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Past Exhibition

Canada’s Pre-eminent Showman: The Artistry of Alan Lund


September 13, 2014


January 5, 2015

The Exhibition

The father of the Canadian musical, a gifted director who could effortlessly guide masses of performers through seamless transitions on stage, an incredible dancer who could glide through movement as if he were made of air. This was Alan Lund, Canada’s pre-eminent showman. His talent and vision led him through a brilliant career as a dancer, choreographer and director that spanned more than half a century.

He thrilled the masses whether they were World War II troops, Canada’s first television audiences, 20,000 people at the Canadian National Exhibition, or a full house at The Charlottetown Festival. However, the popularity of his work is secondary to his ability to visualize a complex integration of theatre, music and dance. During the rise of Canada’s post-war cultural nationalism, Alan Lund put Canadian stories on stage in a unique way that integrated all of the performing and design arts, thus putting Canadians to work as actors, dancers, musicians, designers and technicians. He also put beauty and glamour back into the world after six years of war.

He is relatively unknown to Canada’s newer generations of performers and yet he and his wife and dancing partner, Blanche, were household names in the mid-20th century. Almost 25 years after his death, he still carries the adoration of those who worked with him and were mentored by him. He had an uncanny knack for spotting talent, giving rise to the careers of actress Sheila McCarthy, National Tap Dance Company of Canada founder William Orlowski, Drayton Festival Theatre founder Alex Mustakas, and many more. He was made a member of the Order of Canada and received an honorary degree from the University of PEI.

Alan Lund’s contribution to musical theatre in Canada remains unmatched.

– Amy Bowring, Curator