1.29.2010

Theatre Review

I'm tempted to joke that this play's title is actually longer than the play itself. That's not necessarily a bad thing. "Brevity is the soul of wit" is how Shakespeare put it in Hamlet. But, in truth, The Unforeseen Journey of Nathaniel Dunbar and Other Tales of Whimsical Sadness (which plays at the Globe Theatre as part of its Sandbox Series until Feb. 6) is a little slight. The creation of local jazz musicians Melanie Hankewich and Jeremy Sauer (pictured, who have performed for years in the city as the Continos), the work blends film and music to tell a tale of courtship between the title character and a woman named Eleanor.

Helping set the stage for this ethereal musical is Jayden Pfeiffer who, in the guise of an early 20th century vaudeville impressario in a silent short, provides the wittiest introduction I've ever seen at the Globe to welcome the audience, thank sponsors and funders, and remind everyone to make sure they shut their bloody cell phones off.

Joined by Elizabeth Curry on bass and Jody Mario on drums, Hankewich and Sauer, who perform at various times on ukelele and piano/accordian respectively, present a string of romance-tinged jazz ballads, interspersed with silent film shorts, to advance the narrative. Through the shorts, we're introduced to Nathaniel Dunbar (played by Devon Floyd). Infatuated with a lass named Eleanor (played by Judy Wensel, and whom sharp-eyed Reginans will recognize lives at the Williamson on Lorne and 15th Ave), he sets off to court her.
On the way, he stops off to buy a balloon bouquet. When he reaches Eleanor's door, he rings the bell, but before she can answer he's swept away by a sudden gust of wind. Yeah, I thought instantly of Up too. Which was unfortunate, as the allusion to the popular Pixar animated feature was almost certainly unintended.
I don't want to reveal any more of what, as I've already noted, is a somewhat skimpy plot. But I will add that the musical was enhanced by a couple of neat segments involving interplay between the performers and film, and an extension of the film action out into the audience.

Overall, Nathan Dunbar is an interesting experiment in musical theatre. It didn't quite reach it's full potential, I don't think. But it was a worthwhile effort. So check it out if you get the chance, and find out if Nathan and Eleanor find true love, or if fate, and other vagaries of life, intervene to thwart their happiness.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I'll agree that the show was a little short for a theater presentation, but not for an inspired music presentation.

The length would be perfect for a CD, and I would very much like to see this show released on disc.

The music was a real treat; costumes, decorations, lighting, and video really helped set the mood to enjoy the music. Much like a gormet entre paired with the perfect wine.

I highly enjoyed this presentation.

Mike Lenzen