It was a dozen years ago when playwright Frank Moher found himself with a musical that had no music.
“I was commissioned to write this [production] by a performing arts school in Alberta and I did so. I wrote the book and lyrics,” Moher said. “They had separately commissioned someone to write the music but for various reasons that never happened and so I ended up with book and lyrics and no music.”
However that didn’t phase Moher and after years of hard work he has churned out his latest production, Moonbound!
“Putting it on is really the only way to finish a script, especially for a musical where there are so many complex elements that have to interweave,” Moher said. “So this is a necessary step in terms of having a finished product that can go out into the world beyond Nanaimo and Gabriola Island.”
Moonbound! is about an eccentric scientist along with a hard-nosed London businesses woman and her imperialistic assistant who travel to the moon and discover more than just one civilization inhabiting the natural satellite. The musical marries elements of science-fiction and romance into a nearly two-hour long performance.
“There they find an unusual civilization living on the surface and then an amazing civilization underground,” Moher explained about the musical. “It’s a combination adventure story, love story and it has a bit of an underline the folly of imperialism, of thinking it is a good idea to go to other places and take them over.”
Moonbound! made its world premiere on Gabriola Island last month and will be in Nanaimo for four performances at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre on June 6, 7 and 8. Although the musical made its world premiere last month, the production was once performed in 2011 for a script-in-hand fundraiser for Western Edge.
“It is supposed to be a show that combines the fun and thrill of sci-fi with the fun and the thrill of musicals,” Moher said about Moonbound!
The musical stars Antonio Gradanti, Kathy McIntyre, Bill Miner and features a cast of 54 performers and was produced by Over the Moon Theatricals in collaboration with Single Lane Entertainment, Maragold Theatre Productions and Headliners School of the Performing Arts.
According to Moher, who is also a journalism professor at Vancouver Island University, Moonbound! is loosely based on the H.G. Wells 1901 novel The First Men in the Moon.
“That I thought would make a basis for a good musical up to a point,” Moher said about the H.G. Wells’ novel. “I have messed around with the book quite a bit in order to make it work as a musical. In the second half in particular I have changed things up to make it more colourful and comic and probably in ways that has Mr. Wells spinning in his grave.”
The Alberta native had tinkered with idea of creating a sci-fi themed musical long before the creation of Moonbound! Moher originally planned on writing a sci-fi musical based on the 1953 film Invaders from Mars, which starred Leif Erickson, but discovered that the film wouldn’t make for a good musical.
“I had wanted to a musical based on the old 50s’ movie Invaders from Mars. I thought that would be amusing in a Little Shop of Horrors kind of way, but when I finally went back to watch Invaders from Mars I realized that it wasn’t that good and it wouldn’t make a very good musical,” Moher explained. “So, I started looking around for other sci-fi possibilities and that’s when I came across Wells’ novel, The First Men in the Moon.”
Moher believes that Moonbound! has the commercial potential to eventually tour on a much larger scale, despite it being a smaller budget production.
“The difficulty is that its a large show and it would be very very expensive for an equity theatre,” he said. “So, what market would work well maybe the university and high school market and community theatre market until the Disney corporation discovers it.”
Moher is hoping that the success of Moonbound! will spark others within the local and provincial theatre community to create their own original works.
“I think the next step for us as a theatre community is for us to be doing more original work and I hope Moonbound! will encourage other theatre types and other companies to start dipping their toes into those waters, that is doing new plays, not just musicals, but plays of all kind because that to me is when you really start to make a contribution to the theatre scene at large,” Moher said.
After 12 years of hard work, Moher couldn’t be more thrilled with the way Moonbound! has been received by audiences and the community.
“I am exhilarated that it has worked so well as a show and I am also exhilarated that it has worked so well as a community building tool because it is a show that literally brings people together of all ages and walks of life,” Moher said. “Theatre is the only thing I know that can really do that, at least in a sustained way. On a football team you don’t have 70 year olds playing linebacker and 5 year olds playing quarterback and with a big theatre production you do.”
Moonbound! runs on June 6 at 7:30 p.m., June 7 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and June 8 at 2:00 p.m. at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and $10 for children. There is a special family rate of $40 for two adults and two children.
Tickets can be purchased at http://moonboundmusical.com or by calling 1-855-757-9216. They can also be purchased at Harbour City Music, 615 Townsite Rd.