Hoarding. Subletting. Halifax's north end. On their own they'd make ideal musical theatre subjects, but trrrash Productions gilded the lily, combining it all (with healthy doses of camp) for their Halifax Pride Queer Acts Theatre Festival offering, Sissydude: a dandy rock musical. The musical, premiering this Thursday, opens and closes the show with the beloved classic from equally beloved band Piggy, "Gottingen Street." The local love keeps flowing with original songs performed live by Dale Boudreau (also the production's musical director), Gary and Neil Peacock and Rob Tough. Adrian Bruhm (technical director), Jaymes Buckman, Virginia Insua, Laura Peek and Jason Vautour round out the list of collaborators.
Sissydude was inspired by lead actor and playwright Ian Mullan's love of A&E's Hoarders and the eclectic artwork of John Webster, who runs the racy blog Sissydude. "I wanted to create a campy over the top character who collected beautiful things and prioritized objects over people," says Mullan. "Somewhere between drag queen and confirmed bachelor, the character of Jamie in the show is more damaged than he lets on. When Laurie and Frank"---played by Michelle Skelding and Conor Purdy---"move into his small Gottingen Street apartment he's forced to realize the mistakes he's made and change his way of thinking."
In the play's early stages, Mullan was approached by Bruhm and Sam Horak (director and co-producer) about a collaboration. The idea of live songs fell into place, given Bruhm's deep connection to the local music scene (Bruhm is a musician and co-hosts open mic night $Rockin4Dollar$).
"I hate when musicals have a band and they don't incorporate them and they just stand there," says Horak. "I think of them as characters."
Mullan imagined Sissydude as a musical for a reason. "The typical gay play about the gay experience is about coming out or how hard it is, or an experience of homophobia and there's a lot of focus on that, but the theme of Halifax Pride this year is 'out celebrating' so I went with that idea," says Mullan. "What I enjoy about gay culture is camp. It's perfect for a musical. And the character is already so over the top, of course he would break out in song...It's also about Halifax, it's fun to do a show about Halifax that isn't a historical drama, about the explosion or some other disaster. Something that isn't coal mines, dead babies and snowstorms."
Throughout the play, the backdrop of the north end and its rich cultural history serves as a silent character. "I'm glad of the way it worked out, originally we didn't have it happening on Gottingen Street, that came from the song, but then we saw how many local musicians could work in the parts," says Horak. "To me music is such a huge part of Halifax."
There's a chance the play will be expanded, incorporating more songs and lavish sets, and that's due to the harmony of the group.
"It's just been like friends hanging out," says Horak.
"It's great to have so many groups work together on a show like this," says Bruhm. "Taking the music community, specifically the punk community, and the gay community and putting that together---it's attractive to a lot of people and I think [Sissydude] has the potential to be something really great."
Sissydude: a dandy rock musical, part of Halifax Pride’s Queer Acts Festival at The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen Street, July 19, 6pm; July 20, 9pm; July 21, 7:30pm; July 22, 3pm, $12/$10 queeractssissydude.eventbrite.com
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