Soulpepper is trying something new: a conglomeration of the intellectual stimulation of a history lesson, the charisma of a musical and the vigor of a concert. With Berlin to Broadway, the first of two shows in Soulpepper’s Salon Series, the audience is bombarded with highlights from the musical world of 1920s Berlin to 1970s New York, immersing the audience in these worlds as they travel through time, experiencing the hardships and successes throughout the journey.
Written by CBC’s Tom Allen, directed by Gregory Prest and musically directed by Mike Ross, the show starts off introducing us to the battle between old and new mentalities. Is the way to survive to think only of yourself, or to help others in order to help yourself? What we learn throughout this historical journey, is that in hard times, unfortunately, the former will always prevail.
Starting with the birth of the Weimar Republic, through World War II and into the Cold War, Germany was a dark place to be. But in spite of the tragedy and hardship, several artists and theatrical masterpieces emerged from these periods, such as the work of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Due to the hard times, it was common for many European theatre artists to pick up and go to Broadway. While this initially seemed like the place to be, there became a cultural barrier for several artists, who struggled to succeed.
Performed on the intricately beautiful Idiot’s Delight “Grand Hotel” set and accompanied by the appropriately mood-setting lighting design, both by designer Lorenzo Savoini, Berlin to Broadway takes you back in time and has you feeling the pain and excitement of dark times transformed into art, and its lasting relevance in musical theatre today.
The band of musicians (Colleen Allen, Steve Hunter, Rick Hyslop, Richard Lam, Andrew Pacheco, Mike Ross and Lowell Whitty), played each moment fervently, their intense passion resonating with the audience, provoking several spectators to begin dancing in their seats. These engaging musical scores accompanied by high-energy performances by the company (Evan Buliung, Dan Chameroy, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Steffi Didomenticantonio, Peter Fernandes, Katherine Gauthier, Hailey Gillis, Richard Lam, Jeff Lillico, Gregory Prest, Mike Ross and Salvatore Scozzari) allow the audience to be submerged into each and every story of religion, war, love and showbiz. A head-bopping pleasure to watch.
Berlin to Broadway’s second and final show runs on January 15 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Tickets: $23 - $49. For tickets and more information visit www.soulpepper.ca or call 416.866.8666.
photo credit: Nathan Kelly