The Mennonite Historical Society of BC (MHSBC) and Canadian Musical Theatre Company present Pier 21: The Musical on Saturday, Feb. 12.
The shows takes place at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium (32315 South Fraser Way). The 3 p.m. matinee is sold out, but tickets are still available (as of press deadline) for the 6:30 p.m. show.
Playwright Allen des Noyers of Ladner said it took him about 18 months to write Pier 21. It’s the story of refugees and immigrants fleeing Europe to the East Coast of Canada in the late summer of 1939.
Soon, Pier 21 launched half a million soldiers on their way to fight Nazi Germany, as the CBC broadcasted morale-boosting programs to troops and soldiers overseas about to meet their future brides.
After the war, the Pier welcomed war brides, wounded soldiers, and a new generation of immigrants and displaced people fleeing the devastation left behind. They took their first steps on Canadian soil at the pier, and it’s this historic immigration gateway that inspired the production Pier 21: The Musical.
“I have always found stories to write from Canada’s history that lend themselves to musical treatment,” des Noyers said. “This is the 10th or 12th musical that I have created and I was looking for something with Celtic music. So being in the Maritimes, this is the perfect place and style for a musical like this. Then I was interested in a story about immigration, so all of this really inspired me.”
The production played more than 100 shows in B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Alberta since opening in late January 2019 under des Noyers’ Canadiana Musical Theatre Company banner.
It then moved on to Halifax, and was then sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pier 21: The Musical is a Celtic- and swing-flavoured musical packed with powerful vignettes and characters. It was developed with assistance from CIHS (Canadian Immigration Historical Society) members who gave advice on immigration procedures and historical background, as well as suggestions for a scene revolving around the rejection of a would-be immigrant.
The playwright also drew on information from the CIHS publication, The Memoirs of Fenton Crossman, a Canadian immigration officer, 1930-1968, and based the character on some aspects of Fenton’s war experience.
Des Noyers dedicated the tour to the memory of Danish immigrant, George Frislev, who arrived in Canada through Pier 21 in 1951.
Tickets for Pier 21: The Musical are $30 and are available at the Mennonite Heritage Museum (1818 Clearbrook Rd.), online at mhsbc.com, by calling 604-853-6177.