The poems of Robert Service, the famous "Bard of the Yukon," are set to music and used as inspiration in the world première of the new musical Wanderlust. A Festival commission, which is written and directed by Morris Panych with music and orchestration by Marek Norman, Wanderlust started previews on June 20 at the Tom Patterson Theatre.
Set in Victoria, British Columbia, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Wanderlust is the imagined story of one of Canada's most beloved and most successful poets, Robert Service. Inspired by the real circumstances of his life, this new musical presents a man eager to leave his position at a bank for the adventure of the unknown in the Yukon gold rush. Keeping him at his desk in part is his affection for his beautiful co-worker, Louise, who is engaged to another man.
"Service was an inventor, a shaper of images and stories, of places he'd never even seen, things he had never done; a bank ledgerkeeper with a boundless imagination," says Mr. Panych. "The story I have written is nothing close to the truth, of course; I wanted the poems themselves to write the story. Some things are historical: Service worked at the Bank of Commerce, he was an eccentric figure who slept on top of the vault, he had an unrequited love and, of course, he pined for adventure. But writing poems was his true passion, both his destination and the trail that led there; this musical story is a tip of the hat to that journey."
The role of Robert Service will be played by Tom Rooney, and Robin Hutton will play his love interest Louise Montgomery, with Dan Chameroy as Dan McGrew, Randy Hughson as Mr. McGee and Lucy Peacock as Mrs. Munsch.
"Robert Service was a beloved Canadian cultural icon: a great popular artist whose poetry everyone could relate to and enjoy," says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. "This musical uses his poems as the starting point for a comic fantasia on his life. Portraying Service as a kind of Walter Mitty figure whose imagination transforms the world around him, it's both a hilariously tall tale and a heartfelt love story – exactly the kind of mix, in fact, that we encounter in the works of Service himself."
"This fantastic new musical showcases the innovative and explorative spirit of this Festival," says General Director Antoni Cimolino. "Morris had an unbelievable vision for this piece that, with further support from an outstanding creative team, has been crafted and shaped here over the past couple of years. The result is this wildly entertaining show that will surely be a joyous and memorable theatrical experience for all."
Artistic credits for this production include Morris Panych, Director; Marek Norman, Musical Director; Diana Coatsworth, Dance Choreographer; Ken MacDonald, Set Designer; Dana Osborne, Costume Designer; Alan Brodie, Lighting Designer; Sean Nieuwenhuis, Video Designer; Jim Neil, Sound Designer; and Todd Campbell and Simon Fon as Fight Directors.
Support for the 2012 season of the Tom Patterson Theatre is generously provided by Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner. Production support is graciously provided by Martie and Bob Sachs. Wanderlust is sponsored by CIBC.
The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's 2012 season runs until October 28, featuring Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street, The Matchmaker; Henry V; You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch and The War of 1812.