“This is a show like none I’ve seen — in a good way.”
This is how Mark DuMez, the artistic director of the Chemainus Theatre Festival, introduces Chickens during the opening night of the theatre’s latest production, a heart-warming rural musical comedy about two farmers, their four chickens and their hopes, dreams, fears and questions.
As the Chemainus Theatre Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, it is bringing back one of its most popular musical comedies.
Chickens is a goofy, yet touching story of survival and happiness, of love and hope. It is quirky, funny, sweet and thoughtful.
Originally presented in 1995, Chickens was written by then-artistic director Lucia Frangione, who worked with the Chemainus Theatre Festival from its founding in 1993 to 1999, and who was in the audience for opening night.
Frangione’s musical suggests that life in the farmhouse or the hen house isn’t all that dissimilar.
Homesteaders Liza and Pal are desperate to save their farm, but they face a serious problem — turning a profit. Liza struggles to keep the business afloat; however, Pal’s bad decisions and unusual fondness for his rare exotic chickens multiply their money woes. When Liza issues an ultimatum — only the feathered few who win at the county fair will return to the farm — Pal is desperate to save everyone’s neck.
In a metaphorical reflection of the farmers’ relationship difficulties, winged couples Alphonso and Stewer, as well as His Nibs and Butter Ball, face their own series of fears.
In this current production, director/choreographer Sara-Jeanne Hosie balances the struggles in Pal and Liza’s relationship with the oddball romances of their chickens.
“Chickens is a delightfully heart-warming piece that explores life issues we all have experienced … insecurity, longing, faith, hope and acceptance,” Hosie says in the program for Chickens. “Through music, humour [and] relationships, we take this touching journey with a farmer and his wife … and their fowl friends to discover what really matters.”
Providing both comic and dramatic relief is a talented cast of professionals, each of whom offers a fantastic performance.
Shane Snow plays tender-hearted, philosophical farmer Pal Grandfield, while Samantha Currie plays his determined and tenacious wife Liza.
Daniel James White plays the shy and dubious rooster His Nibs, and Briana Buckmaster plays his sweet and caring partner, a former beauty queen named Butter Ball. Luisa Jojic plays the straight-shooting maverick hen Stewer, and Giovanni Mocibob plays her love interest, bigheaded and fearless Alphonso.
Live country music keeps the audience tapping their toes and clapping their hands throughout the show.
Chickens is one of the best kinds of entertainment — it makes you laugh out loud, but it also makes you think.
You’ve got harmonizing chickens, a hilarious chicken dance, a slow-motion chicken fight that will make you burst out laughing, colourful costumes and lots of great physical comedy, but you’ll also find tender moments and thought-provoking questions about life and love that many people can relate to.
Audience members aged 12 and older can see Chickens at The Chemainus Theatre until Oct. 27, with four evening shows and four matinees weekly. Tickets and show times are available online and through the box office at 1-800-565-7738. Wednesday evening guests are invited to “Talk Back” after the show, where the cast and crew answer questions and discuss backstage notes.