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Monday, 10 April 2017 16:07

Smash-Hit Soulpepper Musical Returns

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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“Spoon River’s” Pre-New York Engagement Adds

New Stars Jackie Richardson and Alana Bridgewater

to its Sensational Production

“Outstanding New Musical” – 2015 Dora Award

“Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,

The weak of will, the strong of arm,

The clown, the boozer, the fighter?

All, all are sleeping on the hill.”

-      The Hill, Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters

 

Following its sold-out engagement at the 2016 Charlottetown Festival, Soulpepper’s multi-award-winning “Spoon River” has returned to its home at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts prior to its New York City engagement this July.

One of Soulpepper’s most popular and successful productions, “Spoon River” will play off-Broadway at 42ndSt.’s Pershing Square Signature Center, a complex designed by Toronto-born, internationally recognized architect Frank Gehry.

To make a tremendously entertaining show even better for NYC, two of Canada’s best soul, gospel and “R&B” singers have been added to the cast – Jackie Richardson and Alana Bridgewater.  Richardson, in particular, brings the house down with a powerful rendition of the song “Widow McFarlane.”  (Co-adapters Mike Ross…Resident Director of Music…and Albert Schultz… Director and Founding Artistic Director…wrote the song with Jackie in mind for the first production, but she has been unavailable until now.)

Other new cast members from the company of the play “Of Human Bondage” – also going to New York – consist of John Jarvis, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Jeff Lillico and Sarah Wilson.   They join such Soulpepper stalwarts as Diego Matamoros, Hailey Gillis and Raquel Duffy.

Based on Edgar Lee Masters’ 1915 “Spoon River Anthology,” this unique, ensemble musical has transformed Masters’ short, free verse poems into a dramatized song cycle about life in a small, rural Illinois town.  Ghosts of the citizens “sleeping on `The Hill’.”  “The Hill” – that’s what they call their final resting place, Oak Hill Cemetery, perform.  The characters include Melva the Tailor, Didymuss Hupp and Silas Dement to the most recent arrival, the spirit of a fetching young woman named Bertie Hume. They sing about the lives they had led – the secrecy, the hypocrisy, their loves, their losses, their achievements and heartbreaks.

(“Spoon River Anthology” influenced Thornton Wilder and his third act of his Pulitzer Prize Award-winning play “Our Town.”  Whereas the former was controversial for portraying a less than ideal view of American life, “Our Town” celebrated small-town life in the fictional Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire and, as it has been said, “focused on aspects of human experience that make life precious.”  That said, Soulpepper’s musical adaptation brings together the commonality the poems and the play share.)

Although the songs are performed by the dead, many of them are upbeat and raucous gospel, American and Appalachian            folk-influenced tunes.  It’s a veritable hootenanny climaxing in the ebullient finale.  With banjos, ukuleles and guitars strumming and percussionists beating on tambourines and even a fresh coffin, the dead ask the living “Is Your Soul Alive?”  And the audience responds by leaping to its feet with a roaring, standing ovation.

An extra performance has been added for Friday, April 21st.

True Patriot Love- Concert

In addition to “Spoon River” this week, many of the cast are starring in “True Patriot Love,” a concert celebrating many of Canada’s great musical heritage in honor of our Sesquicentennial.

There are three performances Tuesday through Thursday April 11th, 13th and 15th.  Musicians include Colleen Allen on reeds, Scott Hunter on bass and Lowelly Whitty on drums.

Tickets:

Soulpepper is located in the Distillery District’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto.

Visit its box office or www.soulpepper.ca, or call 416-866-8666.

Tickets for productions range from $32 to $96.  $25 rush tickets when available. $20 tickets are available for arts workers.

Further deals for 18 to 30-year-olds are available. at www.soulpepper.ca/stageplay.

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 14:57
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