”It’s a huge show,” Todd Duckworth the director tells me. Twenty people in the cast, four in the band.
“When you see 20 people stretched out in a line on stage singing their hearts out — it’s pretty impressive.
“This is a piece of entertainment. It’s also a satire. So with all the fluff, there’s a bit of grit in there — that won’t go down as easily.”
The Man from the Capital, the musical production put on by the Guild — its last show of the season — sounds like something the Yukon can already identify with: government corruption!! But this time, set to some goofy, over-the-top musical numbers.
Your corruption never went over so well.
It’s all spin, baby.
Duckworth has been a part of all three productions of The Man From the Capital – from the first Canadian production (it’s a Canadian musical based on a Gogol play, The Government Inspector, which was an 1840’s “comedy of errors, portraying human greed, stupidity and the deep corruption of powers in Tsarist Russia”).
Imagine this “Man” is from Ottawa. Imagine he is in Salmon Elbow, a broken-down town where there’s already been folks scamming the townspeople, who have made their way to the top of the ladder.
It’s set in the 1930s Depression Era. “The Man from Ottawa” comes in with lots of promises — and though some might be slow to come around — there’s always a price for compliance. Yay, graft!! Yay, nepotism!! Yay, double-dealing!!
Staging it in the Guild was a challenge.
“When we did this play first at the Caravan Farm Theatre, we had all this space to string out the different sets, so they could be on stage at the same time. Here we had to find a way to dissolve sets as we were going, so they transform again and again into other places.”
The play is wacky, silly and goofy.
“There’s lots of frivolity and fun, yes. But we’re not ignoring an undercurrent of the reality of things: how absurd their behaviour is in context to the world around them. I mean, this is the Great Depression.”
He’s really impressed with the musical talent of Whitehorse. “We really lucked out with the cast we have. There are a lot of strong singers in the group, and we were able to cast several of Barb Chamberlin’s choir members as supporting cast.”
And they might truly be a “supporting” cast.
“There’s always been that darker element in this musical. The greed — funny and singable — affects the citizens, the homeless, the abused vagrants. We’ve not been able in past productions to really bring that out. This time we are.”
The vagrants and homeless who litter the set — made up of singers — will now be supporting the walls of the set.
Duckworth was a professional actor for 25 years who loved the stage but wanted to move into TV, which he did for several years — with its ups and downs.
“It’s a sad thing,” he says, “when everyone is remembering you for a silly commercial you did as a lottery powerball.”
He went back to school in his 40s to get an English degree and found the whole experience exhilarating. It changed his acting, and his understanding of the theatre. He picked up directing and has only been doing it for a short while but all three productions he’s directed have been nominated for awards in directing.
He feigns surprise: “I was never nominated for my acting!”
Now, brought in by the Guild, he gets a chance to direct the play he starred in twice, trying out things that are new.
“I tell the actors, ‘You are part of my experiment and it is my experiment!” He gives me a sinister laugh, and then laughs at his laugh.
One of those laughs, I know, is the real one, maybe hidden inside the other. The Man from the Capital — as a satire — gives us a chance as an audience to hear both of those laughs, and even laugh along at the outlandish things people do for money.
Maybe we’ll figure out which laugh is on us.
Although, we might be so entertained, we won’t mind.
The Man From the Capital plays at the Guild Hall Wednesdays to Saturdays, starting April 8. Tickets are available at Whitehorse Motors.