Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Figaro's Wedding

Stephen Hegedus (photo by Darryl Block) 
Going to the Chapel
by Shannon Christy

Marriage is considered by a growing number of people as an unnecessary evil.  It is a huge expense on people strapped for cash, it is stressful, and more often than not it is not even that memorable.  Le Nozze di Figaro takes these points and puts them to music. Figaro's Wedding, an adaptation of Mozart’s most famous piece, takes the additional step of intermingling it with devices and events of our time. That they do this while providing beautiful performances is even better.  The story of Le Nozze di Figaro is about a couple of different love triangles with implied betrayal, confusion, and celebration tied in. It is comedy in its truest sense and if Against the Grain Theatre betrayed the original text by altering the words to fit our times, they certainly remained true to the comedic spirit of Lorenzo Da Ponte’s original creations.

That being said, the use of modern technology and the local references, especially the one that refers to how City Hall is cracking down, are great but it is the location and the performances that really set this show apart.

The intimate setting on the 6th floor of 639 Queen Street is an old building with original woodwork, stairs, and brick and offers a great view of the city. The stage, or lack thereof sometimes also allows for an up close and personal view of the individual performances and every one of them was outstanding both for the quality of their music and their facial expressions.  Alexander Dobson, who plays Alberto was a comedic delight with his shifting eyes and his furrowed brow. Teiya Kasahara’s portrayal of Cherubino and her aria dedicated to Rosina was tremendous for its tenderness, delivery, and joy to observe. 

Bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus, who plays Figaro, has a voice so staggering and powerful that at first, I thought he must have a microphone.  His first duet with Susanna (Miriam Khalil), adding up numbers and counting the crowd is but an introduction to the actors’ talents this production’s cast boasts.  Miriam Khalil wins the audience over with a warm, passionate, sometimes angered voice; then there is her devilish smile and wide range of deftly portrayed emotions. Her complicity with Rosina (Lisa DiMaria) was obvious and made the wedding/bachelorette party even more lively and totally believable.

Music director Christopher Mokrzewski provided the accompaniment with his piano and a quartet of musicians that kept the art honest and did not allow the performances to drag. Costume Designer Erika Connors had a fairly easy job dressing the performers in hipster attire with the wedding planner Bartolo dressed eerily similar to Russell Brand’s portrayal of Arthur.  

The only part that could have been improved was the lighting by Jason Hand.  The wedding and the reception are at night and the softer electric lights would have been much more useful than the ultra bright LED lighting that blocked out the city’s nightlights of which the building has a spectacular view. However, Hand may be right: who wants to be looking out over the city when there are such wonderful performances happening right in front of you? 

This is a great wedding but you only have the 30th, 31st, and 2nd to crash it.

Read also: Company general manager Nancy Hitzig on the special PR the company created for this production
Read also: Director Joel Ivany on juggling this production with his work at COC

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