'Inge(new): in search of a musical'
Now onstage at Toronto's Red Sandcastle Theatre
Dahlia Katz. Foreground: Cory O'Brien. Background: (l-r): Astrid Van Wieren, Mairi Babb, Elora Joy Sarmiento
An intelligent world premiere of a Canadian musical by Theatre Myth Collective about the roles we play in life. ‘Inge(New) is performed by a strong ensemble of theatre artists who tell the story with confidence.
Bridget (Mairi Babb) shows up at an audition for the role of the ingenue in a soon-to-be-cast musical. Over her career, she has played every heroine from Juliet to Christine in ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Nevertheless, time marches on, and Bridget begins to realize perhaps she is not the young and impressionable ingenue from years (and shows) ago. Should she continue auditioning for such roles? Each time the musical accompaniment leads her in for her audition piece, Bridget doesn’t sing but instead speaks to an unknown individual out there in the dark. Is it the playwright? The director? The musical director?
Others soon join Bridget on stage for the audition. There is bubbly Joy (Elora Joy Sarmiento) who idolizes and looks up to Bridget. The two of them worked together in another musical, but Bridget cannot recall working with Joy. The truth then comes out – both Bridget and Joy are auditioning for the same ingenue role.
Gertrude (Astrid Van Wieren) next arrives. Throughout her career, she has worked with everyone in the business. Gertrude is at that stage in her career where she is no longer the ingenue but the bold, brassy, and seasoned performer who loves delivering that big 11 o’clock number in the second act. And there is Max (Cory O’Brien), the perfect-looking handsome leading man with a profoundly deep baritone/tenor voice who sweeps the ingenue off her feet.
Director Evan Tsitsias’s cleverly written blur-the-lines Book connects the world of the theatre and real life regarding the roles we all play in life. I’m reminded of Jaques’ monologue from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’: (All’s the world a stage/and all the men and women merely players/They have their entrances and their exits/And one man in his time plays many parts…). One doesn’t have to be a theatre lover or aficionado to recognize how each of us becomes different things to different people. We’re husbands, wives, parents, lovers, partners, friends, siblings – the archetype list is endless. Sometimes we behave differently depending on that role or part and on the context of our relationship with others.
Sometimes the parts or roles that we assume in relationships with others need repair or are unfixable. Irene Ly’s set design of brick wallpaper at the back of the stage showcases this reality. Some of the bricks are in complete disrepair while the cement in other parts still needs to be put together. Rachel Shaen’s lighting design mysteriously reminds the audience that we are sometimes in the realm of the present but can quickly revert to some painful reminders of the past. An overhanging bulb periodically makes a loud buzzing noise at various moments of emotional growth for the characters. This bulb reminded me of the ghost lamp in theatres that is turned on as everyone leaves for the night.
Tsitsias’s script takes a deliciously ironic turn of events. Many plot surprises along the way are funny and poignant. Just to whet the appetite – while actors Bridget, Joy, Gertrude, and Max go from one theatre contract to the next in real life, ‘Inge(new)’ entwines their lives together where the audience learns more about Bridget’s life and where she is headed next. (Spoiler alert in this next sentence only – the title sort of gives away Bridget becomes a new person resulting from this moment in the theatre.)
The cozy black box Red Sandcastle Theatre on Queen Street East sets the audience smack dab in the heart of the plot action. The arm’s length intimacy from the stage thankfully allows the audience to clearly hear the messages conveyed through the songs. Acknowledgment of Music Director Kieren MacMillan in creating some fine vocal performance moments. I especially liked Gertrude’s song about why she wears rubber boots. Alexis Diamond’s lyrics with additional lyrics and music by Evan Tsitsias and Julia Appleton remain richly sharp thanks to the poetic-sounding language of the at times amusing and affecting subject material that moves the story along naturally.
Evan Tsitsias soundly directs the production. There’s a clearly trusted and insightful vision in combining the world of musical theatre and personal relationships. It’s impossible not to be pulled into the lives of these four characters who tell the story with confidence and assurance.
And this cast.
Mairi Babb, Astrid Van Wieren, Elora Joy Sarmiento, and Cory O’Brien are WONDERFUL.
They deliver four uniquely distinctive performances of tremendous conviction and ardent emotional passion for the subject material. They each have their own 11 o’clock numbers where I just sat back and allowed the sound of their voices and the messages of the songs to move me back and forth between the world of the theatre and real life.
Final Comment: A treat and a joy to be able to see and experience a new Canadian musical at its birth. I certainly want to keep an eye on Theatre Myth Collective and see what Evan Tsitsias has planned for future.
‘Inge(new): In search of a musical’ represents why we must continue to get out and go to the theatre.
Go see it.
Running Time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.
‘Inge(new): In Search of a musical’ runs until June 4 at Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East. For tickets: redsandcastletheatre.com/tickets.
THEATRE MYTH COLLECTIVE presents:
‘INGE(NEW): In search of a musical’
Book, Additional Lyrics: Evan Tsitsias
Music: Rosalind Mills
Lyrics: Alexis Diamond
Add. Music/Lyrics: Julia Appleton
Director: Evan Tsitsias
Music Supervisor/Music Director: Kieren MacMillan
Choreographer: Jen Cohen
Set/Costume Designer: Irene Ly
Lighting Designer: Rachel Shaen
Stage Manager: Annasofie Jakobsen
Producers: Lauren Welchner, Evan Tsitsias
Performers: Mairi Babb, Cory O’Brien, Elora Joy Sarmiento, Astrid Van Wieren.