After five years in production, Crime Does Not Pay, originally revered as one of the most violent and explicit comic books in the 1940s, is now taking the stage as a musical at Calgary’s Arts Commons.
Running March 2-5 and March 7-11 at the Engineered Air Theatre, the locally produced musical is inspired by real-life comic book creator Bob Woods and his infamous comic Crime Does Not Pay. For its time, it was a cutting-edge and subversive comic book, taking the perspective of a criminal and sensationalizing violent actions.
Characters Bob Woods and Eleanor Flood represent opposing points of views. Local artist Kris Demeanor, one of the creative minds behind the production, says Bob Woods is against censorship whereas Eleanor Flood takes the side of the socially conscious left and the notion of censorship.
“You actually do sympathize with [Eleanor Flood] and you can see her point quite clearly and of course the other half, [Bob Woods], thinks that doing anything that stifles freedom of expression is a terrible thing,” Demeanor says.
The “comics code” censored sex and violence out of comic books during the mid-1950s. The musical examines censorship through Bob Woods and his controversial content. Though rather than taking a clear side, creators Kris Demeanor and musical theatre director David Rhymer wanted to encourage discussion around the topic of censorship.
“We don’t say ‘what a ridiculous and terrible thing to think of banning a violent comic.’ Of course you should just let art do what art does,” Demeanor says.
Rhymer adds Crime Does not Pay was “pretty much the most popular magazine of its time, a catalyst for the outrage coming from sectors of society;” at its heyday it was selling five million copies a month.
The musical includes many songs influenced by the hits of the 1940s and 1950s. Rhymer and Demeanour both collaborated on the music and lyrics.
Crime Does Not Pay is presented by Downstage Theatre and Forte Musical Theatre. Performances run March 2-5, March 7-11 at the Engineered Air Theatre and are recommended for those 16 and up.
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