It was quite a party at the MacMillan Theatre this afternoon. The MacMillan opened fifty years ago with a production of Britten’s Albert Herring and this afternoon marked the final performance of a new production to celebrate the occasion. Directed by Joel Ivany, it was a straightforward but lively and very well characterised interpretation that brought out many of the very specific and quirky elements of the local culture while taking it mysteriously up market in some ways. (*). Coupled with very good singing by any standard, and this was a student production, it made for a most enjoyable afternoon.
Camellia Koo’s set was basically a triangular rotating contraption that served as morning room, greengrocer’s, village hall and pub with minimal alterations that could easily be accommodated on the fly allowing the action to proceed without interruption. Within this construct we got very defined portraits of the principal characters with very well directed and acted village children (Karine White, Andrea Nuñez and Shauna Yarnell), suitably bumptious worthies among whom Dylan Wright’s Superintendent Budd stood out and a fine trio of youngsters. Jonathan MacArthur’s Albert was entirely convincing, really bringing out the transformation between pre and post spree. Zachary Read made the most of Sid, perhaps the most sympathetic male character, with clear, accurate singing and a certain swagger. Stephanie Tritchew came close to stealing the show as Nancy. She has a lovely voice and found an emotional depth in the role that seemed almost out of place in this somewhat caricature like comedy but which was, nonetheless, very affecting. The small orchestra sounded terrific too and the whole performance was more than competently directed by Leslie Dala.
This was also very much a celebration of the MacMillan and the Opera Division at the UoT. The after party was attended by a pretty impressive cross section of the Toronto opera world as well as some members of the original 1964 cast.
* I grew up not very far away from “Loxford” only a few years after the early 1960s that this production is set in so I’m probably way over sensitive to rows of hams and salami hanging in a Suffolk village greengrocers or tablecloths on pub tables.
n.b. There were two casts for this production. My comments, obviously, apply to the cast I saw.