New Brunswick

Bricklin: The Musical revs up

One of New Brunswick's most famous political controversies is about to hit the stage as a musical.

New Brunswick's flashy '70s political scandal takes the stage

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.

New Brunswick's longest-serving premier was in the middle of a run of four consecutive election wins before a landslide 1987 defeat.

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.

Expensive crash

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."

The website also features several songs from the musical.

Veteran actor George Masswohl said it's a challenge to play Hatfield, who died in 1991, for an audience that knew him well.  

"I'm not endeavouring to impersonate the man. I'm trying to bring a bit of a flavour of what I've discovered about him," he said.

Masswohl said he's come to see Hatfield as a visionary, but also as a man with flaws.

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.