Mazo de la Roche, Stephen Leacock, and Timothy Findley were all famous award-winning Canadian authors, with de la Roche and Leacock enjoying celebrity status and selling more books in the first half of the twentieth century than any of their peers; now, however, they are more likely known to those who were readers during their time.
Riding Off in All Directions, an original musical to be presented at Mississauga’s Maja Prentice Theatre Nov. 10-12 & 16-18, does not require previous knowledge of these writers. Whether or not people remember de la Roche and the Whiteoaks of Jalna, Findley’s The Wars or Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches, what entertains in this musical production is the characters leading us through a series of amusing, often poignant, scenes, with tunes inspired by music of the 20s and 30s and French art song. This is a sophisticated comedy about how people create fictitious versions of their lives.
Daniel Bratton, author of the biography Thirty-Two Short Views of Mazo de la Roche, has written the script; Peter Skoggard, whose works have been performed in Toronto, Cleveland and New York, has composed the music played by Tilly Kooyman (clarinet), Maria Kouznetsova (piano) and Emmet Glancie (double bass).
An outrageous story by Leacock, played by the well-known actor Colin Fox, who also directs the production, provides the title of this work. The plot arises from a twisted tale by Timothy Findley in which he whimsically conjectures that he is descended from an illicit union between Leacock and Mazo de la Roche.
All this is told in light-hearted music and words, with Bó Bardós as Mazo, James McLean as Timothy Findley and Marion Samuel-Stevens as Caroline Clement, Mazo’s cousin and companion. Esmée de la Roche, Mazo’s adopted daughter, appears in a video segment of the production. Dancer Suzette Sherman is the muse.