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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Of Souls and Spelling Bees...

I have been so knee deep in Spelling Bee this last little while that I feel bad that I haven't taken a moment until now to write about Catalyst Theatre's production of The Soul Collector.  As it was, I was very fortunate to find a night when I could actually take in the show.  I actually booked the tickets over a month prior as I missed Frankenstein due to it's being Sold Out and I vowed that would not happen this time (especially after I heard so much about what I had missed from all my friends!).  So, on Friday night I met up with AM and we took in a bite and a show.  We had great fun at the lobby Photo Booth. Very cool to try on the show inspired costume pieces and since we are both theatre performers we could not resist the tickle trunk! It is good to be able to just be silly! It was also cool to run into a few people from Spelling Bee there that night.  I guess we all had the night off!

The show, the show, the show... First I have to talk about the design and concept.  It was a visually stunning piece.  From the costumes, to the alley set, with everything labelled and outlined very intentionally, to the toboggan race, to the accountants, to the ballroom dance, to the many incarnations of snow it was one of the most conceptually complete pieces I have ever seen.  It is not so much that it was all black and white and grey, but more that everything had the right off-kilter feel and Tim Burton/Gothic kind of aesthetic.  It's not just a black coat - it's the 'perfect' black coat with the 'perfect' detailing.  This show is why I think Scenographer Brette Gerecke is a genius.  It's absolute proof of it.  This was matched with the choreography and the tone of the script.  So complete.  Watching this show is like taking a masterclass in design.  The cast itself was outstanding.  It's hard to single people out since they worked so well as an ensemble, however, I felt Karyn Mott was lovely in the lead as Memory McQuaid.  Her bright hair and textured voice made her very compelling. Opposite her, Benjamin Wardle as Gideon Glumb was delightful.  Because the stage was in an alley arrangement, it created a bit of a detachment effect for me, however, Wardle seemed to easily reach beyond that wall.  Similarly did Garett Ross as Popcorn Pete. Ross was fun to watch in his many incarnations - always drawings us in.  It is hard, though, to single people out - From Elinor Holt as the Icy Soul Collector whose vocal range was truly impressive, to Nancy McAlear as Anemone Knight whose dance was as elegant as her sadness. I thought Eric Wigston as tortured, love-struck, composer Thorvald Jesperson was note perfect, his record-skipping solo amazing.  I saw no flaws from anyone as they were all committed and strong in their performances. The script... hmmm... I am a bit torn on this.  I left the play really liking it, however, for the first 1/3 of the show I found it hard to get into.  I struggle with heavily-narrated shows and I think the narration off the top combined with the alley stage made it difficult for me to immerse myself right away.  There were also some balance issues with the sound so I couldn't really make out many of the lyrics of the first song the ensemble sang.  It was tightly and terrifically choreographed, but without knowing what they were saying I felt like I was reaching to understand what it was about.  Solos were always clear and those are what brought me into the show.  So, like I said, the first third I was disconnected, the last 2/3 thirds I was there and really captivated. It may also be that this is more of a show that is about the concept and style.  The narration automatically removes the audience so that you know it is in the realm of story-telling.  It is not until we start to hear the characters own voices that we start to care about them.  I am still pondering the message of the show.  I think this would have been a good one to see more than once and from different vantage points.  If they remount it, I would definitely try to catch it again.

And so, I was glad for the night out in my busy week! This weekend after Spelling Bee opens I will be catching The Flight of the Viscount at Shadow Theatre. Wish me luck for a good opening on Thursday night!  I was very excited to see our huge photo in the Edmonton Journal this week and to hear that tickets have been moving fast at Tix on the Square.  I am so pleased with the show.  I'm tickled because our SM frequently says to me following a run,  "This is NOT a Community Theatre show..." I think so too, but it is nice to hear it from someone else!

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