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Saturday, 20 May 2017 14:06

“Onegin” Rocks!

Written by  Dennis Kucherawy
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Music Stage Co.’s Hip Hit Bursts with Energy, Talent, Sass

and Imagination

By Dennis Kucherawy

Bizet’s “Carmen,” it’s been said, is the opera for people who hate opera.  The same can likely be said for the Canadian musical “Onegin” now playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre downstairs until Sunday, June 4th.


Its Vancouver world premiere in March 2016 was a sensation and now its second mounting, this one by Toronto’s Musical Stage Co., promises to repeat its success. Audience members at its second performance Thursday were absorbed throughout the two-hour production, then leapt to their feet in an enthusiastic standing ovation.

With book, music and lyrics by director Amiel Gladstone and music director Veda Hille … who are reunited here … the musical “Onegin” is a predominantly sung through, contemporary adaptation of Pushkin’s poem and Tchaikovsky’s famous opera.  It uses indie rock to tell the passionate, sweeping story of infatuation and unrequited love between the young Tatyana and arrogant aristocrat Onegin.

Although the show at times is melodramatic, the book creates some “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” fun as the cast addresses individual audience members directly encouraging them to be in on the action.

Although the costumes designed by Alex Amini evoke the story’s early 19th-century setting as does the interior of the Larin House designed by Denyse Karn, the narrative’s language is contemporary.  The story begins before the lights go down as the performers greet audience members, some offering to clink glasses with those that have them.  Actually, the fourth wall disappears at times as the cast ventures up and down the aisles.  There is one beautiful, immersive effect when some of the cast sing a song on the stage while accompanied by other performers at the rear of the auditorium.

Josh Epstein, who created the role of Vladimir Lensky in Vancouver, leads the talented cast.  His performance has an infectious swagger that inspires his colleagues to perform the sophisticated score with gusto, sass and passion.  Other notable performances include those of Daren A. Herbert as Eugeni Onegin and Hailey Gillis as Tatyana.  Reflecting the show’s playful wit, Peter Fernandes portrays several characters.  His role is credited as “Many Others.”

What distinguishes Veda Hille’s score are her soaring melodies and the variety of syncopations and time signatures she uses that keeps the music interesting.  A trio consisting of Chris Tsujiuchi on Piano/Keyboard, Erika Nielsen on cello and Barry Mirochnick on percussion/guitar fill the theatre with sound and are joined, at times, by actors also playing instruments. 

With Stratford, Shaw and other Festival productions now in previews, “Onegin” is a great production to not only kick off a new season of theatre going, but a hearty welcome heralding Musical Stage Co.’s new identity of presenting the best in musical theatre, Canadian and otherwise.  Next up is Britta Johnson’s “Life After” this September.

For more information about “Onegin” and The Musical Stage Co., visit:

www.musicalstage company.com.

Ticket Information:

$35 to $59

Order by phone at 416-368-3110, online at www.canadianstage.com

or in person at the Canadian Stage Box Office

Berkeley Street Theatre

26 Berkeley Street, Toronto

Now playing until June 4th, 2017

By Dennis Kucherawy

Last modified on Saturday, 20 May 2017 14:11
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