Salt Spring’s musical theatre scene is experiencing a bumper crop of activity this season, with Good Company’s all-new rock opera Time Piece opening at ArtSpring this Friday, Sept. 13.
Brought to audiences by the people who created Peter on the Brink, Time Piece is described as a “thematic rock concert” featuring a wide variety of music from artists such as Pink Floyd, Sting, Barenaked Ladies, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Cyndi Lauper, Neil Young and more. The show includes 23 feature songs, original choreography and an original script by writer/director Suzanne Rouger to tie it all together.
This is the third show created by the Good Company Theatre Group, which is co-produced by Rouger and musical director Karen Arney, and promises to be their most extravagant yet. There are 19 cast members and a large band, with many of the musicians playing multiple instruments.
It’s been three years since Good Company’s last production Grand Illusion, and the period involved much grief for the group. Rouger’s husband Pierre fell ill and then died after a sudden diagnosis of brain cancer. He had been very involved in the past two productions, doing sets and lighting and many of the troupe were close with him. Arney and her son Ben, who are both part of the core performer group, were actually living with the Rougers at the time. Bruce Grey plays bass in the upcoming show, and had provided his support to Pierre as a kinesiologist.
While the script that Rouger wrote through that period is not autobiographical, it is dedicated to Pierre and infused with some deeper human concerns.
“Thematically the idea is that as we go through life we can get distracted or tempted by many things that take us away from what’s really important to our souls,” Rouger explained. “The more we focus on what the soul really wants, the more successful the human experience will be.”
Rouger added her concept is like a medieval morality play with its “everyman” type characters facing common human dilemmas and consequences.
“But it’s not as harsh as a morality play — it’s much gentler,” she promised, noting many of the parts are comedic roles.
Lead characters Elle and Guy are among a group of souls that undergo four incarnations in very different periods. Elle gets unmoored from time and tries to get things right with help from an angelic choir, musical spirit guides and Father Time. The script was workshopped and rewritten to better suit the specific cast members as they joined in.
Shyla-Rae Lloyd Walters stars as Elle, a natural progression for a very strong vocal talent who made her debut in Peter on the Brink, and has since appeared in several community theatre productions to impressive effect. Dustin Van Wyck is her counterpart. He’s newer to the theatre scene but has already made lasting impressions with his roles as young Scrooge in the 2018 production of Christmas With Scrooge, and a small but noticeable part in Arsenic and Old Lace this past spring.
Live music is the heart of any Good Company production, with the songs selected mainly from the classic rock songbook and performed in rock show style: from memory, without written sheet music. Arney reported all the musicians can “lift” their parts by ear. Many of them also double as actors with speaking parts. Suzanne’s son Marcel is playing two instruments and acting, plus doing vocal coaching to help singers perform rock style rather than for choir.
“It’s a huge undertaking for people who are wearing several caps,” Rouger noted.
Rosita Larrain, director of the RainWood Dance Studio, is splitting duty between acting, dancing and choreographing the show. She said it’s been “super fun” to work on an original show and interpret the creator’s vision into movement.
“I’m appreciative of the willingness of the cast, even from people who have never done dance before. That’s really encouraging. I’m excited about the show,” Larrain said.
Add a complex set, marvellous costumes and a full program of sound effects that Arney has programmed into her keyboard, and Time Piece promises to be an epic stage event with truly operatic trappings.
“It’s a very complicated show. There are very few scenes where you just sit and listen to a lot of dialogue,” Arney said.
Time Piece runs Sept. 13-14 and Sept. 18-21 at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available through ArtSpring.
As part of the dedication to Pierre Rouger, Good Company has also partnered with Country Grocer to have a contest for $10 tickets for the opening weekend shows. All of the proceeds from the contest will go to Dawn Tarrabain and Cindy Skrivanek, two former Country Grocer employees who are now struggling with health issues. See the Good Company Theater Group Facebook page for details.