Review by Terry Gaisin
Vicky Baum’s 1929 book that utilizes the vehicle of a luxurious Weimar hotel to outline some interacting plots, attracted Robert Wright, George Forrest & Luther Davis to reprise the success of their ‘KISMET’ and retell Baum’s story as a musical. The result is a fascinating piece of theatre that demands acting; singing and terpsichore talents from every cast-member. SHAW’s Eda Holmes direction emphasizes the play’s visual impact but does not sacrifice the intricacies of the various plot lines. She subtly leads her audience to subconsciously anticipate the reversal of status-quo that will befall the world in the next decade. Photo courtesy of David Cooper
One climactic episodic scene is as extended as any final ‘opera tragique’ moment. A heroin-induced doctor’s dream comprises an almost-bankrupt American CEO; a terminally-ill Jew; a young nobleman seriously in debt; a ballerina past her ‘best-before’ date and a flawed secretary. Hoping for a brass-ring! Like the theatre’s staging their lives are all smoke and mirrors. All the diverse characters crisscross and inter-connect…for benefit or anguish.
The young baron is portrayed by James Daly and his character is involved with both the dancer and office temp. Daly’s imposing physique; mannerisms and voice are a perfect piece of casting. The metamorphosis’ Von Gaigern’ undergoes from cad to smitten is not only credible but rings possible. Deborah Hay is the aging dancer while Vanessa Sears plays the secretary – both are consummate actors as well as vocal talents who bring emotion and depth into their solos & duets. There are moments and pithy statements that Michael Therriault‘s “Otto” makes which are not only standouts but memorable – even quotable if one is comfortable in using Yiddish!
Most noticeable numbers are the ‘Maybe my Baby’ be-bop duet by the ‘Jimmys‘; the “Love can’t Happen” that closes act I; plus the impressive “Bolero” which is a full-chorus showstopper. As well, there are some marked support portrayals from Patty Jamieson as Hay’s maid & confidante; Travis Seetoo as Erik; and a sombre David Ball. All the cast contribute full measure and 100% of their combined talents. The highly exhausting and meticulous choreography by Parker Esse is fully paralleled by Paul Sportelli’s musical direction and orchestra. GRAND HOTEL may not be an O.A.R. ‘Top Ten-er’, but it certainly is a worthwhile piece of entertainment that is also educational for those people unfamiliar with the ‘Roaring Twenties’ milieu and environs. The hotel is accepting reservations (at the Festival Theatre) until early October.
On a personal note: – our ARTS REVIEW has been contemplating our future, and thus enlisted two of Shaw’s veterans Patrick Galligan & Michael Therriault for input into whether we still make a contribution to both major and community theatres. Their opinions: – CARRY ON! Thanks, guys.