Johnny Belinda. Musical play by Mavor Moore (book) and John Fenwick (music). It is based on the play of the same name by the US author Elmer Harris, and tells a story of love, murder, and a deaf girl in Souris, PEI, in 1894. Dramatizations of the novel included a Broadway play (1940), a Hollywood movie (1948), a radio play on the CBC (1950), and TV productions on NBC (1958) and ABC (1967).
The Moore-Fenwick musical was premiered 1 Jul 1968 at the Charlottetown Festival, with Fenwick conducting. It was produced there again in 1969, 1974, 1975 and 1983. Performances followed each year (except 1975) in Toronto, in 1969 in Montreal and Ottawa, and in 1983 in Hamilton and Kitchener, Ont. After its Toronto debut at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the critic Nathan Cohen wrote, 'what gives the musical its dynamic is its grass roots quality, conveyed first of all in John Fenwick's score, which draws liberally and pertinently on the bountiful folktune heritage of the Maritimes' (Toronto Daily Star, 4 Jun 1969).
The title role, which is limited to sign language and dance, was played by Diane Nyland in the first two productions and by Amanda Hancox in 1974, 1975 and 1983. Don McManus was Black John MacDonald in every production mentioned. A TV adaptation, called Belinda (with Hancox, and directed by Norman Campbell), was telecast 9 Mar 1977 by the CBC. Some songs from Johnny Belinda have been arranged for the Imperial Oil McPeek Pops Library.