Hot Blues

By Alidor Aucoin on July 10, 2008

With two of his stage plays opening on the straw hat circuit one week apart this month, Ricky Blue  is suddenly Quebec’s hottest playwright in either language.

Best known for 30 years as half of the Bowser and Blue comedy duo, Blue’s first original comedy, Campbell’s Sutra, opened Thursday (July 10) at the Hudson Village Playhouse.

His musical, Let’s Be Frank, about a Frank Sinatra impersonator, begins its run at Théâtre Lac Brome in Knowlton July 17.

“I could become the Michel Tremblay of English-speaking Quebec, who knows?” Blue says with a chuckle referring to the only other Quebec playwright to have had two shows running simultaneously. “You can’t plan anything like this.” Blue, who will be 62 in September was the son of a G.I. born in Liverpool after the end of the Second World War. He was 3 when he came to America and bounced around the United States and Canada until he settled in Montreal with his mother when he was 13. After graduating from Concordia University with a master’s degree in creative literature. He had hoped to be a novelist, and to support himself as a writer, started singing in an Irish pub in 1978 with Bowser. Blue, who writes a column for The Suburban, didn’t start thinking about writing plays until Centaur’s artistic director Gordon McCall invited him to write The Paris of America as a theatre fundraiser in five years ago.

Blue wrote the script based on his MA thesis of the same name for the Centaur.

“Because of that experience I became fascinated with storytelling, especially telling stories on stage within a single setting,” he said. “It’s an interesting discipline. That was kind of a new thing for me.” Blue then penned Campbell’s Sutra, which he describes as “a juicy Scottish-Canadian sex comedy.” It was work shopped as a reading last year, and was so well received the Hudson Village Theatre agreed to produce it as part of its summer season this year.

 “It could be played as a farce. I like farce and see it as a farce, but I think Hudson is going to do it fairly straight. The jokes are still there, and sometimes dead pan is the best delivery.” Blue’s other show was especially written for pianist Nicholas Pynes, Théâtre Lac Brome’s producer, who wanted an opportunity to do some Sinatra classics.

“My mother was a huge Sinatra fan, so I grew up with the music,” says Blue.

“I didn’t want to do Sinatra the life story, so I came up with this quirky little story about a Frank Sinatra imitator who through some mystical weirdness starts to think he’s Sinatra.

“The songs start to take over his life. There’s a classy romance to the whole thing, an elegance, a kind of world that no longer exists.” In addition to the two original plays, Blue is also performing with his sidekick Bowser as well as the Gazette’s cartoonist, Terry Aslin Mosher and columnist Josh Freed in a satirical revue, The 25th Century Belongs to Canada. It’s a sequel to their last year’s successful political cabaret, Four Anglos of the Apocalypse.


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