Toronto Fringe: Family, sacrifice & hope in the timely, heart-wrenching Seeking Refuge: A Musical Tragedy

Trisha Talreja, Jennifer Walls & Liana Bdewi in Seeking Refuge: A Musical Tragedy—photo by Dahlia Katz

Thick and Thin Theatre Productions presents Rick Jones’ timely and poignant musical Seeking Refuge: A Musical Tragedy. Directed by Barbara Larose, assisted by Ellen Green, with music direction/accompaniment by Robert Graham and stage management by Margot “Mom” Devlin, the Paul O’Sullivan Prize-winning show is running at the Randolph Theatre for Toronto Fringe.

Opening not with music but with the sounds of gunfire and bombs, we are thrown into a horrific world of civil war, where sisters Mara (Liana Bdewi) and Saleet (Trisha Talreja) have lost everything—except each other. In search of a safe place away from the bullets and collapsing buildings, they accept the help of family friend Tobim (Nabil Ayoub), a soldier fighting for the government who has connections with a man who can get them passage across the sea. Only able to afford one passage, Mara insists that her younger sister Saleet go, and plans to reunite with her sister when Saleet has settled somewhere safe. Their mother’s jewellery proves insufficient payment to the pirate Zaydal (Milton Dover, in multiple roles, including the Judge), and Tobim pledges to work security for him for a month.

During the sea voyage, Saleet meets Manu (Noah Beemer); he has papers, money and a lawyer aunt sponsoring him, while she has nothing. In a bargain that will benefit them both, she accepts his “on paper” marriage proposal, as it will be better for them both to be travelling as man and wife. Meanwhile, Tobim is taking out his displeasure at having to work for Zaydal on Mara, who is forced to become his slave in order to survive in the refugee camp. Raped and beaten, she never gives up hope that Saleet has made it to safety.

By the time Saleet and Manu get to his aunt’s (Jennifer Walls, in multiple roles), they have fallen in love; and with a baby on the way, they are granted refugee status and set about sponsoring Mara. Unfortunately, Mara’s application is denied; she’s been associated with Tobim, who’s been labelled a terrorist. They must find another way to bring Mara over—but will it work?

The music has a Western Asian flavour; and there are some particularly beautiful duets, especially between the sisters, and Saleet and Manu, with stand-out vocals from Talreja, Beemer and Walls (who also plays a UN refugee worker). News headlines come into an up-close and personal focus as we see the human stories behind the statistics. As this is a musical tragedy, there is heartache and grief—and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes.

Family, sacrifice and hope as separated sisters struggle for safety and reunion in the timely, heart-wrenching Seeking Refuge: A Musical Tragedy.

Seeking Refuge: A Musical Tragedy continues at the Randolph Theatre until July 16; see dates/times and get advance tickets online.

Upcoming Angelwalk Theatre fundraiser extravaganza – Liza & Barbra: Together At Last

There are a couple of amazing one-night only fundraiser shows I must tell you about – please get out and support local theatre. The first one is this musical extravaganza:

Liza & BarbraLiza & Barbra… Together At Last: Saturday, October 19 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Created and performed by Jennifer Walls (as Liza Minnelli) and Gabi Epstein (as Barbra Streisand), this 5th anniversary gala fundraising event for Angelwalk Theatre brings two incredible actresses playing two legendary performers live onstage for a cabaret-inspired evening of story and song, with a special appearance by Jeff Madden as Frankie Valli.

The evening’s festivities will include a silent auction, raffle and prizes – plus hors d’oeuvres!

7 p.m. hors d’oeuvres and silent auction; 8 p.m. performance. Tickets $40-$75 ($35-$75 for Angelwalk subscribers; $30 for arts workers). Call: 1-855-985-2787 or book online at: www.angelwalk.ca

So – what are you waiting for? Get on the phone or online, and get yourself hooked up with some tickets to this fabulous fundraising event! You’ll have a blast – and, since you’ll be helping to support local theatre, you’ll feel good doing it.