Fugue Theatre

Via Beatrice

Dates and Venue 14-22 August 2009 | PTC Granville sland

Reviewer Ed Farolan

As an experiment, I believe that Fugue Theatre did the right thing: presenting an operetta version of an Italian theme. After all, Italy is opera, and we should expect arias and duets and trios being sung whenever an Italian show comes to town. Furthermore, we have Italian-Canadians in the cast (Lucia Frangione, Marco Soriano and Laura di Cicco).

What I wasn't happy about was the composition of songs. Peggy Lee is known as an improvisor in jazz. So, what is she doing in a serious operetta? The attempt to put serious music from a a jazz improvisor doesn't make too much sense. I was also bothered by the fact that the music was drowning the voices of the actors/singers when they dialogued and sang. Now, who should be the stars? Right! The actors, and not the musicians. This isn't a jazz show; this is a play where the music should stay quiet in the backgound while the actors do their job.

There's not much to say about the actors because they are well-known in the Vancouver scene as seasoned actors and, in this particular show, they delivered their parts quite convincingly as professionals, natural in their multiple roles and their delivery of lines, allowing the audience to empathize with them. I also like the storyline and the libretto by Jenn Griffin. It puts a Canadian perspective: A Canadian woman (Lucia Frangone) who travels to Italy after the suicide of her daughter. She stumbles upon a haunted tour of Rome led by a slick Italian tour guide (Marco Soriano). Together, they become entwined with the ghost of Beatrice Cenci (Laura di Cicco).

All three actors also play roles of different characters involved in the life of Beatrice, as the scenes go back and forth from the 16th century Italy to present-day Rome. The only flaw I could see in the script is a bit of confusion since actors don't change costumes and have to transform their characters from present-day to Renaissance Italy back and forth. But I think the actors did well with their pauses to transpose one character to the other.

I can see why this is an operetta and not a musical. As Director Mathew Bissett says in his notes, "...musical theatre is pretty much opera or operetta but with music influenced by jazz and pop". And that's why I contend that this "operetta" is not faitful to the original genre but tries to blend it with jazz and pop. I also wasn't comfortable with the musicians butting in with the three actors. Is this some kind of a Pirandellian technique? Too many elements involved. I was just wishing, as I was watching the show, "Why can't they make things simple? Whjy complicate a story by adding too many elements that might tend to confuse an audience?"

But again, as an experimentation, Fugue Theatre is justified to do just that. After all, we need to experiment as scientists do until we get the formula right. And Fugue's mandate is to produce original Canadian operettas and musical theatre, and I believe, as Canadians, we're still in the experimentation stage.

© 2009 Ed Farolan