What unites a community? Is it the shared values, the institutions, or social activities? Does it depend on how much the people are willing to share and welcome the slightest change?
The Hockey Sweater: a Musical is a wonderful, charming, family story for all ages. It goes beyond the nostalgia for a bygone era and targets the forces that bring people together for a shared experience: in this case, the national obsession known as hockey. Whether it’s a professional game broadcast over the radio or the village children playing their passion on a frozen pond, The Hockey Sweater: a Musical marvelously explores the joy and impact of team sports. It beautifully touches on the Canadian experience of English and French, small town and big city, the church and that other religion, hockey. The show is a heart-warming and rousing delight.
Set in a small Quebec town in 1946, life for the children revolves around three things: school, church, and hockey; or more specifically, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard and the Montreal Canadians. Like all of his teammates, young Roch Carrier (Jesse Noah Gruman) literally wears his love for The Rocket on his sleeves. However, his well-worn Habs jersey has become so threadbare his mother insists on replacing it and contacts “Mister Eaton” to order a new sweater. But poor Roch receives a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey instead of that of his revered Habs. HORROR! Roch’s mother (Clair Lautier) does not understand the fuss, a sweater is a sweater after all, and insists that he wears the new jersey. Poor Roch embarks on a journey of bargaining to get rid of the offensive sweater and learns a lesson that team spirit does not come from an article of clothing.
The cast is fantastic: good acting and excellent voices. The stand-out is Mr. Gruman, a fabulous talent and a future star. Ms. Lautier is wonderful as the overwhelmed but loving mother. The kids are terrific and pretty good skaters too!
The songs are sweet, catchy, and funny; especially “Ten Feet Tall”, “Dear Mister Eaton”, and “One Hundred Million Moths” (a number that MUST be seen to be believed!). The sets are inventive: using projections for scene changes and leaving the stage open for the kids to skate and play The Game. The whole show moves briskly with spirit and nice pauses of gentle life lessons.
Hockey is one of the great Canadian experiences. Not just at the professional level, but how it embodies the building of communities and friendships in spite of the harsh winter. Team loyalties are fine; just don’t forget that it begins with the love for the game.
Photo credit: Leslie Schachter
The Hockey Sweater: a Musical: presented by Segal Centre. Based on The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier. Directed by Donna Feore. Book by Emil Sher. Music by Jonathan Munro; Lyrics by Jonathan Munro and Emil Sher. Show continues until November 15, 2017, at Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal. For tickets call the box office at 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org