Theatre Passe Muraille in association with Hope & Hell Theatre Co. opens it season with Raoul Bhaneja’s Life, Death and the Blues (directed by Eda Holmes). This production features Juno Award winner Divine Brown, a live band (Jake Chisholm, Tom Bona and Chris Banks), and Raoul Bhaneja himself. Although defined as melange between concert and theatre, the music exceeds as paramount for the entire performance. While Bhaneja’s piece has been under construction for the past fifteen years, the script unfortunately needs to remain in workshop.
Bhaneja takes us on a prolonged journey through his love and adoration for the musical genre of blues. Coming from an Irish-Indian background, we hear far more about his life and less about the inspiration. With a powerful number every so often, the brief humour relieves us from the proposed narrative. Bhaneja performs his life as though it was someone else’s, allowing it to become far less believable with each scenario. While Bhaneja is an excellent performer, the music and his journey should speak for itself.
The production, in totality, is fully synchronized and wonderfully performed. The foreground projections greatly assist the minimal set design, truly engaging audiences in a concert experience. We are drawn into the stunning performer that is Divine Brown. Taking home the Juno Award for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year in 2009, Brown continues to present her truly remarkable vocal strength and emphatic ability from within. Brown appears in minimal emphasis until the band plays. Through this, Brown delivers and succeeds with each number – a powerhouse of perfected beauty and talent.
The music is phenomenal. You cannot help but succumb to the toe-tapping rhythm, as each number is presented through utter passion. Towards the end of the performance, one blues artist from Toronto is brought onstage and celebrated – a true enjoyment for all. Bhaneja succeeds during the musical numbers in proving that he does in fact “have the blues,” however the theatre component of this piece was unfortunately absent. Although the production argues in favour of blues belonging to us all, one cannot simply see past the self-acclaimed headliner that is Bhaneja.
Life, Death and the Blues is presented by Theatre Passe Muraille in association with Hope & Hell Theatre Co. and is playing until Oct. 19. To purchase your tickets online, please visit the following link: http://ow.ly/CdFwx. To purchase by telephone, please call the box office at 416-504-7529