Crossing the Line: Buying a Boat, The Musical

By John Morris

Since I am in the throes of purchasing a boat and am a huge devotee of musical theatre, I recently headed to Broadway to catch the must-see opening of Buying a Boat: the Musical. The production stars some of the most exciting celebs including Canadian Don Cherry as The Jovial Surveyor and Lady Gaga as The Boat.

The story unfolds as so many such Tony Award winners do when Bart and Alice declare their love, and then decide that a boat is what they need to cement their devotion to each other.  Immediately the hilarious chorus of boat brokers in plaid suits erupts into an early hit, “Boy do I have a boat for you.”  The spectacular line of tap dancing brokers, replete with oversized contracts encircle our loving couple showering them with photos of wooden Chris Craft and old fishing boats from Lunenberg. “Don’t let a little dry rot throw you off,” laughs Sheldon, one of the brokers.  “Sure she was in a collision but it’s completely repaired,” Ursula, a glamorous former waitress now selling repos sings.

But, there is one kind, strikingly handsome broker, played by Steven Tyler who gently leads our hero couple to their picture-perfect boat.  Come Bart and Alice, come look at the boat of your dreams.  He breaks into the romantic ballad “Just take a look at her davits.” The loving couple joins him with a duet of their own “we’ll make a home in the bilge.” Angels in inflatable life vests carry Lady Gaga, as the boat “Innocent Tenderness”, onstage.

Bliss is but moments away when the all-singing all-dancing chorus of brokers rudely interrupts exploding once more onto the stage this time each carrying a giant stained boat fender, an expired flare or a menacing gigantic foghorn. The mood turns quickly to diabolical as the chorus surrounds Bart and Alice showering them with long outdated boat listings and tearing their dreams apart. “Just sign here, and the future is yours,” their show stopping dervish dance of madness closes the first act.

As the curtain rises after our heavy drinking intermission, Bart and Alice are still in the raptures of boat ownership as they head off to bank.  The bankers, played by CBC’s Stephen and Chris sing one of the hits of the production “Of course we’d love to help you out, which way did you come in?”, a hysterically staged number complete with dancing RRSPs and an amazing sextet of frolicking cash machines who bring the audience to their fleet with their robotic break dancing.

Now the pace of the production accelerates as the broker chorus  along with the bankers, dock-boys, sailmakers, fishing charter operators and Bob-o the talking outboard all sing “Boats are people too” on a full-size rotating replica of Vancouver’s Thunderbird Marina. When I saw it, the audience was on their feet singing and dancing as the cast douses them with gold sequined buckets of saltwater.

In the last scene Cherry steals the show coming to the boat as the gruff but re-assuring surveyor. “It’s a good old Canadian boat, it reminds me of Dougie Gilmour, ok, kids let’s look at the replay…”  Bart and Alice begin to weep but Cherry dries their eyes on his lapels. The sun comes out, our loving couple boards their boat and sails off into a perfect world.

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