Ford saga put to song and dance at King’s

Students created The Ballad of Rob Ford: The Musical in two weeks

Tom Lute, as Rob Ford, crawls on his knees, in front of three backup singers. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)
Tom Lute, as Rob Ford, crawls on his knees in front of three cast members. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)

Rob Ford sang in a rock opera at the King’s Infringement Festival on Friday night.

And, as has become commonplace for Toronto’s infamous mayor, he stole the show. In fact, he was its star.

Alright, alright. The “councillor” who stumbled across the stage, twenty-sixer of Iceberg vodka in hand, was Tom Lute, a third-year theatre studies student. He wore a suit and tie, having somehow buttoned a dress shirt over the paunch he created using a pillow to imitate Ford’s…er, build.

Lute wrote The Ballad of Rob Ford: The Musical, and six original songs, with friend and roommate, Haydn Watters, a third-year King’s journalism student. The pair performed in the musical, which began on Friday at 8 p.m., at the King’s Theatrical Society Red Room.

Rob Ford (Tom Lute) belts out one of the musicals six songs. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)
Rob Ford (Tom Lute) belts out one of the musicals six songs. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)

After the curtain call, Lute and Watters slumped onto a leather couch in a second-floor seminar room in the New Academic Building to discuss the musical.

They chose its topic, Rob Ford, late one night about two weeks ago. The duo had wanted to write a rock opera since as early as last year, but initially wavered between subjects, when it came time to prepare for the festival.

Moments after deciding on Ford, said Watters, “We got the end chorus: ‘Rob, you’re robbing us blind.’ And then we knew.”

Four days later, they started writing.

They wrote until 3 a.m., five days in a row, with Emmett Watters, Haydn’s brother and the show’s musical director. Emmett helped them transpose “the plot points that we needed to hit” into songs, said Lute.

To find these “points,” they simply had to keep up with the news.

“I was reading obsessively on Rob Ford,” said Watters.

The musical told, through song and brief dialogue, the Rob Ford saga, poking fun at the allegations lobbed at the mayor, from those involving crack cocaine to sexual interest in his policy adviser Olivia Gondek.

Tom Lute, as Rob Ford, dances in confetti at the end of the show, before ripping the pillow out of his shirt. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)
Tom Lute, as Rob Ford, dances in confetti at the end of the show, before ripping the pillow out of his shirt. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)

The 21-person cast, comprised of the playwrights’ friends, sang and danced to Story Involving the Mayor, Bosco Boys, Fit for Print, In a Drunken Stupor, Addict at Heart and Rob’s Song (The Ballad of Rob Ford), while accompanied by a live band. Lute and Watters boogied alongside them – Lute as Ford, and Watters as a Toronto Star reporter and then as Doug Ford.

“I wouldn’t even call it ‘playing,’” said Lute of his character.

“It was an adventure. It was a lot of fun.… I didn’t really over-evaluate.”

As the mayor’s brother, Watters said his favourite part of the musical was singing Addict at Heart.

The musical’s four one-hour rehearsals, and three music rehearsals, began on Nov. 24, less than a week before show time.

“It didn’t stop,” said Lute. “It was great.”