Category Archives: Synopsis

Fastlane to Paradise – Synopsis


Fastlane to Paradise. This new musical theatre work is currently under production in Nelson BC Canada. Thanks to a grant from the BC Arts Council and the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, the writing was finished, demos were recorded, and the show was workshopped. Now the Production Team are raising the funds to bring the show the stage at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson.

This page features several illustrations by our Set Designer Murray Kimber.  The images are from his work The Highwayman. Visit to see more!

Various soloists perform on the demos. They are: Stelio Calagias and Martin Julien as Phist; Noémi Kiss, Emma Chart, Shadell Permanand and Eva McKimm as Gretchen; Michael Calladine, Doug Jamieson and Marshall Warkentin as Edward; Bessie Wapp and Eva McKimm as Peg; Aryn Sherrif as Michaela; and Bessie Wapp as both Wally & Ethel Darnell.

Synopsis – ACT 1

Stelio Calagias as Mister Phist

Morris Phist, aka the Devil, slides down the side of a gigantic clock. He gives the pendulum a swing and explains that – for him – music does not require melody or lyrics; a tick and a tock are sufficient. In Time Passing, Phist tells us he adores the inexorable passage of time, because Time provides him with countless opportunities to capture souls.:

Dancers mechanically present Phist’s vision of the futility of life. Michaela Archer, a paramedic and archangel, watches briefly; with an ironic smile, she shakes her head and exits.

Phist invites us to visit his rock club, The Devil’s Club, to witness the tragedy of Edward Darnell, his next client.

Outside the Devil’s Club, the company performs Out of Here, during which Edward busks a song called Knife-Edge about always living a hair’s breadth away from death.

An ambulance arrives and Michaela and her team take a stretcher into the Club.

Gretchen Wilder, an attractive journalist, is on assignment, at the Devil’s Club, to review Fastlane, a band she finds mediocre. Gretchen and Edward are taken aback when Michaela’s team brings out the stretcher. On it is a girl who overdosed. The ambulance departs and Edward resumes his song. Gretchen listens and tells him she likes it. He offers to sing another, but she declines. She must go into the Club and do her review. Edward sings the last two lines of his song:

A split second overdue or a heartbeat in advance
And you’ll be kicking up your heels to join the Devil’s dance.

Edward packs up his guitar and follows Gretchen into the Club.

Illustration from The Highwayman by Set Designer Murray Kimber

Illustration from The Highwayman by Set Designer Murray Kimber

Inside the Club, it is very loud! Freddie Shilton, lead singer of Fastlane, is a shadow of his former self. He tries to perform Let’s go down to Hell Now Baby, but messes up badly.:

Edward enters and shyly moves toward Gretchen’s table. Before he gets there, though, she starts an animated conversation with a male visitor. Edward returns to his table to wait for a better opportunity. A couple of drunks have taken Edward’s guitar and he gets in a fight to get it back. Meanwhile, Freddie’s performance has become a train wreck. Gretchen has heard enough and exits, preferring to listen to the busker outside. Peg, Freddie’s backup singer and girlfriend, tries to help him with the words, but to no avail.

Phist has lost all patience with his client. He cannot abide what Freddie is doing to the Fastlane brand. Phist then freezes time in the Club and circulates around the immobile patrons to find a suitable replacement. When he comes to Edward, he has found the one he wants. Phist reanimates the room and sends everyone away.

Edward goes to the Strickland Bridge. He sits on a railing and sings None of the Above.:

Presently, Freddie and Peg arrive on the bridge amidst a shouting match. When Peg tries to help the stumbling singer, he pushes her away and hurls abuse. She goes to get help.
Edward starts to leave, but realizes that the drunken Freddie is about to leap to his death. Before Edward can respond, though, Phist arrives and freezes Freddie in mid-lunge.

Mister Phist with Oscar and Bessie Wapp as Wally and Ethel Darnell

Phist gets right to work on Edward. First, he calls up a vision of Edward’s parents. Perched on Ethel Darnell’s, lap like a ventriloquist’s dummy, is Edward’s late father, Wally, now a skeleton in a fedora. They rant about Edward being Such a Disappointment.

