Alan Doyle to star in musical 'Tell Tale Harbour' headlining Charlottetown Festival

·3 min read

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.

"From the festival standpoint, this is a huge year for us," Brazier said Monday. "We anticipate this being a real opportunity for Atlantic Canada. So it's about putting our best foot forward in every possible way as we hopefully welcome many, many people back to this region."

He said the goal is to make people laugh and "feel the feels."

As for the potatoes, that was an artistic choice, said Emily McMahon, a spokeswoman with the Confederation Centre. The writers hung the townsfolk's hopes on french fries because they wanted the factory to produce something specific to the region, McMahon said in an email. Prince Edward Island is famous for its spuds, so french fries fit the bill.

When word got out, Prince Edward Island Potatoes, a farmer-run producer organization, saw a great opportunity and offered to sponsor the show, she said.

"Tell Tale Harbour" opens June 23 at the 2022 Charlottetown Theatre Festival and is set to run until Sept. 24. Preview shows begin June 14.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2021.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version suggested the role of the doctor had been removed in the stage adaptation of "The Grand Seduction."

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