When Thom Southwood sat down to finish writing a ghost story his computer crashed. Call it kismet, fate, destiny or whatever but that one little glitch propelled him into a different direction and out of that came Afterlife the Musical.
People in the Sooke theatre community know Southwood for many performances, music and direction of local productions. His musical Howl in 2009 was a success and probably spurred him on to consider another original musical. Southwood has written three musicals, two of which were for the Sooke Harbour Players. He has been writing since the 1980s and has had his work aired on radio and television all over the world.
He said Afterlife is not a follow up to Howl, it has its own life and… afterlife.
Southwood collaborated with his writing partner/wife Donna M. Southwood and the two of them brought Afterlife to the Sooke Harbour Players for consideration.
“Donna is my co-creator, she comes up with the visuals.”
Afterlife got legs in March 2014 and by mid-June it had been presented to the players group. Southwood said he is still refining the musical and he was literally delivering music to the cast members two week before the show opens on October 31, Halloween night.
There are 50 people in the cast and a huge crew, many of them family members.
“I’m on a one man mission to convert people to musical theatre,” said Southwood. He said the musical has a vast array of musical genres from blues to rock to show tunes and even a little classical opera.
“I think people are going to love the music, there’s some really good music – it’s some of my best work to date.”
The musical has a lot of strong characters in it, many with characteristics which are identifiable to most people.
“It’s about Amanda, a young lady who finds herself in a place called Afterlife,” said Southwood. “In it you will find five soul smugglers and one happy go-lucky soul reaper. Together they embark on a journey to confront the Queen of Heaven.”
It’s funny, scary and thoughtful and it’s geared for all ages.
“People will scream, laugh and they will cry,” said Southwood. “There’s a lot more comedy than I expected, that helps alleviate any anxiety.”
Without giving too much away, he said the main character Amanda travels through five realms. Realms of our fears and anxieties. Scary clowns, Hogwarts gone bad, dolls and scary doctors like Dr. Painstake and Nurse Bonesaw.
It, in a way, confronts many of one’s fears in life but it ends on a positive note.
Southwood said he saw so many talented people come through the door that he couldn’t just put them in the chorus so he added two new story lines to accommodate them. Rehearsals have stepped up to seven days a week.
“I’m having a lot of fun and a lot of stress,” said Southwood just a week before opening night. “I know to expect it. When you are creating a new show, there’s no template to go on, lots of changes but the cast and team are absolutely gung ho.”
Once the performances are over, Southwood would like to take the musical beyond Sooke to Toronto and New York, but he needs an agent or a publicist who can take them further. A musical born in Sooke would be a fitting legacy for Southwood. But until such a time as that happens, Southwood is treading the boards at EMCS Theatre in anticipation of the three weekends of performances. Afterlife the Musical begins at 7 p.m. on October 31 and runs November 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16. There is student and senior ticket pricing with tickets available online at: eventbrite.ca, or Shoppers Drug Mart, The Stick in the mud, EMCS program office, East Sooke Grocer and Serious Coffee at the Westshore Town Centre.