Oct 25

Fortune Falls has great music and talent but fails to impress

by Jenna Shummoogum · 2 comments

Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre produces work that is highly theatrical, with precise choreography and a powerful story. Their production Nevermore - The Imaginary Life & Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe was performed Off-Broadway in New York. Their newest world premiere Fortune Falls by Jonathan Christenson and Beth Graham opened last Friday, produced by Alberta Theatre Projects. The musical is full of what you would expect from Catalyst Theatre, highly theatrical design, a gothic feel, powerful singing,a talented cast but unfortunately a weak plot.

The musical tells of Everett Liddelman (Daniel Fong) a young man who has a dream of working in the Mercey Chocolate Factory in his hometown of Fortune Falls. His mother (Jamie Tognazzini) tells him that he just needs to put one foot in front of the other. Everett spends his time writing letters to Mercey Chocolate, one every day for a year to try and get a job. Finally, the company offers him a job, head of security at the shut down plant in Fortune Falls. Everett performs his job without fail, even staying at the factory to make sure there is no breach in security.

The cast tells Everett’s story, each taking turns, playing different characters. Shannon Blanchet is Milton Mercey the II’s assistant as well as Millicent Mercey and along with Tognazzini provides some powerful singing. Braydon Dowler-Coltman plays Milton Mercey the II while Graham Mothersill plays Milton Mercey I. The cast moves in and out and creates a theatrical narrative that has a side of darkness. The Mercey characters are powerhouse businessmen with an eccentric twist.

Fortune Falls has some precise design elements, especially the choreography by Laura Krewski. Each character moves in a particular way as they move through the narrative. Kerem Cetinel set and lighting design is a critical element in creating the theatricality in the production. The set has an industrial feel and the set has windows built high on the stage that the characters pop in and out of.  The lighting gives the play the foreboding atmosphere. Megan Koshka’s costume design is also a key element in the theatricality of the production, the makeup and costumes blend nicely with the other elements of the production. The music is catchy and has an underlying pop feel that vibrates within you.

The unfortunate part of the play is the plot. The audience spends the entire first half of the play waiting for something to happen. The second half is much of the same, with the big reveal, in the end, turning out to be not so big or dramatic. It’s a full 2 hours of trying to pull a narrative that is remotely compelling out of the production. Story elements are thrown in that mean nothing, there is no emotional pull, the audience has trouble caring about Everett. It’s a shame that the production doesn’t have anything truly meaningful to say. There is great set up of themes of abandonment and following your dreams, but they don’t amount to much.

It makes Fortune Falls a bit dull despite all its great music and theatricality. If the plot was dialed up, the production would be quite great in its gothic charm.

Alberta Theatre Projects’ Fortune Falls runs until November 5th. More information is available online.

Photo Credit: David Cooper

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