Curtain rises on The Ballad of Stompin' Tom Connors

Actor Scott Carmichael says he only had a “vague awareness” of Stompin’ Tom Connors’ place in Canadian history before suiting up to play the folk singer.

Actor hadn't sung a Connors song before this play

Scott Carmichael plays the role of Tom Connors in 'The Ballad of Stompin' Tom.' (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Actor Scott Carmichael says he only had a "vague awareness" of Stompin' Tom Connors' place in Canadian history before suiting up to play the folk singer.

"But of course you get cast in a role and you immediately dive into research," Carmichael said.

Carmichael plays Stompin' Tom in the Sudbury Theatre Centre's production of The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, which runs until October 13.

The play bills itself as a tribute to the Canadian legend, and Carmichael says he came away from the role with a new appreciation for Connors' legacy.

"He was an orphaned child," Carmichael said. "His parents weren't dead, but he was taken away by Children's Aid. So he lived in an orphanage, then a foster home."

"He left home for good when he was 13, then literally rode the rails, old-fashioned hobo style."

The experience of travelling across the country likely provided him with enough inspiration to write songs like 'Sudbury Saturday Night', 'Bud the Spud' and 'The Hockey Song'.

But despite playing many of Connors' hits — 16 songs in total are part of the play — theatre goers should not expect a cover band, Carmichael said.

"Our director [Rob Kempson] doesn't want this to be a tribute show," he said, adding that he attempts to emulate certain things that Connors does in performance, "but I'm trying my best to be true to Tom."

The Ballad of Stompin Tom Connors is a celebration of one of Canada's most beloved storytellers, actor Scott Carmichael says. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

"[Connors] dedicated his career really to telling the story of Canadians," Carmichael said. "People talk about Gordon Downie telling Canadian stories, Stompin' Tom definitely did that a few decades earlier."

"It's wonderful that we get to tell his story now."

You can listen to the full interview, including a short clip from 'The Ballad of Stompin' Tom' by clicking the audio link below.