For the first half of the 20th century, popular recorded music required only notable music, clever lyrics and a voice to validate it. Post Korean War, with the advent and proliferation of T.V.; imagistic impression became intrinsic. Thus, costumes; choreography and special effects were an equal criterion. STAGE WEST’s director Tim French is a master of exhibiting performances that cleverly encompass all of these concepts. Photo by Ron Beintema
His ‘Motown Gold’; “Marvellous Wonderettes” and especially his Sheridan College’s “OKLAHOMA”( about which this writer used such terms as immaculate’; “ingeniously refashioning”; ‘creates a tribute’ etc) epitomize thegenus. He and Stage West have done it again with LOVE TRAIN!
The musical category ‘soul’ evolved during the 50’s & 60’s as an amalgamation or derivation of gospel music, rhythm & blues and especially the American Black experience of the time. Do Wop and the sub-genres spread both the elucidation and interpretation of this musical style. Such artists as Al Green and Aretha Franklin helped it become such a mainstream phenomenon that the style even earned an exhaustive Time Magazine™ cover story! French and writer Howard Pechet have their performers introduce each musical sector with the same comprehensive historical iteration as to be almost a ‘Music Appreciation 101’ course, or a Wikipedia© article.
Instead of having Anthony Bastianon’s musicians semi-hidden above the stage, during one segment the director has Bastianon; saxophonist Pol Coussee & bassist Michael McClennan performing as an integral part of the on-stage singers. Coussee’s solos are a highlight of the entire presentation. The technical crew under Allan McMillan supply effective and dramatic lighting while Kimberley Catton’s copious costumes are a surfeit of color and ingenuity.
The ten-member cast are unquestionably a composite of multi-talents. Of course each must be singers, but the choreographic demands are extensive and individual personalities must be evident and easily revealed. These kids have it all and by a quarter of the way into the program; have the audience hooked and totally infatuated. The first half of the agenda is frenetic and so exhaustingly paced as to banish audience inhibitions. Last evening, post-curtain saw the stage taken over as an impromptu dance floor! Five of the performers, Troy Adams; Andrew Broderick; Aadin Church; Jivaro Smith and Saccha Dennis have been previously accoladed on these pages for their work at Shaw; Stratford or Sheridan. Dennis– also serving as assistant director and dance captain is a quintuple threat. She can act up a storm; dance like Charisse; sings like Streisand, oozes personality and happens to possess a gorgeous face & figure!
The new (to this scribe) performers, Louise Camilleri, Ron James; Aurianna Angelique; Tifari Anthony & Karen Andrew are compleat professionals and certainly contribute full measure of dedication and enthusiasm to this musical conveyance. Two numbers were especially notable; Angelique’s version of the Houston hit “I will always love you” was performed without the original’s annoying wattle-jiggling effect; and another was improvement over the prototypical CCR version of a certain hit. We learned that “Beegweel kepon toining – prow MAR keepon Boin’ng” is actually ‘Proud Mary keep on burning!’.
For aficionados of soul, for folks who remember the music of the era; or for anyone who enjoys creative staging of a musical revue, hop aboard the LOVE TRAIN. A bonus, the dining car has made some positive physical changes and some yummy items added to the menu. The new maître D’ is always available and certainly approachable with observations or suggestions. Dino Roumel epitomizes the job description!