Spoon River, Soulpepper

What would the dead say about their lives if they had a chance to tell you? The Soulpepper Theatre Company staging of ‘Spoon River’ gives you a hint in a show that’s every bit warmly wonderous as it is deeply touching.

SURPRISINGLY UPLIFTING

It’s time to confess.  Funerals are a most underrated affair.

Not only do they serve as the social event of the year but it’s also a priceless opportunity to evaluate what kind of words that will summarize our own existence on the epitaph that awaits us all.

This is precisely where we find ourselves in Mike Ross and Albert Schultz immensely entertaining Spoon River, a musical adaptation of celebrated poet Edgar Lee Masters. The Dora Award winning production may be the most important musical you experience this year and guaranteed to stir you deep inside.

It’s here we are introduced to Thomas (Stuart Hughes), whose shortage of love for liberals is by no means kept secret, and Eugene (Oliver Dennis), a burned out soul that’s packing a heap of resentment for 20 years of hard labour.  Deacon (Diego Matamoros) sees the happier side of life despite suffering from sclerosis of the liver and the Widow McFarlane (Peter Fernandes) pities us all for being at the loom of life.

William & Emily, Wendell & Elsa are among the many others that round off the glorious graveyard stroll down memory lane where the saints and sinners have found their final resting place.

Spoon River might sound a tad bit macabre but don’t be misled.  A few stiffies in wooden boxes can make for a surprisingly uplifting experience when you hear the stories from their hearts.  Musical flavours including roots rock, country, swing and a good ‘ol fashion lullaby or two spring up when the moment is just right.

In one of the final songs, has a vocalist speaking about ‘feeling kisses of vanished lips.’ You have to look at the person next to you to see if they’re fighting back the same tear you are.

But then Mike Ross steps forward to seal the emotional deal singing about the ‘the light of life’ and ‘the sun of delight’ insisting if ‘your soul is alive then let it feed.’  Cast members carefully scan the room to ensure playgoers haven’t missed the all-important message that has been delivered.

While it’s unlikely a homegrown presentation as memorable as this will ever come around again, let it be said this is stage asset that needs a third resurrection sooner rather than later.  While we each have a metaphorical Spoon River on the horizon, prepping for it could never feel better than this.

 
SPOON RIVER adapted by Mike Ross and Albert Schultz MARCH 31 – APRIL,15, 2017 YOUNG CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, 50 Tankhouse Lane, Toronto TICKETS $32.00 – $96.00 www.soulpepper.ca 416-866-8666 CAST Alana Bridgewater, Oliver Dennis, Raquel Duffy, Hailey Gillis, Stuart Hughes, John Jarvis, Richard Lam, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Jeff Lillico, Diego Matamoros, Michelle Monteith, Miranda Mulholland, Gregory Prest, Jackie Richardson, Mike Ross, Paolo Santalucia, Brendan Wall, Sarah Wilson and Daniel Williston DIRECTOR Albert Schultz MUSICAL DIRECTOR Mike Ross ASSISTANT DIRECTOR Erin Brandenburg SET & LIGHTING Ken Mackenzie COSTUMES Erika Connor SOUND DESIGN Erika Connor STAGE MANANGER Robert Harding