Talking about Canadian politics usually leads to either profuse boredom or intense bickering between peers. However, with the upcoming new musical The Best Laid Plans, you can expect more heart and comedy to the subject than anything you could expect to get from the Mike Duffy trial.
Based on the satirical novel of the same name by Terry Fallis, the musical revolves around a Liberal opposition speechwriter named Daniel who hopes to leave the world of Parliament Hill for good. However, before being able to make his exit, he is tasked with the impossible — getting a Liberal candidate to run in a predominantly Conservative riding. Being too involved with planning his departure, Daniel convinces Angus, a crusty apathetic engineering professor, to run as a candidate on the condition that he is sure to lose. Unfortunately, things do not go their way.
Nick Fontaine, a UBC Theatre alumnus who plays the role of Daniel, said that plenty of right things fell into place that attracted him to the project, from his own praise for the source material to the popular word-of-mouth among his acting peers.
“The book was funny, so I knew the show was gonna be funny … the people that I had talked to who knew about the show [had said] the music was incredible,” said Fontaine. He also notes that working with familiar faces like director Peter Jorgensen among other production staff also made him more confident about it. “[It] looked like a dream project — there were all these amazing people attached to it…. With so many things going for it, it just seemed too good to pass up.”
Meaghan Chenosky, another UBC BFA alumni and Jessie Award winner plays Daniel’s love interest — a poet and law student named Lindsey. Chenosky also testifies to the increasing buzz around the show among peers.
“It’s awesome. The music is fantastic, it’s clever and funny,” said Chenosky, adding that the musical aspect especially struck a chord with her during one rehearsal. “I was crying and I’ve been at it for weeks so I know it will be really powerful.”
Given the political themes of the musical though, concerns could likely arise from those intending to watch it. This can either be related to possible political biases or the fact that politics in general is an unusual topic to turn into a musical. However, both Chenosky and Fontaine assure that, like the novel, no one is spared in its satirical approach.
“No political parties escape, this is true Canadian satire…. It’s not just some sort of hokey, preachy, anti-Conservative puff piece,” assured Fontaine. “It’s a really strong and balanced Canadian satire that everyone will enjoy no matter your political persuasions.”
Chenosky agrees, remarking that “it’s really taking a piss out of everybody — the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives.”
However, even with all the humour and fun the show has to offer, both of them hope that people take to heart some of the important lessons beneath it — especially with the federal election campaign currently in full swing.
“For people who are not politically interested, it’s a really powerful show [that] inspires you to be aware and get involved,” Chenosky said. “The show can be really powerful and [get you thinking] about the autonomy you have in your own choices.”
“If it was always this off-the-wall comedy for 120 minutes, you might not leave the theatre really thinking,” Fontaine said. “We want people to be rolling in the aisles, but we also want you to think a little bit about Canada and what you want to see in your country.”
More importantly, he hopes the show will help inspire more young people to become engaged in Canadian politics as apathy has been a long-standing problem among the demographic.
“I think that young people have felt really disengaged from Canadian politics because we think our vote doesn’t matter,” he said. “We need more people to vote [and to] have their say and this musical is about that as well…. To just get out, get engaged and making sure that you have your voice heard… there’s nothing more important.”
The Best Laid Plans is playing at the Cultch until October 3. Tickets are 50 per cent off on September 22 with a donation to the food bank.