the ensemble of the silent city
photo by ashlea wessel of revolver photography
Stagehands’ production of The Silent City, which played at the Bread and Circus Theatre as part of the 2010 Fringe Festival, and will now play for two performances at the Berkeley Street Theatre as part of the Best of Fringe Series, is what We Will Rock You would have been if it had original music.
The Silent City is a vibrant rock musical centered on Stan, a young wannabe musician, who travels to Lasonia, a dystopian music business town, where all its celebrities are trapped behind masks that strip each one of their individuality. Stan predictably seizes his opportunity for revolution and seeks to release the vibrant personalities of the other musicians and to liberate Lasonia from its villainous Mayor.
Stagehands’ The Silent City is an interesting mix of an indie pop rock concert and a Broadway rock opera and therefore, it is the songs and the performances in this show that are the most compelling and worth celebrating. The songs are energetic, incredibly catchy and capture nicely the arc of the story they are telling. Some of the performers are absolutely incredible. Geoff Stevens, as Stan, has a voice that soars gorgeously with a perfect mixture of Broadway belt and Rock n’ Roll prowess. Justine Moritz is equally commanding as Ashley, her voice has a lovely fierceness and her belting is blissful. Marko Pandza also has a fantastic turn in a sea shanty tune that endeared itself immediately to my little Nova Scotian heart. The harmonies in the songs for The Silent City are dramatically and musically satisfying and despite the fact that there is some melodramatic acting going on, vocally these young performers are teeming with potential to burst onto the professional musical theatre scene in Toronto.
Director Evan Tsitsias and choreographer Stephen Low use lighting and shadow and jerky, Spring Awakening-esque movements to capture the dark, ominous Lasonia, as well as the energy for revolution. I think that given more plot to work with and a larger space, Tsitsias and Low could create a musical with a strong conceptual identity.
I am not sure if the ensemble is interested in developing this show beyond its Broadway rock concert hybrid, but I think that The Silent City has the potential to become a really exciting bona fide Canadian rock musical, but that it could really benefit from a book to enrich the revolution plot and its characters. In this incarnation, I found that I was quickly swept away by the music, and impressed with the singers’ performances, but I was not really invested in the story or the plight of Stan and Ashley. I think that with some creative book writing, this show could rise beyond its clichéd roots and become something really unique and poignant. I especially like that the show does not have a happy ending, but I think that there is room for Stan’s ultimate decisions and impressions of Lasonia leading up to the end to be further explored.
Even as a Broadway rock concert hybrid, it is inspiring to know that such proficient rock music with lyrics that work nicely to tell a story and capture emotions, is being written by a group of intensely talented young Canadians who have an interest in using musical theatre to develop something uniquely their own. You can download The Silent City album for free here, but I would still recommend going to the Berkeley Street Theatre on July 23rd and 24th at 9:00pm to catch the energy of this show for yourself.
The Silent City plays at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley Street) July 23rd and 24th at 9pm. Tickets are available by calling 416.368.3110 or by visiting http://www.canadianstage.com