The axe, wielded by Minnesota Slim (Gaelen Beatty), is about to fall on Moonlight (Felix LeBlanc) while Muskrat (Mark DuMez) and Dirty Bob (Andrew Legg) brace themselves. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Lumberjacks in Love on the cutting edge of woodsman theatrics

Chemainus Theatre navigates the wilderness with some wild antics and well-crafted tunes

Lumberjacks in Love. The title alone is an immediate draw for the next show at the Chemainus Theatre, running Oct. 18-Nov. 2.

Whatever content might be implied, the cast is ready to match that with some side-splitting fun and musical pieces that are a cut above the norm in the wilderness.

The cast includes Chemainus Theatre’s artistic director Mark DuMez, making his first acting appearance since May of 2016 in Harvey. He plays Muskrat in a group of Lumberjacks that includes Minnesota Slim (Gaelan Beatty), Moonlight (Felix LeBlanc) and Dirty Bob (Andrew Legg).

You can’t have lumberjacks in love without some females so that’s where Rose (Alison MacDonald) and The Kid (Cate Richardson) make their presence felt.

“I love being in a cast with a bunch of creative people on stage,” said DuMez. “It’s a punchy little show.

“Everyone’s returning of some sort. It’s been really fun making music and comedy and story with them.”

While zany antics run rampant among the burly boys, the audience is given some context about what makes them all tick.

“It’s nice each character has a journey,” noted DuMez. “You have to care about the characters for the play really to sing.”

And they do sing, too, in such catchy numbers as ‘The Bachelor’s Prayer’, ‘Stupid Love’ and ‘Could It Be Cabin Fever?’

The instrumental lineup of banjo, upright bass, guitar and a washboard played with a wooden spoon add to the upbeat, folksy bluegrass tunes that help tell the story with the likes of ‘Someday I Will Be Clean’ and ‘Buncha Naked Lumberjacks’.

“I think it’s a surprising piece on many levels,” said DuMez.

He indicated the search often goes far and wide for shows at the Chemainus Theatre. This is one gem uncovered from the Northern Sky Theatre in Wisconsin that specializes in making new regionally specific musicals.

DuMez met the original creators over the years and felt the show would be a good one for Chemainus with the forest industry connections. The script was designed, built and will be performed within Chemainus’ own production team.

The performance is directed by Melissa Berger, who also does the choreography, with John Han as musical director, James O’Leary as set designer, Patricia Reilly as costume designer, Nicole Lamb as lighting designer, Liz King as stage manager and Gabrielle Marcolin as apprentice stage manager.

Book and lyrics are by Fred Ally and music by James Kaplan.

“At the core of Lumberjacks in Love is a group of folks who deviate from this one-sided depiction,” Berger noted. “Whether they long for love, fear their mortality, or search for their true identity, all of these characters are multi-faceted and do not neatly fit into a set stereotype.

“There are plenty of laughs, gags, slapstick and a few jigs throughout the piece. All of the characters in Lumberjacks in Love are driven by their hearts. They remind us that we are all individuals and, as such, cannot simply be defined or judged by our job, or our interests, who we love, or how we choose to dress.”

“I’m really excited to see how it plays with our audience,” said DuMez.

Tickets will be in a short supply due to the duration of the show so people wanting to attend are advised to get them early to avoid disappointment.

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