Shadow puppets help tell the story of Firebird: The Musical.
Shadow puppets help tell the story of Firebird: The Musical.

Based on the Russian folktale Ivan Tsarevich, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf, Halifax playwright Carolyn Curry has given it a contemporary makeover and set it to music. The result is Firebird: The Musical, set to open at The Bus Stop Theatre this month.

“I think it’s a fascinating and kind of whimsy-filled story, and that was inspiring to Carolyn, who has changed the story and updated it to be fun for modern audiences,” says Terra Novella’s artistic producer Audrey Eastwood.

"It's not often that a new independent musical like this gets a chance to premiere in Nova Scotia. Carolyn Curry is an incredibly talented composer, an East Coast gem, and we are thrilled to get to work with her to bring this new work to light." - Audrey Eastwood
“It’s not often that a new independent musical like this gets a chance to premiere in Nova Scotia. Carolyn Curry is an incredibly talented composer, an East Coast gem, and we are thrilled to get to work with her to bring this new work to light.” – Audrey Eastwood

Firebird: The Musical follows the original folktale’s story of a Firebird who steals a golden apple from a Tsar’s orchard. Sending his three heirs out to bring the apple back, they embark on several adventures as they attempt to accomplish the quest.

In Curry’s updated version, however, the three male children of the original are replaced by two daughters and a son. It also substitutes a central female character with a male equivalent.

“In the original folktale, the youngest son goes along with this somewhat dimwitted princess, and in this version, the youngest daughter falls in love with what Carolyn calls a bumbling buffoon,” continues Eastwood.

Using what Eastwood describes as a “jazzy vibe,” Curry’s music does occasionally give the nod to its Russian roots. “The music is stunning, and it’s just super fun to listen to,” she says. “And the script is quite a wild ride from start to finish with lots of magic and fantasy.”

In addition to adding music, the production will also use shadow puppets to help visually tell the journey the Tsar’s children undertake.

With a music and book by Carolyn Curry (photo above), Firebird: The Musical is a homegrown production created in Nova Scotia.
With music and book by Carolyn Curry (photo above), Firebird: The Musical is a homegrown production created in Nova Scotia.

“The shadow puppets help with the elements of travel and time,” explains Eastwood. “It gives Firebird a very magical feel, and they help as it takes a dark turn near the end.”

Recognizing that producing a new musical can often be a risky venture for any theatre company, Eastwood says her company did not hesitate to take a gamble on Firebird.

“[Original musicals] are quite scary to put up for sure,” says Eastwood. “But we felt that we were in a place that we were able to do that right now and give space to the amazing talent that Halifax has.”

Blown away by the talent that showed up for auditions, Eastwood says she was also pleased to see several actors they had never seen on stage.

“That was an inspiring start to it all, and now to have this amazing cast and to work with Carolyn on all the wonderful music she has created is so rewarding,” she says.

A family-friendly show (recommended for those over 12 years), Eastwood says Firebird is a magical, fun journey.

“The music is just beautiful to listen to, and the harmonies that Carolyn has built into the songs are just stunning,” she says. “And it is an excellent opportunity to see a lot of new Halifax talent showcased at its best.”

Firebird: The Musical plays The Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen St, Halifax) November 20-24. Tickets are available online at Ticket Halifax.

Members of the cast of Firebird: The Musical in rehearsal. Bottom L-R: Sara Courtney, Jessica Oliver. Top L-R: Sarah Smith, Raphael Glazov, Tamara Fifield (at the top), Nicholas Cox, Mike Chandler, Chris Bolton. Not pictured: Stephanie Mah, Cat McCluskey
Members of the cast of Firebird: The Musical in rehearsal. Bottom L-R: Sara Courtney, Jessica Oliver. Top L-R: Sarah Smith, Raphael Glazov, Tamara Fifield (at the top), Nicholas Cox, Mike Chandler, Chris Bolton. Not pictured: Stephanie Mah, Cat McCluskey