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Volume 17 Issue 8 - May 2012

  • Text
  • Choir
  • Toronto
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SPECIALENSEMBLESTUDIOPERFORMANCESEMELEHANDELALL TICKETS AND Wednesday, May 23, 20127:30 P.M.coc.ca 416-363-8231PresentingSponsorof SURTITLESBroadcastSponsorOfficial AutomotiveSponsorSpring SeasonSupported bySemeleProductionSponsorEnsemble StudioPerformance SponsorOfficial MediaSponsorsA scene from Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie’s Semele, 2009. Photo: Karl ForsterCreative: EndeavourAIDS, falls for Mimi, a night-club dancer with a habit for cocaine.Maureen, the ex-lover of Roger’s roommate, Mark (a film-maker),stakes out a love-hate relationship with her new amour, Joanne, anerstwhile lawyer. Tom Collins, a gay anarchist and sometime collegeprofessor, picks up with Angel, a flamboyant drag-queen,also living with AIDS, who teaches him totrust. More important than the characters’individual lives is the community they helpcreate — one where the incessant demand to“pay the rent” signifies the crises that threatenlove and creativity. “Seasons of Love,” thesong that opens Act Two (and the show’s onebone fide hit), is a paean to survival in a worldthat frequently condemns love as wrong, sex asdangerous, and art as frivolous, if not decadent.Rejecting the costs of social and artistic approbation,the characters forge their bonds withouta belief in tomorrow. Together, they celebrate thepresent which, for some of them, is all they willever know.Jacob MacInnis tells me that Lezlie Wade, thedirector of Sheridan’s Rent, conceived the productionto foreground community. “For her, the cast isa family,” he says — a large one, in that it numbers32. “Everyone has a story-line with which to buildtheir character. This isn’t a ‘leads plus ensemble’production; everyone takes the final bow together.”The approach suits a show that offers “a snap-shotof an important moment in American history,” asMacInnis puts it, a time when artists “cried out forpeople to open their eyes to what was happening all around them.”He pauses, as if considering how to continue. “A group of youngartists struggles to leave something behind. What will it be? At theend of the show, they know. It will be love.” He pauses again, thengets personal. “I found a lot of myself in Tom Collins …”Also opening mid-month is From the House of Mirth, anotheradaptation of a famous work — in this case, a novel by celebratedAmerican author, Edith Wharton, first published in 1905. UnlikeTheatre Sheridan’s production of Rent, this show is created andperformed by some of Canada’s best-known, senior artists, workingunder the auspices of Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (CLC), oneof the country’s most respected dance initiatives. Founded in 2000by Bill Coleman and Laurence Lemieux, pre-eminent choreographersand dancers, CLC creates intimate, small-scale performances,as well as spectacular stage shows, that feature some of Canada’sgreatest dancers. This new presentation qualifies as both.From the House of Mirth is a music/dance/theatre collaborationwith an original score by Rodney Sharman, libretto by Alex Poch-Goldin, and choreography by James Kudelka, the CLC’s residentchoreographer and director of the show. Kudelka stresses that thisversion of Wharton’s story evolves “not as a ballet, not as an opera,and not as a sung play,” but as all three, with each form picking upthe narrative according to the emotional and intellectual demands ofthe moment. Four male singers take the stage, along with four dancers,all female. Only the male characters use songs to tell the story.The female characters remain silent, danced by Victoria Bertram,Claudia Moore, Christianne Ullmark and Laurence Lemieux whoplays the lead character, Lily Bart. The four singers — Scott Belluz(countertenor), Graham Thomson (tenor), Alex Dobson (bassbaritone)and Geoffrey Sirret (baritone) — like the dancers, are accompaniedby a five-piece chamber orchestra of piano, harmonium,harp, violin and cello, under the direction of John Hess.Despite its substantial cast, From the House of Mirth recalls thesalon evenings of Wharton’s time — genteel soirées staged in intimatevenues, often private parlours. The approach fits the Citadel, thevenue CLC now calls home. The performance space is housed ina three-storey building erected in 1912 at the base of Regent Park,formerly owned by The Salvation Army and renovated by CLCduring the past few years. A state-of-the-art dance studio that seatsan audience of 60, the Citadel’s intimacy fits Kudelka’s reimagining16 thewholenote.com May 1 – June 7, 2012

