I’ve crossed over to the other side. I’m sitting onstage rather than in the audience for a student production at Ryerson, playing an electronic keyboard alongside capable student singers & musicians. As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been more or less AWOL from the bloggy world. They’re producing Michael Hollingsworth’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel Martin Chuzzlewit.
From my place in the trenches –near bedtime after the cue-to-cue—I can’t really see the whole picture. It’s maddening to say that I will see every performance, but I will never see the play. I sit upstage looking mostly at the backs and sides of these wonderful performers, but I’ll never see it from the front.
Yet from my distorted perspective there’s loads to see: and hear. As music-director I’ve been reading and listening with an ear to the moods in each scene: all sixty-seven of them. Some of them are substantial, but occasionally a scene is over almost before it began, as though it were part of a cinematic adaptation. I can’t help thinking that Hollingsworth –after all the same man behind VideoCabaret—is a canny observer of media, that this isn’t merely an adaptation of a 19th century book stuck in the past.
Speaking of a distorted perspective, at one point in tonight’s rehearsal –when nothing much was happening, as I chatted to a student onstage—we were speculating about the play. Surely it hasn’t been seen very often before now. I thought I heard about a Toronto production that was cancelled. The internet seems to show it dating from 1988 so I have to believe someone must have produced it before, but I’m sorry I’ve never seen it.
And I heard a rumour that Soulpepper will be mounting their own production, possibly in the next year.
Director Cynthia Ashperger has sought to give this huge sprawling story depth & shape using music. The story is partially narrated by a church organist, so that musical element is a natural departure point. Songs and folk tunes of England put in appearances. When the story wanders across the Atlantic to visit America, the music has to reflect that as well. And Cynthia also had an interesting insight, connecting the mountebank Tigg (purveyor of a pyramid scheme) to music suggesting a carnival.
We’re in the home-stretch, coming up to dress rehearsals and opening night Friday. I’m like a kid in the candy store, watching all the wonderful performances, all the good work that’s been done by this talented crew. It’s a privilege to sit there immersed in the show.
Martin Chuzzlewit opens Friday February 7th, running until Feb 13th at Ryerson Theatre. For further information call 416-979-5118.