Andrew McAlpine


From: The Scugog Standard

July 20 - The Newcomers 

It will be an evening of music, comedy and spot-on celebrity knock-offs when The Newcomers hit the stage in ‘Viva Las Vegas’ this Saturday (July 21). Benny Hill, Edith and Archie Bunker, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and many more will perform live and in person(ation) at D&D’s Lakeside Restaurant, thanks to the incredible talent of trio Ian and Robyn Hillis and Mike Dunne.

 Husband and wife Ian and Robyn met in Germany in the 70s while touring Europe and performing for the Canadian, British and American Armed Forces. The (then) duo first came to Canada on a three-month contract in the 70s and delighted audiences at the Canadian National Exhibition, The Forum (now the Molson Amphitheatre) at Ontario Place and many fairs and open concerts, touring across Canada with their five-piece band. They wound up in Vancouver, where they befriended the Irish Rovers. A TV show offer with Rovers’ producer Ken Gibson fell through at the last minute and The Newcomers headed stateside before returning to Canada for another tour and a recording contract with Boot Records.

Mike Dunne made it a threesome in the 80s and the trio joined up with Frankie Vog’l (The Show Toppers) and producer Brian Ayres to put together their hit show, ‘Viva Las Vegas.’ (Frank and Brian had been running a weekend show at Deerhurst Lodge for 10 years, which included an undiscovered Shania Twain in the cast.) The new show featured Frankie Vog’l as M.C., Robyn and Ian as lead principles, six Vegas-style showgirls and Mike as back-up with a repertoire of sounds that, at times, gives the impression of  a symphony orchestra. It ran for six months at The Ramada Inn, Niagara Falls, New York, and enjoyed a three-month run in The Americana Hotel in Daytona.

But Canada was calling, and the show headed home, running in a number of soft-seat theatres across Ontario before finally settling down for good in The Old Scott House Dinner Theatre. Viva Las Vegas has been playing there for 14 years, making it the longest running Vegas show in Ontario.

When they can get away from The Old Scott House, The Newcomers still work together as a trio and perform a variety of material from stand-up comedy to in-costume comedic impersonations. Most of their character impersonations are performed as couples - Sonny and Cher, Edith and Archie Bunker, Tina Turner and Roy Orbison, Shania Twain and Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, John Denver and Faith Hill. But one stand-out solo impersonation is Ian’s tribute to Benny Hill. He could be the English comedian.

Ian is not only blessed with the gift of comic timing, but also with an exceptional singing voice. He has a range that modulates between the highs of Josh Groban in ‘You Raise Me Up,’ to Johnny Cash’s lowest low notes. Relying on wit, charm and a respect for the intelligence of the audience, Ian’s humour is understated and wickedly funny. As one critic noted, it is only as a result of vagaries and quirks of the entertainment industry that Ian slipped through the cracks and failed to become a major star, for he has everything that it takes to become one.

Robyn is Ian’s sidekick - his ‘straight gal’ foil. She brings him back in line when he gets sidetracked with a delivery that falls somewhere between Mae West and Gracie Allen. She sings harmony with Ian and when Mike Dunne adds his voice to the mix, you could swear that ABBA or the Bee Gees are on stage.

The Newcomers have released a CD, ‘From a Distance,’ which includes both cover material and a selection of original songs written by Ian. The trio has played many outdoor venues including the C.N.E., the Scarborough and Oshawa Ribfests (which they will play again this year), and performed at many corporate and fundraising events. For their performance at D&D’s Lakeside Restaurant, the trio has added two showgirls, Jennifer Kemp and Wendy Scharien, for a little of that Vegas pizzazz.

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