Jan 09

Onegin is all about the beauty of love

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Review written by Jenna Shummoogum

“If I were to choose a life of love it would be with you.”

This is  simultaneously a beautiful and infuriating line in the musical Onegin, a production by Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hill, presented by One Yellow Rabbit Theatre and Theatre Calgary, as part of the High Performance Rodeo.

The musical is a contemporary take on Pushkin’s poem and Tchaikovsky’s opera. With a band in the background, the cast leads the audience through the telling and explaining of aspects, while serving vodka to a lucky select few of audience members. Onegin is about love and jealousy, vanity and naivety and innocence. You come away touched by the beauty of the production. The musical is full of talent and gorgeous direction, helping the viewer to look past the things that make the plot a bit weak.

The musical takes place in 1819 in St. Petersburg, Russia. It tells of Vladimir Lensky (Josh Epstein) a poet who is in love with Olga Larin (Lauren Jackson) and invites his friend Evgeni Onegin (Alessandro Juliani) to meet Olga and her family. Onegin is in town because his uncle is dying and he has to come to take care of the estate. While in town, he meets Olga’s mother Madame Larin (Caitriona Murphy) and sister Tatyana (Meg Roe). Tatyana instantly falls in love with Onegin, even though he is an unfeeling man, beaten down by his life (his intro song talks about how he doesn’t care). Upon hearing from Tatyana through a love letter, Onegin outright and cruelly rejects her. He then blames his situation on Vladimir and in spite decides to then flirt with Olga, creating a collision of events that result in tragedy and grief.

The cast also includes Andrew Wheeler who plays Prince Gremin (and other supporting roles) and Nadeem Phillip who plays other supporting characters as well. The orchestra has Chris Tsujiuchi on piano and keyboard, Barry Miroshnick on percussion and guitar and Jennifer Moersh on cello. Together they create the ambiance on stage, along with set designer Drew Facey who has lush curtains hanging in the backdrop and wooden chandeliers hanging from the theatre ceiling. The stage is filled with books and candles that spill generously into the aisles. Juliani and Roe are remarkable in their roles, and its good to see them on stage again as their last appearance was Mary’s Wedding. Epstein’s Lensky is charming, romantic and emotional with a powerful voice.

We are all part of this story. With the dark and the light, directors Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hill pour that into every aspect of the production. They create a mirror of love; when one character confesses their love to the other, that mirror is seen again when the character rejects love. It’s beautiful in that way you can forgive the love at first sight trope used in this old tale of true love.

Onegin is co presented by One Yellow Rabbit Theatre and Theatre Calgary and is part of the High Performance Rodeo. Tickets and more information is available online.

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