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Out of a Dream at York Theatre

In Rodgers and Hammerstein: Out of a Dream, Director Peter Jorgensen has assembled five of the strongest, most vibrant voices this side of heaven to take us on a journey sampling 39 classics of the American musical songbook. The most hummable tunes from Carousel, Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I, and Song of Music are supplemented by some of the best of R&H’s lesser known work. Indeed, one song was included in every one of their 11 collaborations.

Out of a Dream at York Theatre
[Kazumi Evans, Sayer Roberts, Kaylee Evans, Warren Kimmel]

Through a theatrical stitching of the tunes we experience what almost – particularly in the first hour – conjures a new musical comprised of the old songs. Using simply a park bench to anchor the action, most songs are scored to introduce the next song as the cast moves around and through the stage making the overall arc of the presentation a mostly consistent delight.

Top notch-sound design by Bradley Danyluk allows every word to come at us in the highest fidelity while Lighting Designer Jeff Harrison bathes the stage in a near full palette of mood enhancing gels and lumen intensities.

The solid four-person orchestra, under Nico Rhodes’ musical direction, sounded note perfect as it played through his arrangements. Though small in number, the orchestra’s sound was big and lush.

Out of a Dream at York Theatre
[Kazumi Evans]

As good/great as the songs are they would be near nothing without the right folk putting voice to them. Sayer Roberts was simply superb. He sang flawlessly, with passion and charm throughout.

In dramatic snippets during If I Loved You (from Carousel), he had all the swagger and charisma of a young Gordon McRae. The three female cast members were nearly as strong. Kazumi Evans sang sweetly and acted with a kind a wide-eyed innocence when called upon. Kaylee Harwood seemed somewhat underused but when she was allowed to show her stuff, most particularly in I Have Confidence (from The Sound of Music), her star shone brightly.  

Out of a Dream at York Theatre
[Warren Kimmel]

Caitriona Murphy has a crystal clear voice that only got stronger as the evening progressed. Moreover, she carried off the several comic elements handed to her with gusto. It will come as no surprise that stage veteran Warren Kimmel was solid throughout. In particular, his big number Soliloquy (from Carousel) was outstanding as he acted and sang his way through the probably most challenging tune R&H ever conceived. Just brilliant. 

The production is not without its problems. While Act 1 flows in a near seamless way, Act 2 seems more a patchwork of unrelated material. Indeed, Act 2 gets off to a slow start with Allegro (from the production of the same name), when probably a livelier semi-production number such as June is Bustin’ Out All Over, would have better showcased the ensemble.

Much of Carousel’s other material was also omitted to allow for the lesser works to meet the self-imposed quota of a song from each play. Case in point: What did Everybody’s Got a Home But Me (from Pipe Dream) really add to the audience’s enjoyment?

Lastly, maybe it was considered politically correct to have Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Roberts take on gay personas as they sang We Kiss In a Shadow (from The King and I). Unfortunately the performers appeared ill-at-ease and the staging was awkward. Pandering to the queer community, in Vancouver at least, is completely unnecessary and is long past being cool.

These few quibbles aside, Out of a Dream is a solid and enjoyable 160 minutes (including intermission). It would be an apt Valentine’s present to those you love and to those who love musical theatre.

Out of a Dream continues through February 16 at Vancouver’s York Theatre. Photos by David Cooper.

About Our Contributor Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini

Larry Ghini enjoys Vancouver's vibrant theatre scene and has taken in many productions over the years. He holds a BA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University. Larry is financially involved with the film Eadweard Muybridge, produced by Josh Epstein, directed by Kyle Rideout, and starring Michael Eklund.

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6 Comments

  • Comment by Peter — February 8, 2014 @ 11:05 am

    Hello Larry,

    Thanks for the review. I am so glad you found so much to enjoy in our production.

    In the spirit of dialogue I would like to offer my thoughts around “We Kiss in a Shadow.”

    In my mind I never once considered how I might “pander” to the gay community when I made the decision to have the two men sing the song together. The show’s songs were chosen around the themes of love and relationships because that is what Rodgers & Hammerstein were specialists at.

    They also wrote heavily around themes of racism and intolerance. It was important to me to capture a little bit of that in the revue. If Hammerstein was alive today I believe he would be writing about marriage equality – which is still a thorny issue in the States.

    I understand that in our neck of the woods, the idea of gay lovers may seem like no big deal to many (hallelujah for that!) – but in light of what is going on in Russia right now – surely we can also see that there are so many people around the world that still have to “kiss in a shadow” and long for that “one shining day to be free.”

