After a successful and engaging first installment, Soulpepper has launched their second half of Salon Series, Aboard the Orient Express, written by Tom Allen, directed by Gregory Prest and musically directed by Mike Ross.
While Berlin to Broadway focuses on struggling 20th century theatre and musical artists, who are trying to become successful amongst the chaos and hardship of war, Aboard the Orient Express is much more concerned with the trauma associated with living in Europe during World War II, rather than the struggle to create art or the struggle to escape Europe altogether.
While still a dynamic medley of history and music, Aboard the Orient Express takes a completely different approach in its tone. Slow tempos and a blue wash lighting design by Lorenzo Savoini set the mood for this melancholy concert.
The Orient Express train takes the audience on a journey from London to Istanbul – a journey full of calculated moves and the inherent desire to escape Nazi occupation. While this show is successful in transporting the audience to right smack in the middle of life-changing European and World History, I can’t help but to feel that something is missing. Something needs to tie all these songs together within the realm of art.
The audience is taken on a trip to a variety of different countries and invited to listen to songs from all over Europe. While the songs are stimulating and they allow audience members to experience a slice of culture from each of these countries, there is an evident disconnect. And some language barriers. You can only feel so much for a song before you begin to wonder what the song is actually saying, and unless you have an exceptional prowess in languages, you will probably have the burning desire to know more. But perhaps this is the point. After all, you are escaping from war. Do you really have a choice?
Aside from the somber nature of the show, the company (Tom Allen, Dylan Bell, Tatjana Cornij, Andrew Downing, John Millard, Patricia O’Callaghan, Gregory Oh, Gregory Prest, Mike Ross and Suba Sankaran) never ceases to amaze me with their musical talents and the incontestable passion infused in every word sung and every note played. A special mention must be made to Gregory Oh on piano, for a mind-blowing Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. My jaw dropped – just a little bit.
Though the show is generally quite dismal, the company ends on a light note, putting their own spin on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’s You Can’t Always Get What You Want, inviting the audience to join in and clap their hands to a song and message that everyone can relate to.
The second and final run of Aboard the Orient Express is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts on February 26th. For tickets and more information visit www.soulpepper.ca or call 416.866.8666.