Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Former Barenaked Ladies singer on Strike!

Steven Page signs on to play male lead in $10-M film about 1919 labour strife

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Steven Page, formerly the lead singer of Barenaked Ladies, has agreed to play the male lead in the $10-million movie version of Strike! that could begin shooting as early as next year.

The Toronto-based tenor is the first to sign on to appear in the long-simmering big-screen adaptation of the Danny Schur/Rick Chafe 2005 stage musical set against the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. Page, 42, will portray Mike Sokolowski, the Ukrainian immigrant Everyman who unwittingly finds himself at the epicentre of the labour strife.

"The role appealed to me because Sokolowski is such a deeply conflicted, many-layered character, the classic good guy doing bad things," Page told the Free Press via email. "His character arc is so compelling, so redemptive, I look forward to playing his journey."

Schur, the project's co-producer, hopes that the casting announcement will end the reluctance of many potential name actors to join the Strike! lineup. The composer compared making movies to going to a party which no one wants to commit to until they know who else is going.

"Movies tend not to be made, nor do they find an international audience, without stars," says Schur. "You have to find a star willing to commit to the project, which leads to other stars committing. The reality of the international marketplace is that international stars are a requisite for international distribution. Steven is a known entity and he brings real market credibility."

Schur has offered Hayden Panettiere, the American singer, actress and star of the first year TV series Nashville, the lead female Strike! role of Rebecca Almazoff.

Set against one of the 20th century's first mass protest movements, the six-week-long Winnipeg General Strike was front-page news around the world. Given the state of the world economy, the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, the events of 1919 have a strong resonance today.

"Mike Sokolowski's world bears an uncanny resemblance to ours," says Page.

Schur targeted Page after he read several years ago that the voice behind such hits as Brian Wilson and The Old Apartment was interested in appearing in a Broadway musical. The two, along with the other Strike! co-producer, Joe Novak, met at a barbecue last summer and came to an agreement.

"I know that Steven appeals to a wide demographic of males and females, 30 to 60," says Schur. "With his voice on 15 million sold records, there are an awful lot of people out there that consider him, as I do, to be one of the most distinctive voices of our generation."

Page left Barenaked Ladies in 2009 to pursue a solo career.

The stage version of Strike! will be next performed at the Timms Centre for the Performing Arts in Edmonton in April.

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Congratulations are in order to Evelyne Anderson, one of the grand dames of Winnipeg theatre, who has received a lifetime achievement award from Canadian Actors Equity.

Earlier this month in Toronto, the 83-year-old Anderson was recognized for her extraordinary career in the performing arts. She performed in the first Rainbow Stage production, Brigadoon, in 1955 and was the first native Winnipegger to study acting in England. She was a sparkling presence on the local stage for 50 years before retiring three years ago.

"Her legacy as a singer and performer is renowned and her charismatic performances have been an inspiration to an endless list of Canadian performers," noted the union.

"The award is kind of a capper to a career," says Anderson, who has performed in Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and Rainbow Stage productions more than anyone else. "It's very nice to have it."

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Sarasvti Productions has announced that the lineup for its So You Think You Can Act fundraiser set for Feb. 20 will include Olympic bronze medalist Desiree Scott and champion curler Jeff Stoughton.

The format for the second annual event at the Gas Station Theatre pairs Winnipeg celebrities with local actors to perform a scene, which is then critiqued by a panel of judges. Also in the stage spotlight will be bandleader Ron Paley, Shaw TV's Jon Ljungberg, CBC Radio's Marcy Markusa and Jenna Khan of Breakfast Television.

Funds raised will go towards Sarasvti's spring production of Jail Baby, about women involved in the justice system, which will première next May.

Tickets are $25 for So You Think You Can Act and are available at www.sarasvati.ca

kevin.prokosh@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 G7

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