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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

The Dancing Dead

Kathy Gallant
Published Thursday March 19, 05:15 pm
Live Five’s latest is a macabre, madcap musical


Runs to Sunday 29

The Refinery

It started out as a fascination with a Yiddish folk tale, coupled with a desire to infuse it with a dark and ghoulish musical theme. Two Corpses Go Dancing, an upcoming musical hosted at the Refinery, will mesmerize, bewilder and entertain its audience.

The brainchild of Andrew Taylor and collaborator and good friend Donovan Scheirer, this gruesome mashup of love, loss and demons has seen robust success on the Fringe Festival circuit, and it’s currently incorporated into Saskatoon’s Live Five Theatre Company’s current season. Taylor and Scheirer, who work as a theatre collective called Two Unruly Gentlemen, collaborated on the writing and music composition, and have starred in and performed the music for the production.

A few years back, Taylor started to dissect the original short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

As I delved further, it truly felt like it needed to evolve into a full-fledged musical,” he says. “I had gone back to my hometown of Flin Flon to write it, and I remember coming back and immediately calling Donovan, asking him to play the role of the demon.”

It was really then that the production began to come alive — from beyond the grave.

It’s this creepy, dark, fairy tale,” says Scheirer. “A demon brings two characters back from the dead (Itche and Finkle) and they then continue on with their regular lives without realizing that they’re corpses walking among the living — and of course chaos and hilarity ensue.”

It’s brash — some scenes take place in a bar, others a cemetery,” Taylor adds. “We’ve often compared it to [what you’d get] if Fiddler on the Roof and The Corpse Bride had a baby. It’s based on a folk story and it’s filled with liveliness and life, but then it has a macabre twist with the fact that the main characters aren’t actually alive anymore.”

Originally written for the Fringe Theatre Festival in 2011, Taylor says it’s been a wonderful journey so far, thanks to many passionate participants in the process.

This is the third production we’ve done,” he says. “With the success from that first production, we applied to do more fringes and went to Winnipeg and Victoria. [Scheirer] approached me about a year ago and said we should apply to work with Live Five, and we’re now a part of this season. It will be the biggest production we’ve done: we have a grant from Saskatchewan Arts board, a full crew — set builders, and a scene director.”

Though the play explores the dark and twisty realms of demons and cadavers come alive, the music has a light and folky vibe running through it.

The music is based very much in gypsy-esque sounds, and also has folk, klezmer, and even a bit of Celtic tones to it,” noted Taylor.

Scheirer adds that the musical creation process was a bit atypical, but wonderfully cooperative.

[Taylor] and I would work on the songs together, and I would come up with the basic chord structure and vocal melody,” he says. “But also, we’ve brought it to the actors, most of whom were musicians as well, and we’d jam and add our own personal flairs. It’s been an ever-evolving process.”

It’s a beautiful thing when we get people together in a room [who] care about theatre and music,” says Taylor. “This time around, I feel like we finally cemented the music that we want to record and archive, and the next time that we want to send this show out we’ll have a whole score to go with it.”

When it comes to working with Live Five on the current production, Taylor says it’s been nothing short of fantastic.

They’re this amazing not-for-profit collective,” he says. “They keep in touch with us, work with deadlines, and we’ve created a great partnership. We’ve enjoyed that all our productions are community-grown; we work with up-and-coming, emerging artists along with equity-contracted artists, and keep growing our circle of those who are passionate about theatre.”

Both Taylor and Scheirer are looking forward to seeing what the audience will glean from the performance.

There’s many wonderful plays that are performed in Saskatoon,” says Scheirer. “Many of them are based in realism, and ours is not like that at all. It’s quite stylized with elaborate costumes, odd curved architecture and set-pieces. So it won’t look like a lot of things that normally get produced here.”

That’s kind of our mandate,” adds Taylor. “We want to leave people with the impression of ‘Wow, I didn’t think I could see this on a stage today!’”

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