What: Blackstones & Bathtubs
Where: Nanaimo’s Port Theatre, 125 Front St.
When: July 2, 6, 7, 8
Tickets: Opening night $5, other performances $18 to $35 (250-754-8550 or www.porttheatre.com)
To create a musical for Nanaimo’s Canada 150 celebrations, Jessica Lowry discovered the holy grail of Bathtub Race footage.
“This was footage from the original race in 1967, all black and white, showing an actual clawfoot tub. It looked like it was right in the water,” said Lowry, the writer and director of Blackstones & Bathtubs.
The production, having its première tonight, was commissioned by the City of Nanaimo, which had put out the call for a musical inspired by its “culture and history” to help commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.
Blackstones & Bathtubs follows the adventures of four tourists who go back into time to explore Nanaimo’s history.
A segment on the Nanaimo Bathtub Race includes vintage video of Mayor Frank Ney riding a giant bathtub in Nanaimo harbour.
One scene depicts the four time-travellers cavorting in a real clawfoot bathtub while seven dancers with parasols gyrate to such songs as Wipeout and Row Row Row Your Boat.
“I definitely want to celebrate this quirky culture. To me, it’s like the apex of Nanaimo’s quirkiness sits in these bathtubs,” Lowry said.
She found the bathtub race videos by parsing through 10 discs containing hours of footage from the race in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
Although Lowry grew up in the city, she admits the enduring popularity of the Nanaimo Bathtub race has always been a mystery to her.
“Bathtub-racing has always been something I’ve strived to figure out. It is bizarre,” she said with a laugh.
The onstage bathtub features in other scenes. It’s seen in a miner’s home and also becomes a Snuneymuxw canoe carrying coal to a Victoria blacksmith.
Blackstones and Bathtubs features a five-piece band playing original music as well as songs by such artists as Leonard Cohen, Diana Krall and Rita MacNeil.
The musical continues at the Port Theatre July 6, 7 and 8.