Nanaimo’s past comes alive during the musical Blackstones and Bathtubs: A Musical Revue of the Town You Never Knew.
The musical follows four tourists who miss their cruise ship departure and then become lost in a fog. They enter a dream-like realm where they traverse through chapters of Nanaimo’s history, said Jessica Lowry, one of the creators.
The musical was commissioned by the Canada 150 Nanaimo organizing committee and was created by Lowry, Katy Bowen-Roberts and James Mark.
“The committee invited us to do a piece that was about 60 minutes long and inspired by Nanaimo’s culture,” said Lowry. “Of course you can’t contain this vast history in this short span, but we focused on scenes around Nanaimo’s explosive history, so obviously coal mining is in there. We have a scene that pays homage to the No. 1 mine explosion, which was the largest man-made explosion of its time.”
The story of the mine explosion led the creators to explore fire origin stories of the Snuneymuxw culture and other Coast Salish oral traditions.
Bowen-Roberts said the creators of the musical wanted to celebrate 150 years of Canadian history, but also thousands of years of indigenous history.
Mark composed a “musical thread” along with Snuneymuxw elder Gary Manson that guides the tourists through the dream. Along with Manson, a group of Snuneymuxw children will be sharing elements of the story through the Hul’q’umin’um language.
“We took that larger explosive scene and I started researching, and was humbled to listen to stories around the origin of fire myth within the Coast Salish tradition, so those are weaved in and Gary is speaking in English and also in Hul’q’umin’um’ … that aspect really enlivens the dream journey,” said Lowry.
The multidisciplinary piece includes a five-piece band, directed by Mark, an ensemble of seven pre-professional dancers, a musical soundscape created by Paul Tedeschini and historic images and video by Raymond Knight.
“We are really wanting to invoke a feeling of intrigue around certain moments in Nanaimo’s past to get people stepping out and looking into Nanaimo on their own – exploring,” said Lowry.
Mark created a number of new song arrangements by singer-songwriters Bob Bossin and Brian Hazelbower, Rita McNeil’s Working Man, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Diana Krall’s Departure Bay. Other songs include House of the Rising Sun, Wipe Out and Sing Sing Sing.
Blackstones and Bathtubs shows July 2 and July 6-8 at the Port Theatre. Opening gala is July 2 at 7 p.m. and includes a reception. Performances July 6-8 are at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets for opening gala are $45. Tickets for the July 6-8 performance are $28-35 or $18 for students, available by calling 250-754-8550 or by visiting www.porttheatre.com.
For more information about Blackstones and Bathtubs, please visit www.blackstonesandbathtubs.com.