Two-part harmonies and off-key arias in B.C.’s election operetta

We are now in the musical interlude phase of the two-act play involving the 41st general election in British Columbia, and there has been no onstage performance like it in theatrical history.

The scripted and choreographed drama has been set aside for the suspenseful, improvisational dialogue ahead: the slam poetry part of the presentation once the curtain has been lifted and we know how many actors there will be and in which roles.

Enter, stage left, Andrew Weaver, whose role will be to attentively listen to the courtship of his counterparts, the dialogue shifting from what he can gain to what support he can provide. He is using this role to further his career, widen his appeal and guide him to the coveted leading-man role. He has the most serene task of all in the theatre because he can remain authentic and carry the play.

Occupying stage right is Christy Clark, a veteran performer with a history of compelling and award-winning presentation. An audience pleaser much of her career, Clark has found herself in more stressful roles as a villain of the piece.

Her task in the next act is to find her compassionate core, to get out of character somewhat to engage in byplay off the page of the script with the other actors, to respond as they define the narrative and direct the plot and to retrieve an audience partly gone missing from her recent performance.

She has to make this career transition mindful as to not discard her loyal fans, who have often paid substantially to be in her presence and get the first taste of what she has in store.

There is the possibility the play will take on a musical form in the next act, in which Weaver is setting the key in the ditty with Clark – a real test of their skills, given they are not often on the same song sheet – and at other times improvising a tune with the other principal in the cast, John Horgan, largely to thwart the lyrics and melody Clark wishes us to hear.

Horgan has his supporters – he, like Clark, enjoys some patrons from abroad, and he has a solid history in public presentation – but he has found his ambitions thwarted by a cruel numbers game in the business in recent times. With so much promise, he has to fight the fear that his career might stall just because audience acceptance came up just short just this once.

Clark, too, has to worry she will be subjected to calls for her to leave the stage to understudies. She has proven her resilience in reshaping her roles, but this will be her largest creative challenge yet.

Mainly it means the audience can expect Clark and Weaver as a duet, because Weaver and Horgan have found each other off key and lacking in harmony. Which is strange, because they have similar things to offer the stage, even if their backgrounds in developing their careers are worlds apart. Their non-verbal communications suggest an unease in each other’s presence, as if the stage isn’t big enough at times for the two of them, so the audience can expect very little of their collaboration.

The Clark-Weaver combo will be more jazz than classically based, largely because they will take turns leading the refrain and neither necessarily knows beyond some intuition what the other player might pursue. Their collaboration is integral to the show’s success, though, so the theatre would be well advised to focus on them as the play progresses.

The themes that Clark will generally introduce and Weaver – and to a lesser extent Horgan – extemporaneously explore should spell high-end entertainment, but at some cost to the coherence of the performance. Neither performer has an easy appetite for stepping aside to let others hog the headline in the next day’s review, so there is bound to be some grandstanding, some emotions coming out sideways to command the audience’s attention, if not respect.

Get your bathroom break done. Take your seats. The house lights are about to dim and the spotlights about to alight. As a spectator, the price of admission will be worth it.

Kirk LaPointe is Business in Vancouver’s vice-president of audience and business development.

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