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Bringing Deception: A Rock Opera to life 

Katey Day’s decade-long dream makes it to the stage.

click to enlarge Rudy, Baby, Tim and more characters from Deception: A Rock Opera.
  • Rudy, Baby, Tim and more characters from Deception: A Rock Opera.

"It's about a town, it's about any town anywhere that you would go," explains Katey Day, the long-time blues musician and writer and director of Deception: A Rock Opera. "You have your stereotypical characters: rednecks, religious figures, street people. And not only is the soundtrack fantastic, but everybody in the audience will be reminded of someone or say, 'Oh, that happened to me.'"

With assistant director John Dunsworth, Day and her 14-actor cast will transform the Rebecca Cohn for a one-night-only performance on Thursday, a moment Day has been planning for a decade. "I've been a musician for 30 years, and this musical was something I've been talking about for years. Finally, people realized I might actually do it," laughs Day. Naturally she is a fan of rock operas like Tommy, The Wall and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. "I like Meat Loaf, too. I always wanted to be a director."

Drawing largely from her own experiences, the dark, adults-only comedy brings the trauma of power dynamics to centre stage: "It touches on topics that are very real to people, like abuse, like the LGBT community. There are drag queens, sexual situations and tension. Overall, it's powerful," she says.

Partly, Day credits the vision and casting skills of Dunsworth, a seasoned actor---you'd recognize him as Mr. Jim Lahey---with an inherent sense of what works in theatre. He was brought into the production process through a mutual friend, and Day felt him supporting her transition to director every step of the way.

"Every single rehearsal, everything he could possibly think of in development, he was there. I really like his style. He's a class act. I don't know what I would have done without him," she says. She approached Dunsworth with the soundtrack, characters, sequences and script. "That was the skeleton," she says, and along with production manager Cat McKeigan and stage manager Courtney Harris, "we added the muscles, bones and skin."

Fittingly for a play that focuses on community, a whole community has been involved. From the Centre for Art Tapes (which designed the promotional materials), to stage-gear donations, to Lisa Sullivan at Freeman's, plus The Bus Stop Theatre and the Centennial Arena, Day is so grateful that others have seen her vision: "Now it's actually a reality and I can't even believe it."

Day's personal history served as source material for Deception. "I grew up in foster care, where I started playing music, and I've been on my own a long time," she says. "I started playing professionally when I was 14, at Club 74 in Saint John." Since then, she's played for the Queen's son Prince Edward, was an in-house act at doughnut king Ron Joyce's Fox Harb'r resort, and has opened for Jeff Healey, Trooper and Carole Pope. When she started to surround herself with encouraging people, she says the rock opera seemed like it was finally possible.

The one-night-only Halifax performance follows a week of shows across New Brunswick and in Truro. By Thursday, the cast and crew will have perfected the vibrant highs and lows of the production. "Deception shows the reality of what is happening in people's lives, and how it can be overcome," explains Day. "Every one of the adversities that these characters face, that they are going through, it's all overcome, in their own way. And it ends in a very positive way with the curtain call."

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Deception: A Rock Opera
Thursday, May 29 at 8pm, $30-$42
Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, 6101 University Avenue

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