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Title: Soldiers of Song: A Tribute to The Dumbells
Venue: Fergus Grand Theatre
Soldiers of Song: A Tribute to The Dumbells
If nationhood was won on the crest of Vimy Ridge, it was the Dumbells who provided the country with its earliest soundtrack. The soldier-entertainers’ journey from Vimy to Vaudeville is now celebrated by award-winning author and two-time Juno Award-nominee Jason Wilson in the new musical-play Soldiers of Song. In it, Wilson is assisted by Canadian storyteller Lorne Brown, Toronto stage actors Jim Armstrong and Andrew Knowlton, and Marcus Ali and Patrice Barbanchon.
This highly-entertaining show celebrates the songs and stories of Canada’s famous First World War Concert Party: The Dumbells. It is also the focus of Wilson’s book Soldiers of Song: The Dumbells and Other Canadian Concert Parties of the First World War (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012). Both book and show will enlighten audiences on the story of the Dumbells and reimagine the musical fare of the famous comedy troupe founded on the Western Front.
Monty Python, Wayne and Shuster, SCTV and Saturday Night Live owe a lot to the Dumbells, who are considered the pioneers of sketch comedy. Formed by members of the Canadian army’s Third Division—and named for the dumbbell in the division’s emblem—The Dumbells bolstered troop morale during the First World War with live “concert parties” featuring irreverent humour that often skewered senior officers and the military system itself. After the war, the troupe regrouped and toured across Canada, as well as staged a run in London’s West End and score a hit on Broadway—the first Canadian production to do so.