Hobson's Choice: Music, laughter at the heart of three theatre offerings this week

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This week in community theatre, StoryBook presents The Music Man – one of the classics of American musical theatre, while Workshop Theatre promises to bleed plenty of laughs from Ken Ludwig’s 1995 farce, Moon Over Buffalo, and Rosebud is presenting a concert version of Dream, a new musical by Edmontonian Terry Bachynski.

Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, about a grifter and con man who learns to believe in himself when he falls in love with a small-town librarian, was the sensation of Broadway for almost four years after opening in 1957. It made a star out of its leading man, Robert Preston, who revived the role of con man Harold Hill for the 1962 film.

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In 2021, Hugh Jackman had a box office smash as Harold Hill, the reformed Pied Piper of River City, and the production, with its themes of community and redemption, was called urgently timely. In StoryBook Theatre’s production, under the direction of artistic director JP Thibodeau, Dave Greason plays Harold Hill, with Sarah Irwin as the librarian who sees through his schemes but is won over when he helps her younger brother Winthrop (Donovan Jones) overcome his lisp and social awkwardness.

The score for The Music Man includes songs like You Got Trouble in River City, Seventy-Six Trombones, Goodnight Ladies, Shipoopi and Till There Was You.

The Music Man runs in the Beddington Theatre Arts Centre from Thursdays to Saturdays at 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays from May 10 to June 1.

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Moon Over Buffalo at Workshop Theatre Society, starring Ciorstaidh Reid, Tim Hanna, Aaron Infusino, and Susan J. Soprovich. Photo by Workshop Theatre /cal

WHEN EVERYTHING GOES WRONG, JUST LAUGH

To close its current season, Workshop Theatre has chosen Ken Ludwig’s 1995 farce, Moon Over Buffalo, about a pair of washed-up stage actors who have one last chance to revive their careers. George and Charlotte are touring the plays Cyrano de Bergerac and Private Lives when they receive word that film director Frank Capra is going to catch a matinee because he thinks they’d be great replacements for the two stars who backed out of his latest movie.

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Moon Over Buffalo is filled with mistaken identities and slapstick tomfoolery. George and Charlotte are supposed to be performing Private Lives for Frank Capra, but a drunken George gets in costume and character for Cyrano instead. They end up doing a combination of both plays.

Philip Bosco and Carol Burnett both earned Tony nominations for their performances in the Broadway version, and Frank Langella and Joan Collins won rave reviews when the play opened in London. Lynn Redgrave and Robert Goulet stepped in when Bosco and Burnett took their vacation time. In the Workshop Theatre production, under the direction of Jeremy MacKenzie, Tim Hana and Susan Soprovich play the feuding thespians, with Zena Drabinsky, Hamish Crawford, Ciorstaidh Reid, Jestine Colistro, Aaron Infusino and Ray Mordan rounding out the cast.

Ludwig is known for his comic flare in such plays as Lend Me a Tenor, A Fox on the Fairway, Murder on the Orient Express and Baskerville, A Sherlock Mystery, which have all enjoyed productions in Calgary.

Moon Over Buffalo runs in the Pumphouse’s Victor Mitchell Theatre May 10 to 18.

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Dream is an autobiographical musical story at Rosebud Theatre starring Terry Bachynski. cal

THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, DAD

Edmonton musician and author Terry Bachynski wrote a song for his father called Life Can Be Magic. Fellow musicians told him there was a full-scale musical in the story of Terry’s father, an orphaned immigrant street urchin in Ontario who rose above the adversity that plagued his early life. It was the pandemic that finally got Bachynski to sit down and write that musical.

“My dad’s parents both died before he was eight years old. He went into the child welfare system in Ontario in the 1930s, which meant he was rented out to farmers for free labour, and then put back into the system after harvest. Between the ages of seven and 15, my dad was in 20 of these placements. He was a chronic runaway, a street kid and a petty thief. When my dad was 15, a judge told him if he ever came back into his court, he would send him to jail, not to a foster home, so when my dad went to his next placement, he changed his life,” says Bachynski.

“That last farm was the first time he was ever allowed to sit at the table to eat. The first 90 per cent of the play traces that early part of my dad’s life until he met, wooed and married my mother. The final 10 per cent rushes through the rest of his life. Both my parents are in their 90s now. This musical is for them.”

Bachynski sent an early draft of his musical, which he calls Dream, to Rosebud Theatre’s artistic director Morris Ertman who workshopped it for three years. A concert version of Dream will be presented at Rosebud, May 8 through 11 at 4:45 p.m. in the Studio Theatre. The Saturday performance is sold out, but there are still tickets available for the Wednesday through Friday performances.

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