After three decades as one-half of Bowser & Blue, Rick Blue is establishing himself as a playwright

Rick Blue and George Bowser have been performing musical satire since 1978. Bowser & Blue have enjoyed rave reviews for their sold out live performances, their television appearances and recordings. Along the way they have received numerous awards, and they continue to be in huge demand for concerts, corporate events and conventions. Each of the partners also pursues endeavours outside of their musical base. George Bowser was elected to the Westmount City Council, and Rick Blue has written a regular column for The Chronicle and more recently The Suburban.

However, Rick is taking a tremendous leap into the world of a theatre, with debut performances of two plays; Campbell’s Sutra at the Hudson Village Theatre in July and Let’s Be Frank in repertory performances during the summer at Theatre Lac Brome in Knowlton.

I recently met Rick for the first time at a local pub near his home in Beaconsfield, and I asked how he came to write plays.

“I actually have a Master’s degree in creative writing from Concordia. When I graduated I thought I was going to write ‘the great Canadian novel’ – I didn’t. Instead, I wrote The Paris of America.

I’ve been able to combine the discipline of structure and organization with the kind of spontaneous humour that George and I have been doing.” Rick’s first play, The Paris of America was a musical co-written with George Bowser; and it played to sold out audiences for seven weeks at The Centaur Theatre in 2003. “I had written ‘Paris’ as the thesis for my Master’s degree. We worked on that with Gordon McCall, then Artistic Director of The Centaur. Rather than just present the songs in a cabaret format, we had the idea of creating a play as a common thread. I really got a kick out of it, and knew then that I wanted to do more narrative writing.”

“After George had been elected to the Westmount City Council, I had a little more time on my hands. So I started to work on a play. I wasn’t a stranger to writing, because I’d been producing a newspaper column for several years. I was surprised at how it came. I’ll just let it come out onto the paper, and then sometimes it just stops for a while. I might have to wait for a few months for the next scene to come.”

Rick’s play Campbell’s Sutra opens at The Hudson Village Theatre on July 10 for a 17 day run – until July 27. “The word ‘sutra’ means lesson – and Campbell is a guy going through a mid-life crisis, and the lesson that goes with it. It’s a comedy with lots of laughs – although we do get a little serious at towards the end so that the play can have a resolution.”

“We had a stage reading of the play – where the cast members actually read through the play. It enabled me to make some adjustments – to make the play better.”

“When you hear your words read or acted out by other people, you get a thrill, a sense of pride. And you’re also a little afraid… You ask yourself – have I written drivel?” Frank honesty of an individual who has the self-assurance and confidence to admit to moments of self-doubt.

Rick’s other play, a musical titled Let’s Be Frank, will debut at Theatre Lac Brome and play throughout the summer in the theatre’s popular repertory format – which enables theatre goers to take in at least a couple of plays over a period of a few days. “Nicholas Pynes, (Theatre Lac Brome’s Artistic Director) does a fine job as the piano player – I almost think that he wanted to do this play so that he could play the piano.”

“This one is about a Frank Sinatra imitator who begins to think he’s Frank. I let the songs guide me in developing the play. The songs are driving the character’s life as well as the play. I’ve always liked and admired Frank Sinatra, and even more so after all the research that I did for this play. He was fired by from his record company in 1952 by none other than Mitch Miller, who went on to effectively blackball Sinatra from being hired by another label. He got an acting job in the film From Here To Eternity, and that performance marked the rebirth of his career.”

Two plays being premiered, in what are arguably the most prestigious English-speaking summer theatres. Not a bad start… “It doesn’t hurt that I’m a known ‘quantity’ to Nicholas at Lac Brome and Andrew in Hudson. But they still have to select plays that will be successful, and they don’t work alone.” With the door slightly open, Rick’s plays were subjected to the usual criteria and in the end were selected because of their merit.

Rick is quick to state that while he and George each have interests apart from music; their musical partnership takes precedence over other activities. “When I was teaching at John Abbott, a gig would take precedence and I’d find a substitute for the time I was away. As an owner of a business, I have a responsibility and to my partner; and George, and I also recognize that we have other business associates who depend on us for part of their incomes – like our agent and our soundman.”

Bowser and Blue will be taking the stage this summer at Theatre Lac Brome as part of the Four Anglos, which also includes satirical cartoonist Aislin and columnist Josh Freed. The production takes a confident –albeit long-term- outlook with the title, The 25th Century Belongs to Canada! “We have a lot of fun with Terry and Josh, and Terry is merciless! George and I are used to receiving audience feedback – but Terry and Josh don’t have normally a chance to experience the energy of live audience. So the Four Anglos gives them that. George and I have a great time with them – which is why we keep doing it.”

Rick has three plays that are currently in the works. “I’ve learned that the secret to being a successful playwright is to finish the damn thing! To take something that never existed – and that now does – gives me a very special feeling and sense of accomplishment.”

“George and I still enjoy Bowser & Blue – and we’ll keep at it for the foreseeable future. We’ve spent thirty years together, and we certainly know how the other thinks. We stay out of each other’s family lives, and I think that separation has been a good for our professional relationship.”

At one point Rick and I take off on a discussion about Quebec politics, the position of the English community and our future. He is concerned about the continual erosion of our role and profile – but like the rest of us his love for Montreal and the quality of life outweighs the political negatives. Throwing up his hands Rick exclaims with a mischievous glint in his eyes; “Besides – what would George and I write about without all this – this stuff?”

As our visit drew to a close, I asked Rick if he wanted his name to appear as ‘Ricky’ or ‘Rick’. “I think ‘Rick’ has a more grown up feel – so let’s go with ‘Rick’. Fortunately for the rest of us who enjoy his off-beat humour and antics, there’s a part of him that will never grow up – and that’s good for everyone – including Ricky.

You can see Rick Blue’s new plays this summer. Campbell’s Sutra will be presented at the Hudson Village Theatre from July 10 – 27. For information and tickets: 450-458-5361 or Let’s Be Frank will be performed on: July 17, 18, 19, 23, & 30; August 2, 7, 12, 15, 21, & Theatre Lac Brome. The box office number is: 1-450-242-2270 or the website at: The Four Anglos present The 25th Century Belongs to Canada dates are: June 26, 27, & 28; July 24, 25, & 26; August 28, 29 & 30.