LARRY'S PARTY by Richard Ouzounian and Marek Norman, directed by Robin Phillips, with Brent Carver, Barbara Barsky, Michelle Fisk, Susan Gilmour, Jane Johanson, Gary Krawford, Julain Molnar, Mike Nadajewski and Jack Wetherall. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Previews begin Monday (January 8), opens January 11 and runs to February 3, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday 2 pm. $20-$75, some rush and Monday pwyc. 368-3110. Rating: NNNNN
n her student days at the uni-versity of British Columbia, Michelle Fisk starred in a musical production of Much Ado About Nothing. Richard Ouzounian directed and Brent Carver moved furniture around the stage.
Now Fisk is helping to move the set around -- and performing -- in the world premiere of the musical Larry's Party, and Carver stars.
In this adaptation of the Carol Shields novel by Ouzounian and composer Marek Norman, Carver plays Winnipegger Larry Weller, who discovers his vocation and life's meaning in the creation of garden mazes. Fisk plays his sister Midge.
"Here we all are again," enthuses Stratford and Blyth veteran Fisk, "reunited in a play that's so much about middle-age experiences -- birth, death, marriage and huge life changes.
"We all knew we'd be in the business, but that we'd end up like this is nothing we could have predicted."
That's precisely Shields's point about the puzzle of life: you can't see its structure when you're in the middle of it. There's no knowing if tomorrow will require a left turn or a right, or where an impediment will lie.
Picking up on a botanical image, Fisk, who was involved in the first workshop of Shields' play Thirteen Hands, describes the musical as the story of "the greening of Larry, who develops from an undetermined seed to a healthy plant."
She plays Larry's sister Midge, who marries a gay man, divorces him and then cares for him when he contracts an HIV-related illness.
"There's a wit and a brightness in Midge that I find attractive. Pragmatic, bawdy and extremely generous, she's Larry's family anchor, the one person who's with him through his whole life. And she's funny -- her humour cuts through all the bullshit."
And the musical format?
"In musical theatre, characters sing because dialogue isn't enough to express what they want to say. And that's true here, where larger-than-life moments need to be presented in a different way, not just talked about.
"Because Marek is a romantic writer, the score is full of lush themes. And because it takes place from the 1970s to 2000, he's used a pop idiom throughout -- not Burt Bacharach pop, but an easy musical language that we've all grown up with."