Wanderlust, New Musical Imagining World of Canadian Poet Robert Service, Opens at Stratford Fest

News   Wanderlust, New Musical Imagining World of Canadian Poet Robert Service, Opens at Stratford Fest
The hardscrabble life of Yukon gold-rush folk is conjured in the world premiere of the new Canadian musical Wanderlust, using the poems of Robert Service, opening July 11 at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The Festival commission, written and directed by Morris Panych with music and orchestrations by Marek Norman, began previews June 20 at the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ontario.

Tom Rooney
Tom Rooney Photo by Andrew Eccles

Canadian writer Robert Service (1874-1958) is the beloved "Bard of the Yukon" whose folky poem-stories include "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee." His works and life inspire the new show, which continues in rep to Sept. 28. (Song-wise, Service's texts are set to music in the show, which has additional lyrics by Panych.)

"Set in Victoria, British Columbia, at the beginning of the 20th century, Wanderlust is the imagined story of one of Canada's most beloved and most successful poets, Robert Service," according to Stratford notes. "Inspired by the real circumstances of his life, this new musical presents a man eager to leave his position at a bank for the adventure of the unknown in the Yukon gold rush. Keeping him at his desk in part is his affection for his beautiful co-worker, Louise, who is engaged to another man."

The role of Robert Service is played by Tom Rooney; Robin Hutton is his love interest Louise Montgomery; Dan Chameroy is Dan McGrew; Randy Hughson is Mr. McGee; and Lucy Peacock is Mrs. Munsch.

Panych said in a statement, "Service was an inventor, a shaper of images and stories, of places he'd never even seen, things he had never done; a bank ledgerkeeper with a boundless imagination. The story I have written is nothing close to the truth, of course; I wanted the poems themselves to write the story. Some things are historical: Service worked at the Bank of Commerce, he was an eccentric figure who slept on top of the vault, he had an unrequited love and, of course, he pined for adventure. But writing poems was his true passion, both his destination and the trail that led there; this musical story is a tip of the hat to that journey."

Canadian composer Marek Norman's musicals include Dracula – A Chamber Musical, Emily (based on the Lucy Maud Montgomery novels) and Larry's Party. He is also a busy music director and composer of music for concerts, dance and plays. Panych is the Canadian actor, playwright and director known for his plays Vigil, 7 Stories, Earshot, The Necessary Steps and The Ends of the Earth.

The cast of Wanderlust also includes Troy Adams, Barbara Barsky, Diana Coatsworth, Ryan Field, Xuan Fraser, Ken James Stewart, Cyrus Lane, Heather McGuigan, Stephen Patterson and Kevin Yee.

The creative team includes Marek Norman (musical director); Diana Coatsworth (dance choreographer); Ken MacDonald (set designer); Dana Osborne (costume designer); Alan Brodie (lighting designer); Sean Nieuwenhuis (video designer); Jim Neil (sound designer); and Todd Campbell and Simon Fon (fight directors).

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's 2012 season runs on four stages until Oct. 28, featuring Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street, The Matchmaker; Henry V; You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch and The War of 1812.

Visit stratfordfestival.ca for more information. 

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