Confederation Centre CEO Steve Bellamy, Artistic Director Adam Brazier, GM of Theatre Dean Constable, and Canadian icon Alan Doyle, made a special announcement January 24. Standing on the historic Homburg Theatre mainstage before a crowd of more than 100 Centre members, Brazier and the team announced the further development of a new musical comedy, Tell Tale Harbour.
Adapted from the film screenplay The Grand Seduction by Ken Scott, this musical embraces all things East Coast and demonstrates a small rural town that could be anywhere in Atlantic Canada. The hit movie tells the tale of residents of a small Newfoundland town who try to convince a visiting doctor to live there full-time in order to save their community.
The story caught Brazier’s eye and he began drafting a musical comedy and exploring ideas for songs. “I really wanted this to be a celebration of Atlantic Canada,” he explains, “so I needed an Atlantic Canadian voice, someone who has the tonality, understands the traditions and the vernacular of Atlantic Canada—who better than Alan Doyle?”
“I was delighted to get the call, ” recalls Doyle. “I was stoked to be a part of a genre [musical theatre] that I haven’t been a part of before. Also, to do it in Atlantic Canada and draw from the two main resources from my whole life–the traditional music canon of the region, drawing from Cape Breton and Newfoundland tunes, as well as inspiration from my favourite songwriters.
He continues, “With the songs for this musical, we’re trying to live in the world of people like Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes, and Jimmy Rankin. We’re so lucky in Atlantic Canada to have a traditional music scene and an original songwriting scene that draws upon its own roots. Then we also have this great history of musical theatre and musical writing here in Charlottetown and at Confederation Centre–an amazing resource for the region, which some people overlook.”
Tell Tale Harbour‘s production team also includes Music Supervisor Bob Foster, musical director of The Charlottetown Festival and MD for Mirvish’s Come From Away, and award-winning Canadian novelist and playwright Ed Riche.
“We’re all eager to learn from each other, it’s a breath of fresh air,” says Doyle with a smile. “It reminds me of being in [the 2010 Russell Crowe movie] Robin Hood…I didn’t know anything about the international motion picture world. The most rewarding thing is that you get a chance to work with artists from completely different disciplines who are really skilled and passionate, and it all comes together. Here, we need to connect all the dots; I just love getting in a room with people with talents that I don’t have and hoping I can contribute.”
The story immediately resonated with Doyle. “The first time I heard about it was in Newfoundland, where they filmed the movie in 2014. A lot of my friends were involved, including Mark Critch. The story spoke perfectly to the things that are most important to Atlantic Canada–home and family; water and soil. These are the most important things we have.”
For his part, Brazier is thrilled to be working on Tell Tale Harbour and is looking forward to a new draft in February and a workshop with The 2020 Charlottetown Festival actors this May. “Confederation Centre is now looking for formal funding for the continued development of this piece,” he says. “That means workshops, being able to spend time with actors on their feet, hearing the music, and seeing how it feels and moves. We’re really happy with the progress we’ve made. It’s got wheels and we’ve got momentum.”
The Charlottetown Festival has a long history of developing new musicals. From the inception of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ in 1965 to today, the Festival has birthed upwards of 90 Canadian productions. “We proudly maintain the highest quality of performing arts on our stages,” states Brazier. “Since 2015, we have produced 31 productions, 27 of which were Canadian and eight of which were world premieres.”
As for when audiences can expect to see Tell Tale Harbour Brazier stresses patience, reminding patrons that it took the Festival’s 2013 hit Evangeline 10 years and more than $250,000 to reach the stage. “We’re a few years from being ready to share something this big. New musicals take a lot of time and money to create. We’re incredibly excited to be working on it and are so thankful to our partners, to the Festival’s title sponsor CIBC, and to our patrons who continue to support us each summer.”