Monday, July 26, 2010

Bricklin: The Musical revs up
New Brunswick's flashy '70s political scandal takes the stage
(Excerpts from CBC post JULY 23/10)

Actors rehearse the Bricklin musical at the Fredericton Playhouse.

One of New Brunswick's most famous political controversies is about to hit the stage. Bricklin: The Musical is set in the 1970s and opens with an actor playing Premier Richard Hatfield disco dancing around an orange Bricklin sports car to celebrate his Progressive Conservative Party's 1974 provincial election win.

Hatfield's 1974 campaign featured an orange Bricklin, but his government's investment in the gull-wing vehicle with little appeal for sports car enthusiasts sparked one of the province's biggest public-spending controversies.

The car was conceived of by Malcolm Bricklin. The wealthy American manufactured it in plants in Saint John and Minto, N.B., from 1974 to 1976. The government agreed to spend $2 million to fund the project. The cost to taxpayers spiralled past $20 million and Hatfield eventually abandoned the project.

Malcolm Bricklin closed the factories in 1976, having delivered fewer than 3,000 vehicles. The company went into receivership owing the New Brunswick government millions of dollars. The Bricklin has gone on to make several "worst cars ever" lists.

Bricklin: The Musical premieres July 30 in Fredericton and features a real Bricklin on stage. The musical's website describes it as being about "a charismatic premier and an audacious entrepreneur [who] dream of building a sexy new sports car in New Brunswick, but political and production roadblocks are keeping the gull-winged venture from getting off the ground."

Despite the political content, director Alisa Palmer said that is not the point of the production. "To be frank, we're not actually trying to have a message for anybody or tell anybody anything, but we're trying to capture a moment in history that inspired a lot of people," she said.

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