STAND! is a new film based on the stage musical of the same name. I admit that I have not heard of the Canadian musical and neither have many of my friends. So, the film arrives with a challenge to attract audiences to see this relatively unknown musical that is slotted in between 2 big musicals, the already box-office champ FROZEN 2 and the upcoming CATS at Christmas. Director Robert Adetuyi (STOMP THE YARD and TROUBLE SLEEPING) has done a decent job.
STAND! is set 100 years ago against a backdrop of civil unrest and a violent general strike that changed Canada’s history. The story follows an immigrant Romeo & Juliet in 1919 as they battle for love and a better life on the streets of Winnipeg, amid political and social turmoil. Stefan (Marshall Williams from GLEE and HOW TO BUILD A BETTER BOY) and his father Mike (Gregg Henry) fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca (Laura Wiggins), but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be couple. Meanwhile, soldiers returning from WWI are angry at the lack of jobs after the war and violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma (Lisa Bell), a refugee from racial strife in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, a wealthy lawyer (the villain of the piece) pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.
Though set a century back many of the issues depicted in the film are still relevant today. Racial tension and fear of losing jobs to foreigners are always relevant issues and so is the concept of evil and power. The script by Juno-winner Danny Schur and Rick Chafe often falls into cliched territory but the actors perform their duties with such conviction that the flaws can often be overlooked. For example, Stefan’s obstinate father Mike refuses to join in the strike and even works as a scab but on knows that he will eventually end up in the protest march, which he does in the end. For a period piece, the art direction, wardrobe and atmosphere are impressive.
STAND! can stand (pardon the pun) very much as a drama on its own without being classified as a musical. The actors do not breakout into song or dance that often, so that the film does not really feel like a musical. A few of the songs are also pretty good, tune and lyrics as well. Despite being small budget, the film looks grand. The climatic march at the end of the film requires a march of ten thousand people. This is quite hefty logistics.
STAND! the Juno-award-winning musical hit set against the Winnipeg General Strike by composer Danny Schur & Rick Chafe’s hit musical opens across Canada on November the 29th. A small but effective musical, STAND! is worth look.