by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille, based on the verse-novel by Alexander Pushkin

Dates and Venues 17 Oct 2017 - 4 Apr 2018 | On Tour Various

Director Amiel Gladstone Set Design Drew Facey Sound Design Brad Danyluk Costume Designer Jacqueline Firkins Lighting Designer John Webber Musical Director Veda Hille Choreography Tracey Power Dramaturg Rachel Ditor Stage Manager Allison Spearin Musicians Barry Mirochnick, Jennifer Moersch and Marguerite Witvoet

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Onegin had its national premier in Vancouver in March of 2016, where the musical won most of the Jesse awards for outstanding production, direction (for Gladstone), lead actor (Alessandro Juliani), lead actress (Meg Roe), supporting actor (Josh Epstein), set design (Drew Facey), costume design (Jacqueline Firkins), lighting design (John Webber) and original composition (Hille and Gladstone).  Since then, it has had a run at the Berkeley Street Theatre in Toronto last spring of 2017 and again at the Granville Stage last Fall before it went on tour.

Performed by a cast of seven, some from the original cast, the first thing you notice with this remount is that the performance takes place not only onstage but throughout the theatre, as actors mingle with the audience before the performance and during intermission, as well as during the production, breaking the fourth wall, as is common in productions these days.

Set in St. Petersburg, the story centres on the passionate relationships of four characters: Evgeny Onegin ( Jonathan Winsby), Tatyana Larin (Laura Jackson), her younger sister Olga (Meaghan Chenosky), her poet fiancé Vladimir Lensky (Erik Gow and and Josh Epstein). In the Surrey Arts Centre´s opening last February 21st, Gow played the role of Lensky.

The story almost mirrors Pushkin´s life, especially the part where his wife is courted and seduced by his brother-in-law, Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès, also known as Dantes-Gekkern, a French officer serving with the Chevalier Guard Regiment. Pushkin challenged him to a duel and was fatally wounded. Pushkin died two days later.

I found the play alive and vibrant, although in some cases repetitive as in the song “Let Me Die,” or gets stuck in the caring/not caring, “are they over it or aren’t they”.

Jonathan Winsby who has had a fair amount of experience in Musical Theatre was outstanding in Surrey´s opening night performance. He even looked like Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d'Anthès, the dashing seducer of Pushkin´s wife.

Lauren Jackson who played Olga in the Granville production plays Tatyana in this tour production. She exudes the girlish Ophelian romantic in the first act and transforms six years later as the cold, pragmatic loyal wife in the second act.

Erik Gow who has a semblance to Pushkin showed off his comedic skills in the first act, and in the second act, the woeful, tragic side of his poetic soul. Andrew Wheeler is solid as Prince Gremin and Nadeem Phillip was hilarious in his campy role as a French performer.

In the background, musicians Barry Mirochnick on percussion, Jennifer Moersch on cello and Marguerite Witvoet on piano are visible to the audience, as is the practice in contemporary musicals where musicians are no longer hidden from the audience´s view and are in fact sometimes the centre of attention.

Although there was no standing ovation in Surrey´s opening, the audience clapped rhythmically as the cast members took their bows. The show runs till March 3rd at the Surrey Arts Centre.

© 2018 Ed Farolan