Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) The Vanity Project (Fringe)

The Narcissus Conundrum
by Robyn Lester

Sometimes the story isn’t what we’ve been told.  That seems to be the prevailing theme in The Vanity Project, a musical retelling of the story of Narcissus.  A musical retelling that also tries to warn us against the risks of being too pre-occupied with ourselves.  A pertinent message given today’s cultural trend towards announcing everything we do.   
There are two things working against me as I write this review.  For starters, I’ve never reviewed a musical.  Second, the majority of musicals I’ve been exposed to have all been high-budget Broadway productions.  So I had to keep my expectations in check while watching Tim Oberholzer’s musical.

It was an ambitious project.   The performances were strong, despite Nicholas Amott (Narcissus) being off beat a couple of times.  That being said, I feel like it would have benefited from live musical accompaniment instead of the pre-recorded music used.  But I understand that sometimes sacrifices need to be made as a result of budget and resources.
I think there needs to be a lot more added to effectively engage the audience.  The songs did a terrific job at moving the story forward, but the production lacked in character interaction.  The result?  It felt like the story was a bit too dependent on narration through song.  But on the other hand, the fact that Narcissus barely ever interacted with Echo did help reinforce his vanity.
The set was very interesting, with suspended red frames that acted as mirrors.  The colour coordination between the set and the characters’ costumes also contributed to an overall aesthetically appealing stage. 
I did enjoy this.  Oberholzer’s voice is wonderful, and the music is decent, however it will need more work to become something that really stands out.   

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