace loves the game more than anyone else. So much, she cannot fathom or even get a regular job outside of the game. The real Hilda Ranscombe (1913-1998) was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
I repeat the entire cast is GREAT.
Everything works flawlessly in this production including James McDonald’s seamless direction, Narda McCarroll’s excellent set and lighting design and the author’s own inventive choreography to simulate the hockey games.
I have seen 15 shows since May 1st, from Broadway to Community Theater, and this production of Glory directed by James McDonald at Thousand Islands Playhouse is certainly one of my favorites.