Benjamin Elliott has his hands around the neck and shoulders of Anton Lipovetsky and he’s squeezing. Lest you think this is a CSI re-run, don’t be alarmed. It’s the composer-lyricist team of The Best Laid Plans: A Musical at a rehearsal for the political send-up, based on author, Terry Fallis’ 2007 award-winning novel.
Not that all of us at one time or another, haven’t wanted to have a politician in our clutches. But for this scene, Elliott and Lipovetsky have put to music the struggle between burnt-out Liberal strategist Daniel Addison (played by Nick Fontaine) and a bear (Hal Wesley Rogers) – yes, you read that correctly. But I digress.
The World Premiere of the musical production is a joint venture between Touchstone Theatre and Patrick Street Productions in Vancouver with book by Governor General’s Award winner and playwright, Vern Thiessen and directed by Peter Jorgensen. The timing couldn’t be more serendipitous with a real Canadian Federal election only a month away from the musical’s opening. Perhaps the producers should send a DVD to all the candidates in case they wish to revise their campaign speeches!
With elements of the old Jimmy Stewart film classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a burnt out speechwriter for the Liberal Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Addison, has dropped out of politics to join the relatively sedate life of academia. But first he has promised to find a candidate to run in an unassailable Conservative riding. When Addison convinces Angus McLintock (played by Andrew Wheeler,) a crusty old Scot with no political experience, to let his name stand in the election he’s sure to lose, their Best Laid Plans go hilariously awry.
Toronto-born Elliott, 31 and his partner in rhyme, Vancouver-born Lipovetsky, 25, met at Studio 58 in Vancouver and have been jamming together ever since. They co-created the critically acclaimed, The Park: A Musical, with Hannah Johnson and Elliott has been musical director for Bard On The Beach for the last four seasons. He won a Jesse for their production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Both are also actors who have appeared in Bard productions amongst others and Lipovetsky won a 2013 Jesse for Outstanding Composition for Virtual Stage’s Broken Sex Doll.
“My goal when we write together is to always make Ben laugh. There’s nothing sadder than trying to write comedy by yourself. Because we’re also actors and perform together quite a bit, we’ll approach the writing from an acting point of view too,” explains Lipovetsky.
Seemingly joined at the hip and finishing each other’s punch lines, the composers have created 15 songs for The Best Laid Plans performed by a live band. They had the opportunity of workshopping parts of the musical at last year’s ‘From Page To Stage’ at the Vancouver International Writers Festival.
“We were nervous and thrilled that author Terry Fallis was there and gave us overwhelming support for the musical, ” enthuses Elliott. Fallis, (a former speechwriter to the Liberal Opposition on Parliament Hill for five years,) won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in 2008 and was the CBC-Radio’s Canada Reads 2011 Winner as “essential Canadian novel of the decade” for his novel, The Best Laid Plans. It’s published by McClellan & Stewart. It was later made into a nationally aired CBC Television series.
Reached by Skype from his office in Toronto Fallis said, “I’m overcome with curiosity with what they’ve done with the musical and I have the fullest confidence in all of them. I’m coming opening night with my whole family! ”
Rich with Fallis’ astute double entendres, Elliott and Lipovetsky have given the storyline their own contemporary musical innuendos that reference Drake, Barenaked Ladies, salutes to a slew of rock and blues performers and the Senate as Vegas lounge lizards.
“Who says politics has to be boring?” Lipovetsky laughs.
TOP PHOTO: Actor, Nick Fontaine (Daniel) performs a touching ode to a bear ( Hal Wesley Rogers) in The Best Laid Plans: A Musical. Photo: Tim Matheson
The Best Laid Plans: A Musical runs September 19 – October 3 at the York Theatre, Vancouver.