Don’t call it a come­back

Garth Dra­bin­sky read­ies Sousatzka for the stage

Richmond Hill Post - - ARTS - by Steve Fisher

Re­hearsals for the large-scale (in ev­ery way pos­si­ble) new mu­si­cal

Sousatzka are well un­der­way at the El­gin and Win­ter Gar­den The­atre.

It’s a mas­sive un­der­tak­ing, with nearly as many de­sign­ers, tech­ni­cians and pro­duc­ers in the re­hearsal space as there are cast mem­bers. But the first scene we watch is a small and in­ti­mate mo­ment be­tween Tony Award–win­ners Vic­to­ria Clark (who plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter) and Judy Kay, which re­veals some of Sousatzka’s mys­te­ri­ous past.

Lead ac­tor Jor­dan Bar­row gives us a quick syn­op­sis.

“My char­ac­ter, Themba, and his mother leave South Africa to es­cape apartheid and jour­ney to Lon­don where the great Sousatzka gives mu­sic lessons. He’s a mu­si­cal prodigy, but he also has PTSD from the death and de­struc­tion he wit­nessed: his father’s im­pris­oned; he had to leave ev­ery­thing be­hind.

“He can’t see what he might have in com­mon with Madame Sousatzka, but we learn she es­caped Warsaw dur­ing the Holo­caust,” he con­tin­ues.

“So they de­velop this bond, es­pe­cially through mu­sic, of em­pa­thy, for their shared refugee ex­pe­ri­ences.”

The pro­duc­tion marks vet­eran the­atri­cal im­pre­sario Garth Dra­bin­sky’s first foray back into the­atre. Sousatzka is based on an orig­i­nal novel, which was it­self turned into a film.

Dra­bin­sky is not a fan.

“It didn’t work. I was in­volved in it, and it and the book had some of the same is­sues. [The book] is a rich source of im­agery, which is the essence of great lyrics in mu­si­cal the­atre, so that as­pect was im­por­tant. But the pow­er­ful tri­an­gu­lar re­la­tion­ship [be­tween Themba, his mother and Sousatzka], is, as it was in

Rag­time, the key to the story. “And nei­ther the book nor the movie did much to help you un­der­stand the con­text for these peo­ple. Where did Sousatzka come from? You see it all in the show. That’s what we’ve cre­ated — that and the prodigy’s back story and that of his mother,” Dra­bin­sky says.

For the prin­ci­pal ac­tors, those deep back stories help con­trib­ute to their dreams of orig­i­nat­ing new, com­plex roles, which is rare in mu­si­cal the­atre.

Toronto’s Ryan Allen (“born and raised!”) plays Themba’s father, Jab­u­lani. He has had high­pro­file roles, in­clud­ing that of the Gen­eral in The Book of Mor­mon on Broad­way.

“That was a ter­rific ex­pe­ri­ence, and I learned a lot, tak­ing over for the orig­i­nal Gen­eral, but it’ll be great to be back on a Toronto stage, orig­i­nat­ing some­thing new,” he says.

“For an ac­tor, this is the dream: to cre­ate a role, to have some own­er­ship of it.” Sousatzka be­gins previews on Feb. 25 at the El­gin The­atre, www.sousatzka­mu­si­cal.com.

L–R: Per­form­ers Fuschia! and Mon­tego Glover at a re­hearsal of ‘Sousatzka’

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