Bob Guttman, Edward’s boss, completes the rant, boasting about his plans to fire him.


Phist offers Edward the Deal of a Lifetime! In exchange for his soul, he can take over Freddie’s life, and become a rock star and an instant celebrity. Edward turns down the Deal. Then Phist adds a 15-minute soul-back guarantee. When Edward asks about an escape clause, Phist tells him that the day he, Phist, sings with a country gospel band, the Deal is null and void. Edward still won’t bite. Then, Phist slyly tells him journalists will be clamoring to interview him. Edward thinks of Gretchen, and agrees to try the Deal but just for 15 minutes!

Phist’s team converges from out of a portal. They do an extreme makeover on Edward, at blazing speed, until he looks just like Freddie. Phist approves their work, snaps his fingers, and Freddie completes his leap. Edward is shocked, but Phist explains that there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.

Rosa Celeste by Gustave Doré with Red Gibson

Rosa Celeste by Gustave Doré with Red Gibson

Phist captures Edward’s attention with a Mystical Electric Guitar that appears from out of a portal. “This is a Hell-Caster! It’s got VOLTAGE!” he shouts. Edward quickly gets sucked into the power of the Hell-Caster. :


Phist sings Two and a Half Billion Heartbeats and gets Edward to play some killer solos. When the fifteen-minute soul-back guarantee is up, the intoxicated Edward throws all caution to the wind and takes the Deal. The fine print doesn’t faze him. He now must answer only to the name ‘Freddie’ and keep the Deal secret or go straight to Hell!


Edward sings the last verse, while Phist and his crew exit. :

After a brilliant cadenza, Edward collapses in a heap.:

When Peg and Rick arrive, they help the disoriented Edward (now inhabiting Freddie’s body) to find his way home.

Peg and Freddie drift farther and farther apart. One evening, as Peg watches Edward learning  a Chopin prelude on the piano, she wonders Who is This Stranger That I Love?

Later, Fastlane is rehearsing an intricate arrangement of Knife-Edge (only a portion will be used for the scene).

Phist is annoyed that Freddie invited a journalist to a rehearsal without first consulting him. Freddie is intransigent and the band continues to rehearse while Gretchen listens.

During the interview, Edward is evasive when Gretchen asks why details of his past are so contradictory. Then she suddenly remembers that she heard Knife-Edge played by a street musician outside the Devil’s Club. Freddie is thunderstruck to learn that more than once she went back hoping to hear him. “Oh God! She fell for a busker!… Me!” he laments, stunned to realize that he didn’t need to sell his soul to get to her.

Edward and Gretchen begin to fall in love. We see a series of wordless Vignettes. They meet for lunch; talk at a reception; walk down a street. We also see Gretchen interviewing Peg and Freddie rehearsing with his bass player.

Later, both Edward and Gretchen make simultaneous phone calls to respective friends. They tell them about their new romances. They end their concurrent calls, concurring that they must be in love.

Edward and Gretchen sing Like This (adapted from a poem by Rumi). They lie together. Fade to black.

Phist makes a cynical comment about the blossoming love affair and assures the audience that things will change… right after Intermission.

Synopsis – ACT 2

Edward writes a note and slips away from Gretchen’s apartment. Soon, Gretchen wakes and reads the note. She sings Cloud Nine and Seventh Heaven and joyfully dances around her apartment.

Illustration from The Highwayman by Set Designer Murray Kimber

Illustration from The Highwayman by Set Designer Murray Kimber

Unexpectedly, Peg arrives to set the record straight about Freddie. Gretchen tries to postpone the discussion, but Peg hands her three disturbing photos of Freddie. Peg found them after Freddie moved out, and thought that Gretchen should see them.

As Peg leaves, Edward returns with a bag of groceries. He can’t explain the photos, and, the more he tries, the more he obfuscates the situation. He denies that ever did such depraved things, yet admits that it is him in the photos. Gretchen tells him to get out.