    The song as presented in The King and I – is after all a song about forbidden love. I saw no better way to capture that in a revue than to have the two men sing it together. It is true to the spirit of the song and to the spirit of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

    As for your feeling that it seemed awkward – well, that’s simply a matter of opinion. From working with the two men on the song, I can assure you that there is no awkwardness between them. To me it is performed beautifully and honestly and my heart breaks a little at the end of the song when Warren (who plays the more reserved of the two lovers) walks away before Sayer can even for a moment touch his hand.

    Because the men are dressed in 50s apparel – my hope was that it would also allow people to consider that this is what life was like for gay men (and women) in the 50s – and to maybe appreciate how far we have come as a society in embracing love in all its forms.

    My last thought on the matter is this. A friend and colleague of mine once said to me after we had both watched the film Love, Actually how beautiful the film was but how disappointed he was that among all those representations of love the writers didn’t include one same-sex couple among all the story lines.

    Same-sex relationships may feel like no big deal to us here in Vancouver – but in constructing a revue around relationships and love – it was important to me to include this brief representation of love between two men.

    Sorry for the long response. Pander is a strong word – and I want your readers to know that a great deal of thought went into this choice.

    With great respect and gratitude,

    Peter Jorgensen

  • Comment by Larry Ghini — February 9, 2014 @ 11:49 am

    Peter

    Thanks for your comment. Yesterday afternoon, after I submitted my review, I heard your explanation on the CBC-posted interview. I do see your reasoning.

    Certainly I am in agreement that most of the world remains stuck in the past when it comes to same-sex relationships.  

    You have rightly noted that my reference was specifically to Vancouver audiences. Your point about the staging of the song was altogether one of perception. I was sitting just across the aisle, one row back from you so we had much the same vantage point. That said, I passed my review to both my spouse and a friend before submitting and neither took issue with my observation.  

    In reading the Colin Thomas review, you will perceive that he also was not at all that confident about aspects of this song’s staging either.

    Funny thing is that I hear/observe more racism on the streets than I do homophobia. I cannot recall another song presented that mentions interracial love. “We Kiss in a Shadow” has, I think, just as much, maybe more, currency if sung in its original context.

    As far as “pandering”, I have to scratch my head. Your Facebook page gave a ticket discount for folks saying “I feel so gay.” I’m thinking, to be consistent, no sexual preference should singled out for extraordinary treatment. Kind of bribing, albeit somewhat playfully, straight people to misrepresent themselves is as wrong-headed as asking gay folk to lie about their lifestyle, don’t you think?

    Not mentioned in my review but troubling to me was the inclusion of “I Cain’t Say No”. In my heart-of-hearts, the lyric reinforces the double standard women endure regarding their sexual activity. Wouldn’t your stated aim for removing barriers be more meaningful if this tune was dropped?

    Please accept my apology if you were offended by the review. I was simply trying to help you make a very good production even better.

    Larry

    PS: I do hope your son is feeling better.

  • Comment by Peter Jorgensen — February 9, 2014 @ 11:50 am

    Hello Larry,

    Great discussion. Thanks for it.

    It’s funny – I just came from the theatre where I had a couple of chats with patrons. One with a woman who was picking up a jacket-vest she left at opening who just raved about Kiss in a Shadow.  Loved the idea.  Loved the treatment.  Loved the staging.  Some will dislike it.  Some won’t think much either way.  Some will love it.  I don’t expect everyone to agree.  Nor do I expect to change your opinion. But I felt in this circumstance I should say a few words about it.  But know that I took no offence. 

    Kiss in a Shadow’s original context wasn’t one of an interracial relationship. It was between two characters of the same nationality who were forbidden by the King to be together. It could very well be that here there is more racism/prejudice than homophobia… but for me, I was more interested in re-contextualising the song to honour the spirit of RNH.  After all there are many “kings” who do what they can to make same-sex relationships forbidden.

    The other was a chat with a gentleman who had seen a previous incarnation of the revue and asked if I had kept “Everybody’s Got a Home But Me” because he loved the song. Again – I know you didn’t – and that’s fine.  In our world everything is a matter of perception and there is no right or wrong.  At the end of the day everyone is allowed his/her opinion.  But something to remember when writing critiques is that you are expressing opinions that are not absolute.  It would have been better to say, “Case in point: I didn’t find much to the song, ‘Everybody’s Got a Home But Me.'”  Critics have every right to speak for themselves – but try not to speak for the entire audience.

