ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A new musical comedy starring Newfoundland’s Alan Doyle and set for next year’s Charlottetown Festival replaces the sought-after petrochemical factory in the movie “The Grand Seduction” with a humble french-fry factory.
“Tell Tale Harbour” is a stage adaptation of the 2013 comedic film, in which a town hatches a series of schemes in hopes of convincing a visiting doctor to stay and open a practice, thus snagging a contract with a petrochemical firm. On stage, the folks of Tell Tale Harbour, a struggling Atlantic Canadian fishing village, are trying to lure a doctor in order to get the owners of a frozen french-fry facility to set up shop on their shores.
The fictional town isn’t in a specific province, Doyle said in an interview Monday. Instead, it embodies that shared feeling of remoteness and closeness felt in small Atlantic Canadian towns.
“Our story that we’re presenting is really a heartfelt journey to define what home means for people, and what people are willing to go to and go through, to save their tiny little homes that we all love so much in this part of the world,” said Doyle, best known as a founding member of Newfoundland band Great Big Sea.
“It’s really a great, fun night out for people, where they’ll feel … pride and sadness and loss and a whole lot of laughs, wrapped around a few fun songs.”
In addition to playing the lead role of Frank Kavanaugh — whom Doyle describes as a “trickster” and “scammer” who’ll stop at nothing to convince the factory’s owners of the town’s unique charm — he co-wrote the play’s music and lyrics with Bob Foster, music director on the Canadian run of “Come From Away.” That musical’s heartfelt story of a Newfoundland town caring for stranded airline passengers on 9/11 became a smash hit on Broadway.
Doyle also co-wrote the “Tell Tale Harbour” script with Newfoundland and Labrador novelist and writer Ed Riche and Adam Brazier, the artistic director of performing arts at Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.
The production, Doyle’s musical theatre debut, makes its world premiere as the headlining show of the 2022 Charlottetown Festival. He laughed when asked if there could ever be too many musicals about Atlantic Canada. “No,” he said. “Nor records or books or plays or movies!”
The constant pull drawing an Atlantic Canadian home is at the heart of the show, Brazier said in an interview. It’s also at the heart of the festival itself, as programmers look to build something special after the COVID-19 pandemic took such a toll on live events and even tourism to Prince Edward Island.