Edward rehearses a melancholy jazz ballad called Slightly Fatal Bliss.

Phist tells him his fans won’t like it because they want something upbeat.

The relationship with his manager has become strained. Edward repeatedly cancels shows and Phist threatens to find a new front man. Edward says he wants to tell Gretchen everything. Phist sings Secrets, warning Edward to keep his mouth shut or he will crash and burn.

Gretchen completes the song, wondering who Freddie really is. She sends two of his notes to a handwriting analyst.

Freddie continues to deteriorate. Phist goads him for his drunkenness and cajoles him to perform that night.

Linsay Clague, Bessie Wapp, Stelio Calagias and Doug Jamieson at Workshop – May 2017

While he is getting ready, Phist resolves to end the Deal. He intercepts a message from Gretchen who now knows that Freddie’s signatures don’t match. Phist considers his move. He chuckles and rapidly edits the voicemail, making it appear that Gretchen is about to kill herself at the Stickland Bridge. He puts Plan “D” in action. When Freddie hears the edited message, he makes a Mad Dash to the Bridge:

From The Highwayman by Set Designer Murray Kimber

At the bridge, Edward tries to push Gretchen out of the path of an erratically-driven vehicle, but is struck himself. Michaela and her paramedics take Edward away in the ambulance.


At the hospital, Phist makes some empty statements to the press. Edward is attached to monitors that flash and beep. As Phist leaves, he bumps into Michaela and smirks.

Michaela freezes time in Edward’s room. The monitors and lights no longer beep and flash. Edward sits up, climbs out of bed, and experiences a nightmarish near-death experience. He is surrounded by Dust-Eaters, souls in limbo.

Phist informs Edward that he will join them soon. After Phist leaves, Michaela she tells Edward not to lose hope and to begin his recovery. He leaves and Michaela sings Scattered Grace:

Michaela dons a Stetson and exits the realm of the Dust-Eaters.

Activity resumes in the hospital room. Once again, nurses move and monitors beep and flash. Michaela gives Gretchen some encouragement, and then she asks Peg to sing at an event she is planning.

Questionable taste in the new art at Fastlane Productions

Phist arrives at work to see the sign being changed. ‘Fastlane! Raise a Little Hell Dude!’ is now ‘Hop on the Fastlane to Paradise… Friend’. Phist is outraged to find that he no longer controls the company, due to a hostile takeover. The Fastlane band members now wear suits and impervious smiles and his office has been redecorated with items of questionable taste. Michaela invites Morris to hear Peg, now in full country regalia, sing the title track from the band’s new CD.  The band launches into Fastlane to Paradise.

Phist hates the song and tries to get the band to do some of their past hits. He sings other tunes overtop, but soon gets drawn into the melody of the country tune. Phist performs the last line with a great gospel/blues style and everyone cheers. He basks in the glow for a split second, but snaps out of it. When Michaela thanks him for performing with the band, Phist is aghast to realize he has been duped and Edward has been freed from The Deal.

The band strikes up Happy Diabolic Trails,  as a large hand basket is wheeled in.

Phist reluctantly climbs into the hand basket and leaves in a huff and a puff of smoke, a sulfurous explosion! The band members congratulate each other for a great performance, toss their cowboy hats into a prop trunk, and exit.

Later, Edward and Gretchen are walking on the Stickland Bridge. Edward is hobbling with a crutch and one leg in a cast. They greet Michaela and Peg who walk arm-in-arm. Gretchen learns that ‘Freddie’ was just his stage name. She is worried about Edward being able to play again. He tells her that crutches should never hold you back and sings Stay Alive. Edward does an energetic, athletic dance, spinning on his crutch. Gretchen, Michaela and Peg join in.

Phist advises the audience that he’s returned to a profession where he wrote many of the details. He meets an earnest young man articling at his firm, to whom Phist is about to offer the Deal of a Lifetime.

Edward, Gretchen, Phist, Michaela, and Peg sing Life Can Go On.

The Chorus joins in as day-to-day activity returns to the Strickland Bridge. Life does go on.


Copyright Doug Jamieson © 2018

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