The final production of the season at the Sudbury Theatre Centre is the world premiere of an original stage musical.
That’s a first for STC, but a pretty good bet when the playwright is Canadian favourite Norm Foster in collaboration with Michael Doherty and Tania Breen. Doherty and Breen worked with STC artistic executive director Caleb Marshall on the musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol that played to great success at STC this past Christmas season. Maybe it's because I’m a guy that the idea that a “pinky swear” can bond two people in friendship for life is a bit alien (from Venus, perhaps?), but it’s at the core of "For Life" as Paige and Lizzie try to maintain that bond through all the twists and turns of adult life.
The story begins in the high school halls as they share their dreams for the future in the certain knowledge that things will be so much simpler when they’re finally out in the “real world”. Paige dreams of being a finalist in the Bocuse d’Or world chef competition. Lizzie plans to set the fashion world afire. But the story also involves Andy, the high school football star with ambitions to be a mechanic, or a doctor. And Sam, the artist, who disdains the use of money to measure success.
Surprisingly, all of the characters really do pursue those dreams as adults, though it doesn’t go exactly as they expect. Meanwhile Paige, whose heart is set on finding a nice guy, and Lizzie, whose tastes run to men on the edge of trouble, find that romance is full of surprises. And it can test a friendship to its limits.
As for the musical theatre element, you might come away humming parts of the song “Trainwreck”, or “Up to This Point”, or the finale reprise of “Yes, No, Maybe So”, but the musical numbers aren’t just add-ons — they’re an integral part of how the story is told, and do the job well.
There’s a special excitement in seeing a show that’s never been presented before — a feeling that cast, crew and audience are all venturing together into new territory. Even on opening night, it was obvious that each of the actors is well-cast and brings a lot of talent to the roles, both acting and singing.
The three-piece live band is top-notch; lighting, sets and costumes are effective; and the stage direction keeps the action flowing very naturally all over the space.
But I know that this production will really hit its stride as the run goes on. So take the opportunity to catch a world premiere right here in Sudbury.
"For Life" runs until May 14 at the Sudbury Theatre Centre. The box office number is 705-674-8381 or go online to www.sudburytheatre.ca.
Scott Overton is the author of the thriller Dead Air. He writes theatre reviews for Northern Life.