So… what ABOUT this insanely talented cast?

In one week Andrew Chandler, GaRRy Williams and Amy Reitsma may have created Halifax’s most contemporary, urbane, original song cycle musical. It’s a feat that has me quite flabbergasted. So… What About Love? is a beautiful and compelling piece of theatre that presents variations on the theme of love that are neither clichéd nor trite.
The show begins with an Invocation, which is Stephen Sondheim’s The Frogs meets Bowen and Bell’s _title of show_ during which Chandler, Williams and Reitsma make a “collective attempt not to suck.” Indeed, they don’t. Chandler is charming and earnest, Williams is sophisticated and sharp and Reitsma (much to her credit) refuses to play the feminine stereotype.
The songs that these three performers have written in five days are superb. There is a jazzy song called “Waiting” (G. Williams) that suits Reitsma’s voice perfectly. “I Just Wanna Have Sex With You” is massively giggle-inducing, proving that as a composer Chandler is akin to a dorky Cole Porter. There is a lovely song called “Faux Disney” (G. Williams) which is a poignant commentary on how we have grown up with the conception that love is supposed to find us magically and that “Mr. Right” always arrives clearly labeled. This number is especially well directed by Eric Benson. GaRRy Williams sings two gorgeously, haunting numbers “Come Away, Death” (with text from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and “Ocean and a Mile,” that compliment his voice and his performance style beautifully. “Ocean and a Mile” is simple and heartfelt and spare, it seems like a piece that could have been slaved over for years. Amy Reitsma sings a sassy tune of her own composition which also has wit and timbre reminiscent of Cole Porter.
The songs are not the only elements of this song cycle that are impressive and sophisticated; the monologues that tie the piece together have a depth and honesty that reflect and inform the music nicely. Andrew Chandler has an especially soulful moment as he reads a letter written to a former lover, and Amy Reitsma is heart wrenching in her portrayal of a woman who has been thrust aside by her friends after the death of her partner because she suddenly makes socializing “awkward.”
So… What About Love? captures the true turbulent essence of love. It is a word that can evoke elation, devastation, openness, narcissism, insecurity, anger and confusion. Chandler, Reitsma and Williams don’t shy away from presenting vignettes of love when it works, but they are also practical enough to ask the shrewd questions not usually tackled in musical theatre. Do I really need someone? Do I really have some void that needs another person to fill? What is wrong with me? Maybe nothing is.
When I saw this production, in its first tech-run through, it was a little bumpy but not at all bumpy enough to detract from the substance of the material the performers were offering. I am confident that their show this evening will be noticeably smoother. Sometimes performers embark on ambitious ventures and the final product lacks polish and reflects the inexperienced nature of the project. There are shows that must be chalked up to being “a great learning experience” and that feel more like a “work-in progress experiment” than something that was created for a public to enjoy. The fact that this show is so tight and ready for its audience makes So… What About Love? so impressive and mind-boggling. I truly believe that had this group had a month or two to write this show, they could be heading to New York’s off-Broadway scene.
If you have ever wished you were a ninja, or felt broken, bruised or ruined; if you have found love, forced love or fallen into love, you should go check out “the little musical that could” because I think it’s one of the most exciting pieces of musical theatre to come out of Halifax maybe ever. I already eagerly await DaPoPo/Metamorphic’s Fringe Festival submission for next year. I sure hope it’s another original!
Venue: Neptune Studio Theatre. $7.00
Saturday, Sept 12 at 6 pm and Sunday, September 13th at 11:30 am and 2:40 pm

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