June 16 2022
Packed Emergency Rooms, patients stuffed in hallways, a clueless politician holding court from her sofa... These sound like scenes from today’s news. In fact, they’re from a research-based satirical musical that was penned before the pandemic – and produced just in time for all the problems it depicted to return with a vengeance.
The made-in-Manitoba Larry Saves the Canadian Healthcare System has just launched on YouTube as a series of 11 bite-size episodes. The story follows an idealistic young policy analyst seeking a cure for Emergency Room crowding. Instead, he encounters ever-deeper layers of system dysfunction – plus dancing doctors, singing nurses, and the ghost of Tommy Douglas.
It’s a zany romp with a mission: to build public understanding of health-system issues and confidence to participate in the conversation. “Understanding the system is the first step towards fixing it,” says researcher/writer/composer Dr. Sara Kreindler. “There are solutions – but they won’t happen without an informed public holding politicians to account.”
Kreindler, a University of Manitoba professor of Community Health Sciences, is also a playwright and songwriter whose work has been seen at Fringe, folk, and arts festivals. Her extensive research into ER waits generated findings so absurd that she felt only a musical could do them justice – and so, Larry was born. While the satire is off-the-wall and deliberately exaggerated, Kreindler stresses that the evidence at its core is accurate, drawn from years of research and synthesis. It also takes inspiration from her eight years as an embedded researcher in the WRHA, a role much like Larry’s.
"I was bursting with laughter,” said Emergency physician Dr. Alecs Chochinov. “It was incredibly cathartic to watch, because Larry gets our world. It gets us to laugh at our world while managing to shine a more powerful light on it than most any policy paper. I'd call it required viewing -- not just for patients, but for all those hospital executives and government big shots it skewers so hilariously.”
Larry began life as a theatre script. But no sooner had Kreindler secured funding from Research Manitoba and recruited acclaimed musical theatre director Ann Hodges, than COVID-19 struck and the pair had to pivot to video. For safety reasons, they opted to film each actor separately in front of a green screen, creating a quirky, Randy Rainbow-esque aesthetic.
The lull in live theatre helped the team secure a powerhouse cast, featuring mainstays of Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Rainbow Stage, and Manitoba Opera: Toby Hughes, Lisa Bell, Paula Potosky, David Watson, Colleen Furlan, Sam Plett, Justin Stadnyk, Rochelle Kives, James McLennan, Katie German, Melanie Whyte, Dutchess Cayetano, and RobYn Slade, as well as music supervisor/orchestrator Paul De Gurse and choreographer Matthew Armet. Production company Tripwire Media Group brought advanced visual effects to the table, maximizing the potential of the digital musical form.
“Sara is a whip-smart health policy researcher who also happens to be a phenomenal composer and writer,” said the director of the series, Ann Hodges. “Her witty observations, along with outstanding contributions by the cast and creative team, and technical wizardry by Tripwire, has resulted in a fun, funny and informed peek into the healthcare system. For Canadians who are tired of hearing about long wait times, ER crowding and bureaucratic snarls, this series is just the balm we need.”
Sara Kreindler email@example.com