It’s not likely to make it to Broadway like Come From Away or The Drowsy Chaperone, but Canada has its first new hit musical since the pandemic began in Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer.
This quickly created satire by Byron Martin and Simon Abbott from Edmonton’s Grindstone Theatre reimagines the Premier of Alberta as the star of a frat-house comedy with 1980s-inspired tunes – and has tapped into the deep desire of Albertans to let off some steam and laugh at the political leaders of their province.
The show was initially set to run for just 10 performances in a 230-seat theatre on the Campus Saint-Jean at the University of Alberta. But it kept selling out and has now been extended three times (including a week in a larger venue). A tour to Calgary in the new year is being explored.
Grindstone, an improv-based theatre company, has been making up musicals on the spot for about 10 years. In this case, however, Martin and Abbott, creators of a previous Fringe success called ThunderCATS, developed Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer over a relatively luxurious period of six or so weeks.
The premise is that college-days Kenney has just been elected as summer semester student union president; he’s beat out a young Rachel Notley, who starts to plot her revenge with the help of her boyfriend, Justin Trudeau.
The title of the musical is a reference to Megan Thee Stallion’s hit Hot Girl Summer, as well as to Kenney’s ill-fated promise earlier this year to Albertans that they would have the “best summer ever” before COVID-19 numbers soared and the United Conservative Party Premier’s approval rating dropped to the lowest in the country.
Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer’s plot takes a topical twist when student Tracy Allard (future UCP MLA) returns from a vacation to Hawaii – and becomes patient zero for a mono outbreak.
Globe and Mail reporter Jana Pruden put the musical on my radar after seeing it over the weekend. It was the show that brought her back to live theatre – and she told me she found it a “real rollick.”
Word-of-mouth has been strong, with the show selling out well in advance. (Because of the way the extensions were cobbled together, however, there are tickets available from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4, but not from Dec. 9 to 16.)
The show seems to appeal to different political persuasions. “We definitely take a lot of shots at Kenney and the UCP,” co-creator Martin tells me. “But because it is also kind of written from the perspective of the UCP – in this world, Kenney’s kind of a hero – we also take shots at everybody throughout the show.”
Martin, who is also artistic director of Grindstone, tells me that the company has made a three-camera recording of the musical that will be available once the in-person run is done. There are plans to record a cast album, too.
So, soon enough, the rest of Canada will be able to groove to songs that include a rock ballad Kenney sings called Unify My Heart and his closing rap number Hot Boy Summer that at least one audience member has assured me is genuinely catchy.
A theatre near and dear to my heart is reopening its mainstage this week.
The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg (where I worked front-of-house in Grade 12) is back up and running with a new production of Sarah Ruhl’s play Orlando, based on the 1928 Virginia Woolf novel of the same name.
Described as “a magical journey that transcends time and gender,” artistic director Kelly Thornton’s production is on from Nov. 24 to Dec. 18. The seating involves some social distancing, with two empty seats between each cohort.
The Segal Centre in Montreal has a new show opening this week that sounds so barking mad I simply had to note it: Superdogs: The Musical.
It seems to involve both human actors playing dogs and actual dogs in the form of the “President’s Choice SuperDogs.” Pet tricks and showtunes? The musical runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 19.
Also this week, the virtual version of Musical Stage Company’s recent revue UnCovered: The Music of Dolly Parton begins streaming. I saw this in person and had a wonderful time. The ticketed online run begins tomorrow and continues to Dec. 11.
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