Flying in your Mind’s Eye

Okay, so this time, I am NOT going to let post-Fringe ennui get me down.  Actually, I seem to have been on a weird sort-of post-Fringe HIGH, which I’m not used to…maybe that just backs up my theory that a minimum of TWO Fringe Festivals per year are necessary for positive well-being.  I’ve certainly heard worse theories…

Anyways, the point is that I can’t let myself fall off the regular theatre-blogging wagon this time around (I’ve already spazzed out on reviewing AN ISRAELI LOVE STORY at the NAC Studio last week…sorry about that, gang!).  To that end, I’m gonna knuckle myself down this afternoon, before heading out for an evening of drinks and gossip with the Adorkable ™ Nadine Thornhill, and get some hometown chudding happening here.  and yay, it’s right back at my second home/volunteer refuge at the Oiving Greenboig Theatre, home of our very own Great Canadian Theatre Company.  And it’s new season time, kids!

So, after a silly day of drudgery, which my lazy vacation body is STILL having trouble adjusting to, I headed on out to the GCTC for the very first preview performance of the very first show of the 2011/2012 season, AMELIA: THE GIRL WHO WANTS TO FLY.  Brought to us by the fine folks at the Festival Players of Prince Edward County, and written by John ‘Billy Bishop Goes to War’ Gray, AMELIA tells the story of the life and times of one Amelia Earhart, America’s preeminent female flyer of the 1930’s, feminist icon, and subject of one of the most enduing unsolved mysteries of all time (even if it’s totally been solved, but hey, why spoil a good thing?).

Although the 'travelled to another dimension' theory IS pretty cool sounding...

This version of the Earhart saga is a straight-up musical, courtesy of Gray and musical director Micheal Barber (also the onstage pianist for the show), told from three concurrent, and often coflicting, points of view.  Amelia herself, natch (A splendidly plucky Eliza-Jane Scott), her long-suffering sister Midge (Karin Randoja, stealing much scenery indeed in her performance), and G.P., Amelia’s dollar-hungry publicist and show husband (Steven Gallagher, not afraid to go a few feet over the top as needs be).  From Amelia’s rural beginnings, doting over an alcoholic father, to her high-soaring public life as the most popular woman in America, we see every aspect of her obsession with flying that would come to define and, ultimately end, her life.  The songs themselves are pretty good…I wouldn’t say amazing, but they certainly do the job, and I’ve still got a refrain or two humming about my noodle.  And there’s a nice symmetry with the tunes tht shows up by the end.

The story itself, long since the stuff of legend, gets brought nicely down to Earth (pardon the pun) in Gray’s script and the direction of Sarah Phillips.   Bickering with sibling (and utter opposite) Midge over money and family, maintaining her marriage with doting GP, but in the end, everything is subsumed to her need to fly…and the reasons behind that need gets dissected as the show goes on.  There are some slow points in the production, and as with all musicals some numbers will work better for you that others.  The characters of GP and Midge do also have the tendency to slip into caricature from time to time.  But, as in reality no doubt, it’s the scenes where Amelia finally flies that the play roars to joyous life.  In the end, AMELIA is a very satisfying musical bio of a real, flawed human who’s transcended into more myth than human in the last 80 years.

I won’t say any more, as I DID see the preview show, and I think some technical issues were still being tweaked out when I saw it (I’ll know more when I return for my volunteer shift on the 24th).  Only to say that I’m glad as Hell that the new season of theatre has started up (and to say a sad lament for the now lost 11th THIRD WALL Season…may they rise again, ala the Gladstone!) here in Ottawa…I’m off the THE 39 STEPS tomorrow nite, and can’t wait.  Feels great.  Feels like I’m home.  Peace, love and soul,

The Visitor (and Winston)

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