Review by Danny Gaisin
Leonard Bernstein, like Hamlisch & ilk, was more than a little arrogant. His vanity piece –Trouble in Tahiti, something probably more suitable to a Fringe than a SHAW stage, is a mini-opera that peels away the patina layers to expose the under currents & realities that lie beneath an outwardly ‘normal’ married couple. Jay Turvey has assembled a talented cast but it is (with one exception) the chorus that makes TNT bearable. Photo by David Cooper
The amalgamating piece that joins the seven scenes is titled ‘Suburbia’. Bernstein’s utilization of reciting ‘hoods’ from the Atlas was undoubtedly the basis for Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Sixteen’ and Wilson’s ‘Surfing USA’. Compose a simplistic melody; then toss in Grimsby, Beamsville, Vineland, Thorold, Welland etc. [except Lennie used NY & Long Island]
The husband of the piece is sung and acted by Mark Uhre who owns the show. Believably ambiguous about his life, his personal anguish is projected so forcefully as to be tangible. Director Turvey has him blocked to advantage so that the entire audience feels that we’re in a one-on-one dialogue. His protagonist is Elodie Gillett and she’s nowhere near his match. There is no fire in her performance; even her title aria is more Island Inkjet™ than “Island Magic”.
The overall presentation is not a total loser. The aforementioned chorus members (mostly Sheridan grads) struts their dancing/singing/acting skills with panache. Even the manipulation of fedoras (men) and bumbershoots are handled with poise.
The musical direction by Paul Sportelli never overbears. The five musicians are at stage rear and in semi-darkness but I found myself watching with a fascinated eye – Sportelli conducting from his keyboard. The set is strictly props and enhancing rather than intrusive. A shrewd bit of scene-setting is the utilization of doll houses that represent the ‘burbs; and miniature office towers to denote –‘downtown’. Cute- but effective! The costumes & ‘do’s are circa 1952; so are the kitchen props. “TROUBLE” runs for a longish ¾ of an hour.