Imagine a theatrical mash-up of sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s, and a Shakespearean love triangle — complete with snappy soundtrack.
That’s a taste of the musical Misty Hill Automaton! opening on Wednesday, May 25 at the G.W. Graham theatre.
The story follows a crooked mayor, some teenage bullies, a struggling single mom, a rigged small-town election, and some space-age technology.
Singer/songwriter Steve Martens of Chilliwack, always dreamed of writing a hit production.
“I wanted to create a musical that people would not be able to resist coming to see,” said the director and producer.
Why a musical?
“Because the highs are so much higher and the lows so much lower,” he replied. “The audience’s emotional investment in a musical is so much deeper, more than with a play or just music alone. Together everything has more punch.”
Martens came up with the original plot line back in 2004, put some songs together and wrote “a really bad script,” all while fronting the indie-funk band LoFi Love.
He set it in the fictional town of Misty Hill during the 50s, the golden age of science fiction. One of the characters is an evil mayor who’s trying to get re-elected, with the aid of his trusty sheriff.
The project languished for more than a year until Martens, a married father of four with a full-time job, met freelance writer Ray de Kroon of Abbotsford.
They chatted about the project over coffee on the Sumas Prairie, and the creative spark was lit.
“Everyone in the coffee shop was talking about the weather, and the Canucks, and we were talking about musicals,” he remembered.
“Some farmers were talking about the price of beef,” added de Kroon.
The idea Martens pitched was intriguing, but a little different.
Fast forward a couple of years and the entire effort to write and mount the production has been a labour of “blood, sweat and tears,” said the writer.
“It’s a different animal, a musical production,” he said. “The music can arouse so many different emotions. The visuals, the music, the costumes, they’re all big.”
The action takes place in Coal Vale Valley, focusing in on the town of Misty Hill, which is like the imaginary town of Springfield from The Simpsons’ fame.
“It’s a theoretical place in the Midwest, but it’s more Canadian and B.C. than some would imagine, and the reference to a valley is deliberate.”
Of course, any resemblance to people living or dead is entirely a coincidence, they say, but there’s ample room for spoof and parody.
“And even if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Seriously? A musical?’ Believe me, it’s so much more,” de Kroon continued. “Misty Hill is the musical for those who love them, and for who think they’re lame.”
Next Wednesday the curtain rises with five shows between May 25 and May 29.
“Ray has done an amazing job with the script,” said Martens. “When you watch the show there is so much going on.”
The impetus for the creation of Misty Hill started with just one song called The Collection, Martens said.
“It’s that ‘whoa moment’ and it arrives in Act 2,” he said. “A single moment in the show, that’s where it all began.”
The musical will feature a live band, choreography by Kaela Large, and a cast of 18, many of whom are students from the area.
The Stirs front man Kyle Schick plays the lead role of Edwin, a brilliant yet shy student. Sardis actor Jacklyn Kirsch is Sadie, the elusive girl of Edwin’s dreams.
When Edwin finally finds the courage to ask her out, sinister gears are set in motion until it seems nearly everything in the quiet town of Misty Hill stands in their way.
Misty Hill Automaton! is at G.W. Graham Theatre (45955 Thomas Road in Chilliwack) May 25 to May 28 at 7 p.m. and a matinee on May 29 at 2 p.m.. Tickets $15, at PriceSmart and Save-On-Foods in Chilliwack, or www.mistyhill.ca.