Rough Notes – A Traditional, Historical, All-Canadian Musical

Written by:

J. Ivanel Johnson, Cameron Slipp (arranger & additional music composer)

Artist/Creator(s) Identify As:

D/deaf, Disabled, and/or Mad

Cast Size:

Roles For:

  • Indigenous Peoples: 1
  • LGBTQ+: 1
  • Men: 7
  • People of Colour: 1
  • Women: 9




Canadian History


120 min.

Year Written:



Rough Notes – the historically-based Canadian musical in which “the Rurals meet the Royals.”

It’s the eve of our nation entering WWII – another great horror, so soon after the FIRST… and a group of diverse Canadians at different ages and stages are about to be vastly affected. Here the Scottish, French, Black, and Wolastoqiyik Indigenous people of rural New Brunswick are juxtaposed with the real-life representative Royals, combating a spy and an undercover female journalist at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. The joys and sorrows of this tense time in our history are also witnessed from the eyes of a 7-year-old boy, the daughter of the first woman of colour to graduate from the University of New Brunswick, and world-famous author John Buchan, Governor General of Canada, who has only a month to live and in which to leave his final legacy to the arts, the environment, and humanity.

“Traditional yet with fresh features, Rough Notes is an historical musical set in Canada with Rurals juxtaposed with Royals, melding a mosaic of music about life, love and literary pursuits whirling in on the winds of WWII.”


More info about the play can be found on their website or on Canadian Musical Theatre Database.


Cast of 9, if many are dual-roled; otherwise, 17 plus.

Perth Junction (Rurals):

Guimont, an Acadian/French fiddler-lumberjack, mid-older age with Quebecois accent.

Gookum Perley Bear, a Wolastoqiyik female elder, hand-drummer, conservationist – 40-70s, Indigenous.

McLaughlin, a retired male Scottish bagpiper, older, curmudgeonly, heavy Scots accent.

Pete, a 17-year-old male, bookworm-ish, enthusiastic and naïve, played by under 25, ‘rural’ dialect.

Beth, a 16-year-old female, with alcoholic angry father, shy, loves history books, can be Black or white.

Margaret McAlpine, schoolteacher, protector of Beth, daughter of first woman of colour to grad. UNB, Black.

Papa, Beth’s father, a recent drunk since his wife’s passing, can be Black or white, need not sing.

Minister, Minister’s Wife, Stationmaster, Additional Townspeople minor characters, any race, Minister on crutch/wheelchair.

Rideau Hall, Ottawa (Royals):

John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, 1935-1940 Gov. Gen of Can., author of 100+ books, philanthropist, conservationist, mid-older, English or Canadian/Mid-Atlantic accent (may have Scottish lilt, speaks French).

Susan Buchan, Lady Tweedsmuir, est. rural libraries plan, playwright, etc. mid-older with British accent.

Shuldham Redfern, Buchan’s Deputy/Assistant , mid 30s-50s, English or Canadian accent
Ruth Redfern, married to Shuldham, secondary hostess at Rideau Hall, early 30-40s, Eng. or Can. accent.

Donnie (O’Donnell) Redfern, 7-8 year-old (played by girl or boy of 10-ish), hates piano.

Mrs. Killick, personal secretary to J.B. for 30 years, manly voice, 40-55, Eng. accent, poss. played by male.

Genevieve Lipsett, 1st female journalist in Parliament, cross-dressing/undercover, poss. played by LGBTQ.

Bernie Gander, antagonist/spying reporter, need not sing, any age, 1930s gangster-ish/NYC accent.

Nanny, small role, friend of Gen, in charge of Donnie, any age, race.

Additional Aides de Camps, Mounties, Maids, etc., any age, race.

Suggested For Dual Roling: Redfern/Guimont, Pete/Mrs. Killick OR Pete/Bernie and Mrs. Killick/Papa, Beth/Gen, Ruth/Margaret OR Margaret/Nanny, Minister/Mountie, Minister’s Wife/ADC/Maid, Donnie/Perth Girl.

First Produced:

Professionally workshopped at Second Wind Music Centre, NB, for two full-house performances, Oct. 28 and 29th, 2022 thanks to a grant from the CCA.


To obtain a copy of the play, email the playwright at: It can also be found online through 365 Women A Year Playwrighting Project ( in 2023).



For more information, visit the Rough Notes site, listen to the demos on their soundcloud, and/or go to the Canadian Musical Theatre Database.