Sir John A Macdonald the Musical. Much to admire in the book, the music and Andrew Galligan’s fine performance in the title role.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

“History has a voice.”

The line from the world premiere of Gord Carruth’s latest work, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Musical, is the core of the show that recounts key points in the life of Canada’s first prime minister in words and music.

The man — consistently ranked as one of the most successful prime ministers in Canadian history — is an ideal subject to mark the 150th anniversary of the country he was instrumental in founding, particularly given some recent negative comments about Macdonald’s policies. In his carefully researched and historically accurate musical, Carruth has chosen to present the man, his demons and some of his speeches, as recorded in Hansard, without judgment or analysis.

Enhanced by some lively and often catchy musical numbers, with musical director Theresa Clarke maximizing the appeal of Carruth’s score, the musical follows Sir John A’s progress over the 45 years from when the then young, successful lawyer was first elected to office until his death, following a massive stroke, in 1891.

The script is simple, linear and entertaining. While the structure of 25 short segments featuring key moments in Macdonald’s life tends to make the narrative choppy, director Dianna Renée Yorke has tried to keep scene changes fluid. In addition, the gaps between scenes are lessened by the use of projections on the giant flats (an interesting though not always successful set and visuals design from Andrew Galligan).

In the title role, Galligan delivers a rounded believable and often charming performance, Among other cast members, Richard Cliff is elegant and stylish (apart from his tan shoes) as George Étienne Cartier and Reba Sigler is in fine voice, as well as offering a sensitive portrayal of Macdonald’s second wife, Lady Agnes.

Some of the other actors do not serve the material as well. Among the least successful sections are the feeble attempts at poorly coordinated dance movements from the male chorus, underlining the fact that they are definitely not to be classed as triple threat. On opening night, there were also too many occasions when a performer would pause, take up position and then speak, often appearing to wait for a lighting cue that was slow in coming.

However, despite assorted issues with aspects of the production and some of the performance quality, there is much to admire in Carruth’s book, music and lyrics.

Sir John A. Macdonald, the Musical continues at Centrepointe to November

Reviewed by Iris Winson.

Director: Dianna Renée Yorke

Musical director: Theresa Clarke

Choreographer: Joan Scarcella

Set/visuals: Andrew Galligan

Lighting: Chris Amott

Sound: David Ing

Costumes: Janet Ellis

 

Cast:

John A. Macdonald………………………………….Andrew Galligan

Louis Lafontaine…………………………………….Tony Adams

Charles, the steward………………………………….Kevin Anderson

Robert Baldwin/Edward Blake………………………Dan Baran

Louis Riel…………………………………………….Ron Clarke

George Étienne Cartier……………………………….Richard Cliff

Justice Hugh Richardson……………………………..Walter Conrad

Eliza Grimason……………………………………….Susanna Doherty

Sandy Laird…………………………………………..Matt Easterbrook

Wilfrid Laurier……………………………………….Delaney Hinds

Paul Gagnon, the reporter…………………………….Paul Huneault

Thomas D’Arcy McGee………………………………Shawn Ladd

Joseph Howe………………………………………….Charles Moir

Alexander Galt………………………………………..Ryan Pederson

Lady Agnes Macdonald………………………………Reba Sigler

Margaret Greene………………………………………Simi Silver

Alexander Campbell…………………………………..Ian Stauffer

George Brown…………………………………………Doug Thicke

 

Orchestra

Conductor…………………………………………….Theresa Clarke

Accordian, bass guitar…………………………………Bob Doidge

Keyboards……………………………………………..Amy King

Electric guitar………………………………………….Carter Lancaster

Percussion……………………………………………..Dan Lockwood

Bagpipes………………………………………………Andrew McPhail

Piano…………………………………………………..Bart Nameth

Fiddle………………………………………………….Darrin Schott


Past Reviews