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Crime Does Not Pay makes a musical out of comics

By Gurman Sahota, February 28 2017 —

How do you take violent comics and the tragic life of their creator and turn it into a musical? David Rhymer and Kris Demeanor’s play, Crime Does Not Pay, will bring that story to the Calgary stage.

Co-produced by Downstage Theatre and Forté Musical Theatre, the show follows the life of Bob Wood, the creator of the Crime Does Not Pay comics, as his comics become famous. Wood struck fame and fortune for displaying graphic violence and sexuality in a post-World War II era. However, a new set of rules censoring comics emerged, rendering Crime Does Not Pay with waning interest and very little money for Wood. This resulted in a 11-day drunken tryst the creator goes on with his fiancée Violet, who meets a violent end when Wood hits her over the head with an iron.

Director Simon Mallett says Wood’s biography influenced the musical. The murder raises questions about whether exposure to violent imagery can make someone violent.

“[The musical revolves around] when violence is rooted and what sort of circumstances bring about the violence,” Mallett says.

The cast will also play the musical accompaniment, which Mallett says adds to the character of the show. He says the show also incorporates illustrations to create a machine-like quality while many pieces move together.

“There are a lot of moving pieces to arrange and then we’ve got all these original illustrations that Calgary-based comic book artist Tyler Jenkins has created for us, that really creates the visual world of the show,” Mallett says. “The attempt through both set as well as costume is always to bring [the] comic book to life on stage.”

Mallett says the production is a fun show with a foil of dark material. He hopes audiences have a good time and also engage in meaningful conversation with each other about the show.

“The power of theatre is that you have people gathering in a shared environment and that creates an opportunity to engage them in a meaningful experience and potentially have a conversation with people who you might not encounter otherwise,” Mallett says.

The company will facilitate post-performance discussions in order to encourage conversation and engage with the audience.

“The hope is always the shows that we produce present the work in a way that allows for honest judgement of your own values against what is it you’re seeing,” Mallett says. “It’s not about presenting a firm answer about one side or another but really to sort of provoke and open the door to conversation.”

Crime Does Not Pay will run from March 2–5 and March 7–11 at the Arts Commons Engineered Air Theatre. Tickets are available online and over the phone. There will be a limited supply of free tickets available an hour before showtime in exchange for completing a survey.

For more information, visit downstage.ca

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