The upcoming production at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham will be a show unlike any other that’s been held in the hall. Kelly Jo Burke’s rock musical The Curst presents a moving tale complete with an on stage, live rock concert. It’s the tale of “the unluckiest band in Canada” and an exploration in the perseverance and dedication of artists everywhere.
The show is inspired by real life Regina power pop band Library Voices. Playwright Kelly Jo Burke came across the band in her days of producing for CBC Radio. She became a fan of the group and marvelled at the ongoing story of their trials as they searched for their “big break.”
“The band kept having these disastrous things happen,” Burke recounts. “Their instruments were drowned in the basement of a place where they were doing a gig when it completely flooded. They had these vintage Hammond organs, and they were completely destroyed. So they put a call out for replacements, and people donated vintage instruments and got new guitars. They went on the road and their van was busted into and everything was stolen again.”
The misery continued, and the show reveals a truly crushing occurrence that brings the band to a breaking point, Burke explains. She took the essence of the Library Voices tale and evolved a complete musical around the premise, with the band’s participation. In fact, band members penned some of the show's new original tracks. The heart of the show explores themes of will and motivation.
“The question is how do you keep going - why do you keep going? Particularly when almost everything has been taken away.” It’s a question that resurfaced as Burke had to shelve the project and disassemble the original cast in the face of the pandemic. Burke says that the ongoing misfortune makes the production even more relevant now than when it was originally written.
Burke committed to finding a new cast and feels fortunate in having sharked up one of the original cast and a talented troupe of replacements, all set to pull off the challenging show. One of the band, well known Saskatoon musician Declan Hills, has done some theatre, but leaped into his acting role with wonderful results. Saskatoon acting and musical mainstays Tim Bratton, Erica McFadden and Krystle Pederson round out the band, along with Nathan Coppens as musical director.
The show has a local connection in that Burke has served as a sessional instructor at St. Peter’s College in writing. She is grateful to have received a monetary award from the Faculty of St. Peter’s College to help with the research for the show. It allowed her to gather the band members and the cast together at Dancing Sky Theatre for the important groundwork needed to bring The Curst to life.
Angus Ferguson, Dancing Sky Theatre’s artistic director, serves as the director for the production as well. Burke credits Ferguson with helping to overcome the casting and some of the production challenges, not the least of which is pulling off a high energy rock concert in the intimate theatre space.
“They’ve worked really carefully to adapt the sound so that you can hear the words, and the music is really filling the room, but it’s not blasting you or hurting your ears at all.”
In the end, it’s a story about the family you choose and what keeps you together when everything else is stripped away.
It’s an all generational show with a single language advisory. The Curst debuts at Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham on April 28 and runs through to May 14. Information on tickets is available at DancingSkyTheatre.com.