Laurence Lemieux is Lily Bartin House of Mirth.of New York salon culture inthe early 20th century. Ironically, heuses the piece to expose the repressive manners andmanipulations of the society that treasured the form — a “hot-houseof traditions and conventions,” as Edith Wharton called it.In the novel, Wharton charts the descent of Lily Bart froma glittering social circle in 1890s New York to poverty and asolitary death, her dreams of marriage — whether for wealth or forlove — shattered by convention and her own conflicted desires. Thechallenge for Kudelka and his collaborators has been to create avocabulary of music, movement, and theatre that evokes the novel’smoral issues while, simultaneously, it illustrates Lily’s inner life thatevolves through her relationships with a number of men.For composer Rodney Sharman, this challenge is tantamount tocreating a structure that unites the disparate elements of the score.The music, he explains, “must set an atmosphere for the dance”;equally as crucial, it “must convey the most important moments inLily’s story.” The songs sung by the men in From the House of Mirthuse Poch-Godin’s libretto to convey much, but not all, of the exposition.“In the pivotal scene where Lily is disinherited,” Sharmannotes, “there is no song whatsoever.” Moments like this lead him toremark, “it is a testament to the power of dance that the women inthe piece can communicate so much, so fully, without using words.”At the end of Wharton’s novel, when Lily dies from an overdoseof a sleeping powder, her complicity in the event is left ambiguous.Not so Wharton’s attitude to the milieu she depicts with her cautionarytale. Summarizing its theme as “lost illusions and destructivemelancholy” she pares her point-of-view to a succinct descriptionthat highlights the novel’s social critique. Coincidentally, one couldapply her summary to the characters in Rent. At least for them,however, love survives, even as idealism fades.Ah, New York, New York: “if you can make it there, you canmake it anywhere …” Plus ça change …And THERE’s MORE!May is the month for musical adaptations (or so it appears this year),at least two of which deserve mention in addition to those above.Opening early in the month is West Side Story, one of the mostfamous adaptations in recent history, in a touring version presentedby Dancap Productions. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeoand Juliet, the book by Arthur Laurents updates the rivalry betweenthe Capulets and Montagues to New York’s Upper West Side in themid-1950s where the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage gangs, fightto control the streets. The Sharks and their Puerto Rican heritageare taunted by the Jets, a white working-class gang, even as Tony,a Jet, falls for Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.With a soaring score by Leonard Bernstein, poetic lyrics by StephenSondheim, and the electric choreography of Jerome Robbins, theshow is one of the great achievements of American musical theatre.West Side Story premiered on Broadway in 1957. Fifty years later,Arthur Laurents undertook a major revival of the show by weavingSpanish lyrics and dialogue into the English libretto, arguing that“the musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it nextto impossible for the characters to have authenticity. Every memberof both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now theyactually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a differentworld.” This new “edgy” production, even more successful thanthe original, is the one on tour to Toronto.Opening late in the month, Dear World is possibly as obscureas West Side Story is well-known. Using music and lyricsby Jerry Herman to refashion Jean Giraudoux’s play, TheMadwoman of Chaillot, the show was a flop when it opened inNew York in 1969 for a brief, calamitous run. Despite negativereviews, it won Angela Lansbury a Tony Award for herperformance as the Countess Aurelia, a woman driven mad bya lost love who spends her days reminiscing in the basement ofa Parisian bistro — at least, until it is targeted for demolitionby an multinational oil corporation. Conceived as a chamberpiece, the show reputedly was overwhelmed by the grandiosedesign of its initial staging. A subsequent revision of the bookby Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee returned the script to itsintimacy, and Herman added three new songs to expand his melodicand clever score. Presumably, this version is the one that the CivicLight Opera presents at the Fairview Library Theatre until June 9th.Check it out.Based in Toronto, Robert Wallace writes abouttheatre and performance. He can be contacted atmusictheatre@thewholenote.com.STEVE’S MUSICStaff recommendations forstudents & teachers on a budgetFor a limited time, get 30% of specially marked PrintMusic and DVDs. Look for the “RED DOTS”!Check out our new and expanded Orchestral StringRepertoire selection featuring Baerenreiter editions!Wittner Mechanical Metronomes, various sizesand finishes starting at Full selection of “newer used” woodwinds &brass starting at only 9.00Student level Stentor Solid Top 4/4 Violins with deluxecase/bow starting at 9!educational@stevesmusic.comwww.stevesmusic.com(416) 593-8888TMPaul Antoine TailleferMay 1 – June 7, 2012thewholenote.com 17

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