New musical celebrates Nanaimo

The Canada 150 Nanaimo Organizing Committee has commissioned a new musical about the Harbour City.

Jessica Lowry

Jessica Lowry

Nanaimo, the musical.

It’s not complete yet, but the head of the patron group behind a new production on Nanaimo hopes it does for this city what Anne of Green Gables has for Prince Edward Island.

The Canada 150 Nanaimo Organizing Committee, planning the sesquicentennial bash next year, has commissioned a musical about Nanaimo called Black Stones and Bathtubs: A Musical Revue of the Town You Never Knew.

It’s set to premiere July 1, as part of a 10-day celebration.

The script is still in the works and under wraps, but it’s hinted it’ll involve tourists who, lost “in layers of coconut, custard and chocolate” on the Nanaimo bar trail, miss their cruise. With a cruel southeaster mounting, the group of tourists are forced to extend their stay in the foggy town whose name they can’t seem to agree on how to pronounce.

Diana Johnstone, co-chairwoman of the Canada 150 committee, hopes the musical will be full of fun and laughter; create community pride and attract tourists.

Year after year, P.E.I. has its Anne of Green Gables production that draws tourism and people plan their vacations to see it, said Johnstone, who hopes this musical will be something on the West Coast of Canada that will create the same buzz.

“We need tourism draws in our community and I think this might just be a little bit of an incentive for people to plan vacations here,” she said. “I hope it’s going to be that good.”

The trio hired to create the musical seems to have gotten the message.

Katy Bowen-Roberts, a producer and director behind the Yellowpoint Christmas Spectacular, is working on the production along with musical arranger and writer James Mark and professional classical actor Jessica Lowry, all originally from Nanaimo.

Bowen-Roberts said she’s thrilled to be working with Mark and Lowry and it’s an honour for the three of them to be asked to do this musical. She said it’ll celebrate “our heritage, the town that we all kind of grew up in and now we’re getting a chance to go into the history of it, there seems to be so much more to it.”

She said they are trying to create something that helps allow people to become a part of Nanaimo and where local artists can be hired on a yearly basis. It’s something that can bring tourism to Nanaimo.

“We can talk about Anne of Green Gables being this big thing in P.E.I., and other parts of Canada will say Nanaimo has this show Black Stones and Bathtubs that represents their history and gives a flavour of that city, which is kind of neat if we can create something that can continue year after year and becomes part of the town, what we have to offer,” she said.

Sneak previews of the musical will take place at Canada Day festivities at Maffeo Sutton Park followed by eight performances at the Port Theatre from July 1-9. Ticket price hasn’t been determined.