There’s more than an element of the unknown about Collège Jeanne-Sauvé’s latest musical production.
Members of the St. Vital-based French Immersion school will perform Qui Sait?...Who Knows? — its first bilingual musical production for 20 years — from Feb. 7 to 9 at Centre culturel franco-manitobain at 340 Provencher Blvd.
The story, written by teacher Philippe Habeck, who is also the play’s director, centres around a parent-teacher night that occurs during a freak snowstorm, which keeps the characters captive and forces them deal with various misunderstandings and cultural conflicts.
"The play looks at both the English and francophone perspectives and these two solitudes. The problem here in Canada is that the two sides don’t always want to talk. So we’re using the backdrop of an evening at school where all proverbial hell breaks loose," Habeck said, noting there will be musical numbers in the style of the hit TV show Glee.
"Some of the characters only speak one language, but we’re looking at the theme of duality. There doesn’t have to be two solitudes. The show is fun and family-appropriate and talks about what it means to be here in Canada," Habeck said.
The show’s eclectic cast of characters includes some jocks looking for love, artists looking for understanding, parents who can’t stand each other and teachers who just want to help, Habeck said.
He hopes the show — which includes 19 cast members, six band members, three backup singers and a large student team from different grades working behind the scenes — will be enjoyed by the school’s community, including former students.
"As teachers, I think we do our productions for the community," Habeck said, noting the school’s last musical show was Anne of Green Gables 20 years ago. "We’re hoping both parents and former students will come to see the show, as they will understand the French and English issues."
Habeck, who lives in St. Boniface, said the idea for the show came about when he was approached by members of the school’s physical education department. He also credits the commitment of the students to the project, considering their busy schedules.
"It can be very difficult to get these kids all together, as they have exams, jobs and play on sports teams, but they’re incredible students," he said.
Student Stefan Padeanu, 18, who has a lead role in the show, has found it a rewarding experience, especially considering its historical context.
"My character is generally down-to-earth and a nice guy. He’s really just looking to have a happy life," said Padeanu, who lives in south St. Vital. "I know the history between the French and the English in Canada and now we’re one country. Hopefully one day we’ll resolve this."
"It’s been really amazing how people can come together in a short space of time and work together. I think the show reflects that."
The school matinees will be on Feb. 7 and 8 at 9:45 a.m. and a Saturday matinee will run in Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. There will also be three nightly shows at 7:30 p.m. Admission prices vary.