Toronto Fringe: Out of the echoes of pain and loss comes a beautiful noise in the powerful, moving Echoes – A New Musical

nickeshia_garrick_and_kyle_holt_brown - echoesWriter/director Andrew Seok “wanted to write a musical about war and its effect on families and relationships” – and he’s done just that, to great effect with Chaos & Light’s production of Echoes – A New Musical, running at Toronto Fringe at Jeanne Lamon Hall in Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, with music direction and accompaniment by Robert Graham.

Inspired by personal letters and journal entries, and taking us across decades and into a new century, Echoes is divided into three acts, starting with the American Civil War, where fugitive husband (Kyle Holt Brown) and wife (Nickeshia Garrick) slaves are separated when the wife and their daughter (Millie Davis) are captured; when he reaches the north, the husband joins the army to gain his freedom. Act II takes place during WWI, where we see the effects of war on the future of a young captain (Andrew Seok) and his fiancée (Marisa McIntyre). Act III finds us in WWII and a father (Micah Richardson) leaving his daughter (Millie Davis & Amaka Umeh) to serve in the army shortly after her mother has died; ashamed by what he’s doing in the name of duty, he constantly breaks his promise to return home to his daughter until years later. The common, running thread throughout all of these stories is the courier (beautifully performed by Jeff Madden), delivering and receiving letters for delivery – and wondering about the reasons for it all.

The score is filled with gorgeous, heart-wrenching ballads, with some dark comic relief (performed by a pair of scoundrels played by Hart Massey and Christopher Sawchyn – “The Treaty” and “We’ll Be Back”). Stand-outs include “Demons & Angels,” “Angels Won’t Sleep Tonight” and “All the Things that Life Used to Know.” And “Hymn,” the gospel-inspired finale lead by Nickeshia Garrick is a perfect way to end this piece in that it reminds us of the better angels within us all.

I’ve seen several standing ovations over the course of Fringe this year, but none so unanimous as the one the Echoes cast received last night.

Out of the echoes of pain and loss comes a beautiful noise that reminds us what we could be in the powerful, moving Echoes – A New Musical.

Echoes – A New Musical has one final performance at Jeanne Lamon Hall in Trinity St. Paul’s: tonight (Sat, July 9) at 8:00 p.m. They’re sold out, but there may be a few stray tickets at the door.

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A charming, joyful celebration of life & love in Sabrina Fair

sabrina fair
Linus (Chris Coculuzzi), Sabrina (Amy LeBlanc) and David (Adam Brooks) are reunited in Sabrina Fair – photo by Dave Fitzpatrick

Amicus Productions gave the audience a magical evening of storytelling at Todmorden Mills Papermill Theatre last night with their production of Samuel Taylor’s Sabrina Fair, directed by Victoria Shepherd.

From its first moments, where ensemble actors Diana Franz and Meara Khanna open with a once-upon-a-time prologue, to the final discovery and acknowledgement of true feelings, Sabrina Fair is an engaging – and socially astute – piece of theatre. Not a mere 20th century rom com, Taylor’s play – and Amicus’s interpretation – is a combination of silly and sublime, as the story explores class and gender, and being true to oneself in the shifting social landscape of the early 1950s.

Shepherd has assembled a delightful cast for this theatrical adventure, with several stand-outs. Amy LeBlanc is a shimmering bundle of energy and wonder as Sabrina, a romantic realist, inspired by poetry and the excitement of the new and undiscovered – totally in love with the world even as she struggles to find her place in it. Chris Coculuzzi’s Linus is nicely layered; a man of panache and wit with killer business instincts – the tin man puppet master who’s forced to find his heart. Peter Bloch-Hansen is a treat as Mr. Larrabee, the somewhat befuddled family patriarch, whose bizarre hobby of attending funerals serves as a touchstone of certainty in a world he no longer understands. As his wife Maude, Sandra Cardinal is more self-aware than at first glance, with her sharp-witted – if not put upon – observations of society and family. And Heather Goodall, as Maude’s long-time chum Julia, hits just the right notes as the stylish, professional socialite, her self-possessed, well put-together exterior masking the vulnerability and loneliness beneath the surface. Nice work from Adam Brooks as Linus’s impetuous, boyish younger brother David; and Jeff Burke does a lovely job as Fairchild, Sabrina’s father and the family chauffeur, an extremely well-read man who’s full of surprises himself. All supported by a fine group of ensemble players.

With shouts to Alexis Chubb’s light, minimalist set design: the Larrabee’s garden patio, which is especially beautiful during the evening party scene, with its suspended multi-coloured lanterns and votive candles. And to Meredith Hubbard’s stunning costume design, which brings the palette and silhouette of this period – and this world – to life, especially with Sabrina’s and Julia’s frocks.

Amicus Productions’ Sabrina Fair is a charming, joyful celebration of life and love in a changing world.

Sabrina Fair continues its run at the Papermill Theatre until February 7, with matinée performances on February 1 and 7 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $22 regular and $20 seniors/students – available online or by phone at 416-860-6176.

Get yourself out for a wonderful time at the theatre. And, in case you were wondering – yes, this is the play that inspired the film Sabrina and the 1995 remake. In the meantime, check out the Amicus trailer:

And take a look at the interview with Amy LeBlanc.

Department of Corrections: Due to a last-minute casting change, one of the two prologue actors was incorrectly identified as Amaka Umeh and should have been noted as Diana Franz; this has been corrected.