Rosebud Theatre’s Cariboo Magi takes the stage

Magi Rosebud

Rosebud Theatre’s Christmas Production of Cariboo Magi is on now. It can be said that Three Hills actor Zach Running Coyote, as Joe Mackey is, the “star” that leads the Magi to Barkerville, BC, where they will be thoroughly taxed to tell the Christmas story… like you have never heard it before.

It is the genius and script of the playwright Lucia Frangione that put the convoluted story together that needs to be recognized first. We read of her that “she is an internationally produced award-winning playwright. Some of her 30 plays include Chickens [performed in Rosebud] Cariboo Magi, Espresso, Leave of Absence,….” “She teaches playwriting at Rosebud and Langara College.” But we are told that she lives on Bowen Island (BC) with her firefighter husband and her two children.

Director Paul F. Muir asks: “Who would ever think of putting together a desperate saloon owner, a failed Anglican minister, a grown-up child star, and a Canadian miner of unknown origin on a journey from San Diego to Barkerville, BC, in 1870, to do a Christmas play at the Theatre Royal? And then who would imagine making that play-within-a-play a mashup of Hamlet, A Christmas Carol, The Last of the Mohicans, Fanny’s Frolics and the Gospel of Luke?” Then he gives the answer in these words: “Only one person, the indomitable Lucia Frangione.”

Although never used in the story or the descriptions in the literature, two somewhat modern or much used terms could be applied to this collection of characters. The failed Anglican Missionary, the widowed saloon keeper, the has-been child actress, and the Canadian miner, could be seen as “losers”. But we also see them as “survivors” in a harsh and cruel environment.

But their story unfolds before us and we put it together as we split our sides in laughter. And by the end of the play we have had a whole new understanding of the Christmas story, and love and grace.

Now if it were not for the fact that Cariboo Magi was nominated for the Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding Original Play or Musical in 2002 when Zach Running Coyote was only 6 years old, one could almost believe that the role of Joe Mackey was written with Zach in mind. He is a third-year acting student at the Rosebud School of the Arts and has played several parts – ie. in The Laramie Project, Frank Dickens Christmas Carol and New Blood on the BMO Studio Stage and with the Sunset Theatre in Wells BC. This is his debut on the Opera House stage. If getting to perform on the Opera House stage is a recognition of outstanding acting achievement then it is obvious why Zach is there.

The same can be said of Anna Dalgliesh who plays the part of Marta Reddy, that child-star who is no longer the innocent child. Anna also played in the same productions on the BMO Studio Stage that Zach was in.

Norma Roth plays Madame Fanny Dubeau, the saloon keeper. She has been in an earlier production of Cariboo Magi. She is a graduate of the Rosebud School of the Arts and has several other acting credits as well as design credits. “A Rosebud Christmas” and “The Skin of our Teeth” would have been two where we saw her on stage and “Shadowlands” would have shown her design work.

Nathan Schmidt is a very familiar presence at Rosebud having trained there and been involved in “An Inspector Calls”, “Doubt”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and others.

Each performer brought the high standard of professionalism that is a hallmark of the Rosebud Theatre.

If there be any critique it would be to say that there were times when it was difficult to catch some of the lines. But this may have been when they were speaking in French or German or Chinese or “Mohican?” or with assumed accents. Nothing affecting the story was lost and the gestures and expressions and tone still gave us the meaning.

Two things to alert the reader to. One would be what might be considered politically incorrect; the slang expressions for racial groups. These would not have been unusual for the time, and the playwright seem to have made sure she treated everyone equally and then ascribed to the ones named, their very special contributions to the expansion and development of the north and west.

The second thing that I found interesting was a segment where beliefs of the various denominations are being discussed. I think I snorted out loud with the description of one. Thanks, Lucia, for your insight and humour.

Everything else about the production, I will leave for the patrons to discover for themselves when they attend at least one of the shows. As a Christmas gift to someone special they may want to go more than once and take that one, or several, with them.

Cariboo Magi, as with all the Opera House productions, is available as a Dinner Theatre event featuring the wonderful buffet spread in the Wildhorse Jack Dining facility.

Further information available at www.rosebudtheatre.com or 1-800-267-7553 or locally at 403-677-2001