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Revitalized musical about infamous cult leader returns to Nanaimo

Bill Miner’s ‘The Cult of Brother 12’ will be staged at the Malaspina Theatre from March 30-April 2
Jordan Holloway, Lauren Semple and Haley Turnbull will take to the stage for the revitalized iteration of ‘The Cult of Brother 12,’ showing at the Malaspina Theatre from March 30 until April 2. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

A revitalized musical dark comedy will once again be staged in Nanaimo, primed to be a “cult” classic.

Not only does the “witty and irreverent” musical production that is The Cult of Brother 12 return following a sold-out run last spring, but also with a new lead.

Jordan Holloway joins the company playing the title role of Edward Wilson (Brother 12), the spiritual leader and con man who, in the late 1920s, drew acolytes from around the world to Cedar-by-the-Sea and the Gulf Islands.

When researching for the audition and stepping into the role, Holloway said he was “wowed” by the character.

“Just as any cult leader, they have some strange idiosyncrasies about how the world works and how to go about saving these people who follow him. Whether or not he actually believed that, I don’t know. But I choose to believe that he did,” he said.

Holloway said he has noticed similarities between his role as the cult leader and a previous role.

Having starred as Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show for VOS Musical Theatre last November, Holloway said the two characters both used charisma and seduction to manipulate people into doing what they wanted. Although, he aims to bring a level of honesty to the performance, and “a take that doesn’t make the cult leader more infamous than he already is.”

“I don’t see him as a ‘bad guy,’ necessarily, but he definitely isn’t a ‘good guy’ either… I try not to judge my characters too harshly – it’s impossible not to judge. You have to have a certain degree of standoffish-ness to not be absorbed by the character,” Holloway said.

The actor continued to say he liked the idea of depicting a ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ type of character for the cult leader, in that Brother 12 portrays a ‘greater than thou’ side of himself juxtaposed to a secretly covetous and money-obsessed side.

Playwright Bill Miner said the search for Brother 12 took longer than expected and considered it as the “last missing puzzle piece” while everyone eagerly waited for the revitalized project to begin.

“[Holloway] really brings something new… his youthful exuberance and openness to explore the character,” he said. “I want the audience to have empathy. Although, you can have empathy for a scoundrel, but you can’t have empathy for someone who is truly evil and I don’t believe [Brother 12] is.”

With the play and lyrics by Miner and music by Marty Steele and Miner, the made-in-Nanaimo production has been expanded to include a chorus of singers, dancers, and the Marty Steele Quintet.

When they decided to relaunch the production, the playwright said having live music topped their wish list, and Steele’s cherry-picked mid-Island musicians took the show to “a whole new level” from the orchestrated tracks used last year.

“As soon as they start playing, you can just see the energy in the cast just take it up. It exudes energy – the entire theatre will feel that. The way the music informs the characters and the songs,” Miner said.

Rounding out the main principals of the cast are Lauren Semple, Rick Meyers, Frank Moher, Haley Turnbull and Brock Poesiat.

Also new to this year’s iteration will be a chorus of five singers and dancers known as the ‘Newshounds’ dedicated to the roles.

The Cult of Brother 12 will run from March 30 until April 2 at Vancouver Island University’s Malaspina Theatre with evening showtimes at 7:30 p.m. and a special matinee performance on April 2 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online through

READ MORE: Brother XII: The shadowy past of a sailor, seducer and swindler

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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