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‘Singing miner’ musical about 1958 disaster brings Sparks to Surrey in solo show

Actor says the Arts Club play shows ‘beauty of resilience and strength in the midst of devastating situations’

A one-man musical about hope and optimism amid a mining disaster will see actor Jeremiah Sparks play 10 different roles on a Surrey stage this month.

“Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story” starts Wednesday, Jan. 10, in another Arts Club on Tour production brought to Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage.

The show’s nine-day run in Surrey equals the number of unimaginable days Ruddick and other coal miners spent trapped 4,000 feet underground with no food, little air and even less hope of survival in Springhill, Nova Scotia, 66 years ago.

Beau Dixon’s play about the 1958 disaster tells how Ruddick served as a lifeline for fellow miners with his songs and generally light, upbeat attitude during a very dark time for all involved.

Sparks plays the lone Black miner of the bunch, of course, along with Ruddick’s wife, their pre-teen daughter, other miners and a news reporter.

“It’s funny,” the actor said with a laugh, “because I wanted to do this role but once I took it on, it was like, ‘What did I get yourself into?’ I’d never done a one-man show before, so it was quite a stretch but it was a beautiful stretch. Bobby Garcia is a great director and a big help in bringing me along.”

Now touring Metro Vancouver, the play is a remount of a 2021 production starring Sparks at the Arts Club’s Granville Island Stage.

“I did my debut of this play in Vancouver, so it’s good to be back,” the Nova Scotia native said in a phone call from Toronto, where he’s lived for two decades.

“It’s a play I wanted to do when I heard about it,” he added. “One main reason was, I thought I was up on my Black history but I had never heard of this story before, and it was cool. When I told my mother about this role, playing Maurice Ruddick, she had heard of him before — you know, ‘Oh, you’re doing the play about the singing miner!’ It’s a Nova Scotia play, and talks of the beauty of resilience and strength that one has to come up with when in the midst of devastating situations.”


The 1958 “bump” (underground seismic event) killed 75 miners on Oct. 23, 1958, of 174 working at the No. 2 colliery in Springhill. The incident, considered the most severe bump in North American mining history, injured Springhill residents and devastated the town’s economy.

With music and lyrics by Rob Fortin and Susan Newman, “Beneath Springhill” will be staged 12 times at Surrey Arts Centre from Jan. 10 to 20, including afternoon and evening shows. The run time is 70 minutes, no intermission. For details visit or call 604-501-5566.

The Saturday, Jan. 13 matinee is a Paint at the Play show (drop off kids aged six to 11 for a free art camp while you enjoy the show), and the Saturday, Jan. 20 matinee performance includes VocalEye Audio description for patrons who are blind or partially sighted.

Director Garcia describes “Beneath Springhill” as “an uplifting exploration of how the human spirit triumphs in the darkest of hours. Audiences can expect a beautiful, albeit sometimes harrowing, true-to-life story of resilience performed by Jeremiah Sparks, an actor of tremendous skill and generosity.”

The play’s current tour starts Friday, Jan. 5 at North Vancouver’s BlueShore at Cap U stage and ends Feb. 3-4 at the ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge, according to details posted on

In Surrey this season (2023-2024), the Arts Club’s touring productions kicked off in October with Mark Crawford’s sex farce “The Birds and the Bees” at Surrey Arts Centre’s Main Stage, followed by “Beneath Springhill” and Farren Timoteo’s hilarious “Made In Italy,” a coming-of-age musical about family, food and the life of Italian immigrants in rural Jasper, Alberta (Feb. 27 to March 9).

Meantime, “Canadian Idol” alum Andrew Broderick stars in “Choir Boy,” a coming-of-age play threaded with gospel hymns, starting Jan. 25 at the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver. He plays Pharus, a senior at the Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys, and the proud leader of its legendary gospel choir. The prestigious school is committed to building “strong, ethical Black men,” but conforming to their traditions becomes harder as he learns to accept his identity as a young gay man.

Actor Jeremiah Sparks stars in “Beneath Springhill: The Maurice Ruddick Story,” an Arts Club on Tour production. (Contributed photo:

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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