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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Political satire gets a musical makeover

Since The Best Laid Plans was first published in 2008, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour winner sees a resurgence during each subsequent federal election. This current election cycle is no different.

“Whenever we get into an election, I start getting emails, tweets and Facebook posts dreaming about my protagonist Angus McLintock striding off the pages of the novel and into one riding or another,” says author Terry Fallis. “Some candidates have even told me they use the novel as a sort of campaign hand book. So elections do tend rekindle interest in the novel and its sequel, The High Road.”

Not that Fallis is complaining about the cyclical interest of his satirical novel about the follies of politics in Canada; nor is he complaining about the upcoming musical treatment of his book from Vancouver’s Touchstone Theatre and Patrick Street Productions.

“It was surreal to meet Katrina Dunn in Toronto three or four years ago and hear her plans to turn my first novel into a stage musical,” he says. “It’s something that rarely happens to novelists and will probably never happen to me again. So I’m very grateful and happily strapped in for the ride.”

Following Fallis’ original storyline of a crusty old Scot who is convinced to run as a Liberal in a Conservative stronghold, The Best Laid Plans: a Musical takes Fallis’ story to new heights with a book from Governor General Award-winning playwright Vern Thiessen, and music and lyrics by Vancouver writing duo Benjamin Elliott and Anton Lipovetsky.

No strangers to political satire having penned The Park¸ an original musical that took the piss out of life in Vancouver, written while students at Langara’s Studio 58, it didn’t take Elliott and Lipovetsky long to come on board with their current project.

“It was an incredible opportunity,” says Lipovetsky. “The Park had a similar element, as a whimsical political comedy, and was very much in our wheelhouse.”

“What was great about this project was the material was already there,” says Elliott. “It has been really fun to have something to work with rather than having to create it from scratch.”

Vern Thiessen, Anton Lipovetsky and Benjamin Elliott with author Terry Fallis.
The Best Laid Plans: A Musical creators (LtoR) Vern Thiessen, Anton Lipovetsky and Benjamin Elliott were appreciative of the support that the book’s author, Terry Fallis (far right), gave to the project.

But while the writing team delighted in the ready-made source material, they have also taken some liberties, most notably changing up the two punk rockers in Fallis’ novel with two queer characters that felt more in keeping with 2015.

“It was our attempt to represent Canada in all of its diversity, and these character lent themselves well to becoming gender neutral.” says Lipovetsky.

Even though the trio have tinkered somewhat with Fallis’ story and characters, they have worked hard to ensure that what made it such a hit as a book still remains.

“Terry has been nothing but supportive,” says Elliott. “The heart of the book is there, plus all of the great characters and moments, and we were also able to put on our own spin on it.”

For Fallis, it appears to be a natural progression from novel to musical.

“I’m a big fan of musicals and could actually see my characters on stage in my overly active imagination,” says Fallis. “Plus, it’s clear the folks taking the novel from page to stage know what they’re doing. They’re pros, so I had no hesitation and can’t wait to see it.”

The Best Laid Plans: a Musical plays at the York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr) September 19 – October 3. Visit for tickets and information.

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