    Also – if you consider it – material from Carousel (which you felt was underrepresented) took up about 22 of the 100 minutes of material in the show. A full 20% – so it was well represented. There are only two songs from Pipe Dream.  And I loved the song for Kazumi because it expresses a sense of displacement and isolation – and at the same time a strong desire to find her place.  The melody is iconic Rodgers writing – as each phrase reaches a continuously higher dramatic and musical pitch – resulting in the unexpected addition of “Somewhere.”  The music and lyrics work in perfect synthesis – so I too find immense enjoyment and satisfaction in hearing this number. As do many others I have spoken with.

    As far as our “I feel so gay” promo. Here is our complete release about it:

    We know that many of our friends & colleagues have made conscientious decisions to boycott the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi in support of the LGBT community .

    With the Opening Ceremonies set to occur this Friday, February 7,
    we wanted to provide some alternative viewing… 

    Audiences will save 50% on Out of a Dream tickets 
    when they quote the secret passcode
    ‘I feel so gay’ (a lyric from It Might as Well Be Spring).

    Say it nice & loud, and we’ll all spread a little gay pride.

    It was intended as a fun way of showing our support (something I feel confident that Hammerstein would have approved of). And we chose the phrase both because it’s a lyric and because it’s a statement that anyone can say in whatever connotation they wish.  

    I’m not sure if I follow you on your double-standard issue of Cain’t Say No?  “Can’t Say No” is usually attributed to men.  It’s a song by a young woman confused by her feelings around men. If Kaylee had only sung songs about catering to the whims of men then I would take your point – that would be offensive.  But in Act II she sings “Love, Look Away” and “I Have Confidence” – so she ends up finding her own strength and convictions and pride in herself.

    I know that all of this isn’t necessarily going to translate in the minds of the audience. For some it does. For some it doesn’t. But I know the show will be received as it was intended for some because of comments like this one we just received:

    “The singers put life into every word with their wonderful voices, the arrangements are some of the best I’ve ever heard, the staging is perfect and never upstages the songs and the subtle suggestion of a story line lets you play with your imagination.” 

    As this all may be taken the wrong way – I want you to know – that I wouldn’t take this time to express all this if I didn’t appreciate your review. It was articulate and well-written – which is more than I can say about some of the articles and reviews printed in the major dailies. I do read reviews with an open mind and often find myself in agreement with negative criticisms of my work. I am always looking to grow as an artist so I appreciate when it is clear that a critic has put time and thought into his/her reviews.

    Hopefully, we will both continue to grow.

    Best,
       
    Peter Jorgensen
    Artistic Producer
    Patrick Street Productions

  • Comment by Larry Ghini — February 9, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    Peter,

    Thank you for being so constructive.  

    Your are absolutely correct about the context of “We Kiss In a Shadow”. It’s been many years since saw the movie and I remembered it wrong. On reflection, I confused it with the racist aspects of Miss Saigon.

    Clearly I hold Carousel in very high regard. “What’s The Use of Wond’rin”, “When I Marry Mister Snow”, and my review referenced June is Bustin’ All Over probably would be more audience-friendly than the more obscure and, dare I say it, inferior selections. A “Best of” revue should not be subject quotas methinks. If I asked you to assemble a two hour playlist of Beatles tunes, would you include any one of the four previously unreleased songs from the Yellow Submarine album for any good reason? That said, I do respect that in your role of producer/director you are completely entitled to exercise creative control. After all, it’s your reputation and your box office receipts you are putting on the line.

    On “I Cain’t Say No”, what I was trying to say was I am offended that I a woman who wants to freely exercise her sexuality still has to be mindful that she risks being condemned as being a slut. Meanwhile, the promiscuous pre-wed Billy Bigalows of the world are hero-worshipped as studs. ‘Tain’t fair.

    I am okay with your “I’m so gay” explanation. Without context, any casual reader desperate for a discounted ticket would have, I think, been confused.

    Continuing best wishes for the show.

    Larry

  • Comment by Brad Danyluk — February 12, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

    Larry,

    Just wanted to say thanks for mentioning sound design! It’s such a rare occasion that a reviewer has even one word to say of it unless it’s because of a problem.

    Great review. Cheers.

    Brad

  • Comment by Larry Ghini — February 13, 2014 @ 8:26 am

    Brad

    Crediting a job well done is one best parts of reviewing.

    As you alluded to, much of a musical theatre experience can be ruined because of a poor sound design.

    Optimizing/balancing performer and orchestra inputs with storytelling requirements, canned audio effects, hall acoustics and sound system cannot be easy. Kind of a marriage of art and science and, as we know, many marriages fail.

    Anyway, as long as you continue to throw yourself into designing future soundscapes, musical theatre should be alive and well in Vancouver for decades to come methinks.

    Sincerely,

    Larry

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