Local musical retells 1919 Winnipeg General Strike

Winnipeg playwright talks new Rainbow Stage production

Rainbow Stage production of "Strike!"

Strike! The Musical is at Rainbow Stage through July 5 for the centenary of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.

The musical is set during the Winnipeg General Strike and follows the story of lovers Stefan and Rebecca as they grapple with a society rife with social inequality and discrimination.

Strike! The Musical is based on the book of the same title co-written by Danny Schur and Rick Chafe. Schur also wrote the music and lyrics for Strike!, calling the musical “the quintessential Winnipeg scrappy underdog story.”

While the musical is about the Winnipeg General Strike, it deals with many other social issues that Schur described as “eerily topical.”

“It’s really about the discrimination that was going on towards immigrants, people of color, [and] Indigenous and Métis people, and it’s really about nativism,” said Schur.

He said the Winnipeg General Strike has “become a metaphor for today.”

“We’re actually backsliding in terms of people’s economic comfort, and the business of right-wing populism among governments and using divisive tactics — all that stuff was kind of the underpinning of the General Strike,” Schur said.

“It’s like they took a handbook from the time and are using those same kind of policies today.”

Schur said the musical is “educational in an edifying kind of way.”

The musical provides an opportunity for Winnipeggers to learn more about their history, according to Schur.

“It’s really about how divisiveness can send society in the wrong [direction],” he said.

The Rainbow Stage production of Strike! features new set design by Stratford designer Douglas Paraschuk and new music with a modern take.

Some of the characters sing in different styles of music.

“The songs that are sung by the character Emma, they’re like hip hop, radio cool.

“It just doesn’t matter anymore that convention of historic show equals historic music,” he said.

“There still is some historic and some ethnic music […] it’s somewhere between The Greatest Showman and RENT.”

The play breaks from traditional musicals by having the music performed predominantly onstage. The actors play instruments as well, alongside a three-person band performing on the side of the stage.

Strike! is an all-ages show and includes three young actors doubling as musicians, Malacai Hiebert, Jonah Hiebert and Shiloh Hiebert.

“They’re stunning to watch and it’s so endearing,” he said.

“Even a five- to eight-year-old kid will be really taken with what they’re doing onstage.”

These youngest cast members are “right up there with the adults, all the time,” said Schur.

Schur hopes Strike! will not only entertain, but will also encourage audiences to speak up for their beliefs.

“Sometimes I think we can be somewhat apathetic and think someone else is going to do it.

“You cannot watch this [musical] without wanting to stand up and go do something, whether it’s vote in the election or just make some difference, it’s really inspiring in that way,” he said.

Strike! is one of the few locally-written productions to be put on by Rainbow Stage.

“I think people will be surprised when they leave,” he said.

“I think they’ll say, ‘My God, this is the equal of a Broadway production.’”



You can catch Strike! The Musical at Rainbow Stage from June 18 to 28 and July 2 to 5. Tickets can be purchased online at rainbowstage.ca or by calling 204-989-0888.