Winnipeg's 'Strike!' musical set for debut

After years of development, the Canadian musical 'Strike!' is set to debut Thursday at Winnipeg's Kildonan Park stage.

After years of development, the Canadian musical Strike! is set to debut Thursday at Winnipeg's Kildonan Park stage.

Manitoba writer, composer and producer Danny Schur – who began workshopping the show in 2003 – has been working around the clock on the project, raising more than $300,000 for the ambitious homegrown musical, which will run through June 14.

"It's going to be an emotional wreck time for me," Schur predicted about Thursday's premiere.

"I have to say a little speech before the show, and I can't see getting through it. I can't even talk now without getting emotional," he told CBC News.

Strike! tells the story of the largest general strike in Canadian history, when 30,000 workers shut down Winnipeg for six weeks in 1919 as they fought for better pay and working conditions. After a violent confrontation and a death on a day dubbed Bloody Saturday, the strike's leaders were thrown in jail and workers went back to their jobs.

Historians have pointed to the strike as the beginning of Canada's democratic socialist movement.

Winnipeg residents raved after getting a sneak peek at the musical last May when Schur staged an excerpt outdoors to coincide with the 85th anniversary of the strike.

But Schur believes that the story will appeal to more than just a local audience.

"I think the show is universal enough. It's not just about the Winnipeg General Strike, it's about all that universal emotion that everyone has – whether you're an immigrant in 1919 or now – which is a desire to fit in, to love and be loved," he said.

Though they've sold 3,000 tickets so far, organizers need to sell at least 12,000 tickets to break even on the estimated $600,000 budget. Claude Tetrault, one of the show's many investors, will be sitting in the audience for Thursday's opening-night show and says he doesn't actually expect any return on his investment.

"The intent was to support Danny, to support the community," Tetrault said. "I think it's great that we can have that kind of quality show here in Manitoba, and it's thanks to Danny Schur."

However, Schur not only hopes to repay his investors, his goal is to get the show onto other stages – perhaps even Broadway – which could bring royalty payments to his investors.

"I have pretty much staked my career on this," Schur said. "My wife and I say that we will look back at this summer and wonder if it was worth it – but it's got to be."