Leaping into musical theatre wasn’t the most obvious step for Alan Doyle’s career, but when an offer to write songs for a stage adaptation of The Grand Seduction landed in his lap, he was instantly intrigued.
The former Great Big Sea singer was asked to pen lyrics for a musical based on the 2013 Don McKellar film, itself a remake of the French-Canadian hit La Grande Seduction. Doyle felt navigating around an already established story based in Newfoundland and Labrador would be entirely new territory.
“What a fun thing to do,” he says of the collaborative songwriting sessions that he likened to performing improvisational theatre.
“Mary comes out. What does she sing? It needs to be something about the groceries.”
Five songs have now been written and Doyle says a workshop version of the play is expected to debut at the Charlottetown Festival, which runs every May to October in Prince Edward Island.
It’s just one of several musicals in development with a Canadian musician taking a key role behind the scenes.
A renaissance of theatrical ambitions
While many singer-songwriters have lent their talents to playhouses in the past — including former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page and Dave Bidini of Rheostatics — there’s a renaissance of theatrical ambitions afoot.
Page is currently developing his eighth project with the Stratford Festival, a musical tentatively called Here’s What It Takes that focuses on the turbulent friendship between two musicians whose career paths diverge.
Other hot commodities are headed to Broadway, including an adaptation of Pretty Woman with ballad virtuoso Bryan Adams and songwriting partner Jim Vallance giving texture to the “hooker with a heart of gold” Hollywood hit. The play makes its Chicago debut in March 2018 before hitting New York later in the year.
‘There’s a huge bridge there to cross and it’s a thrilling risk to take.’
– Torquil Campbell
Meanwhile, Alanis Morissette’s influential 1995 album Jagged Little Pill will be the centrepiece of a production by the American Repertory Theater in Massachusetts next year. While the pop singer isn’t directly involved, if her hits You Oughta…