Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/9/2019 (192 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Tuesday night Winnipeg première at the Centennial Concert Hall of the movie musical Stand!, an adaptation of the Danny Schur-Rick Chafe stage musical Strike!, was stocked with wine, catered appetizers, glamour, star power and also political / business power, with guests including Mayor Brian Bowman, Hartley Richardson and Gail Asper.
In Winnipeg terms, it was a Wellington Crescent kind of celebration of a North End love story set against the backdrop of the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
The irony was not lost on Schur, the musical impresario who has nurtured this project in multiple iterations for the better part of the past 20 years.
"All this production, all this glitz is Manitoba Film and Music’s (MFM) belief in the film writ large," Schur said. "MFM and Telefilm really believed in this and it’s an inspiring thing to be gifted with that kind of belief."
The pre-screening party centred in the Piano Nobile Gallery accommodated a reunion of the cast and crew, including L.A.-based stars Marshall Williams (Glee); Laura Wiggins (Shameless); Gregg Henry (the veteran actor is recognized these days for playing Peter Quill’s grandfather in Guardians of the Galaxy); as well as Winnipeg actors, including Lisa Bell, Gabriel Daniels and Tristan Carlucci.
One of the revelations of the movie is that, in the pivotal role of martyred worker Mike Sokolowski, Gregg Henry can sing (as Gabriels Daniels’ mom makes a point of telling him).
Henry smiles at the compliment, revealing that, though this is the first film in which he’s sung, it comes naturally to him.
"I am a singer-songwriter, so I’m used to singing my own songs," he says. "I did one (stage) musical called The Education of Randy Newman because he’s like a song writing God to me.
"It was a great opportunity," he says. "How often do you get a chance to sing on film?
"I think it’s a beautiful story, but I think it’s a very universal story," he says. "I know it’s extremely special to the people here in Winnipeg. But in a way, it’s every story about human rights, about immigrant rights, labour rights. And all of those things are woven really beautifully into the story.
"And I think it’s extremely pertinent right now."
That is also the sentiment of Laura Wiggins, who plays the Jewish firebrand Rebecca Almazoff, who engages in a forbidden romance with Williams’ Ukrainian immigrant Stefan Sokolowski.
"The story is very much needed in the States right now because we’re really having a hard time understanding that we were all immigrants once," she says. "We have this immigrant-phobia now. This story is about how all people should be treated the way you would want to be treated."
Wiggins took the opportunity to reaquaint with Winnipeg actress Catherine Wreford, who originated the role of Rebecca in the original stage production of Strike in 2005.
"A lot of girls would be territorial about that. It would be weird to see another girl play your role," Wiggins says. "But she was so thoughtful and supportive."
Williams, the Winnipeg-born actor who hit it big with the series Glee, says his move to L.A. meant he wasn’t familiar with Schur’s stage musical Strike, so he was doubly gobsmacked to be able to sing in a film.
"Getting an opportunity to do a movie in Winnipeg was one thing," he says. "I definitely didn’t expect to be doing a movie musical in Winnipeg."
The film’s L.A.-based director, Robert Adetuyi (Stomp the Yard), says making the trip back to Winnipeg for the première felt like coming home, and that he is considering making that a reality.
"I think I will, in the near future, move my base of operations to Winnipeg," he says. "I love it here. Winnipeg has everything a big city has to offer but in a way that is more friendly, more accessible and I really like that."
That represents a turn-around from his initial feelings of coming to make a movie here, he acknowledges.
"I’ll be honest: when Danny sent me that script and the budget, I said, really, this is going to be hard to do. But then he said, ‘Don’t worry, shooting in Winnipeg will make it possible.’"
Over time, Adetuyi was sold, not only on the abundance of locations, but the talent pool.
"I thought, well, we’re gonna have to bring all the actors from outside and all the crew and all those things," he says. "I couldn’t believe it.
"There is so many young talented people here who have been working on so many projects."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.
Updated on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at 8:21 AM CDT: Adds photos
9:04 AM: Corrects that director Robert Adetuyi is currently L.A.-based, not Toronto-based