Poetry in motion at Café
The play is the thing -- or was it? -- last week when Café Chantant, the student musical theatre troupe from l’École secondaire catholique Le Relais, mounted a daring production based on “Le Ciel à gagner,” a collection of poetry by Green Valley native David Ménard.
When the lights rose on the first night, the audience was taken aback at the production’s elaborate stylized two-level stage set dominated by a framework of towering steel girders referencing the sub structure of a highrise office building.
The action took place in a workplace full of office stereotypes, their faces exaggerated by make-up masks emphasizing their personality traits, values, hopes and dreams.
“Le Ciel à gagner” was based on Mr. Ménard’s own experience working for four years in a mundane office job, something that later provided him with his theme and the voices for his characters.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Mr. Ménard about seeing his poetry become the dialogue of a play.
“It’s quite something to see on stage what you created in the solitude of your room performed before over a hundred people a night,” he said.
“And I’m really impressed with the actors because it’s not an easy text to perform because it’s po- etry,” observes Mr. Ménard who attended all three performances. “It must have been so difficult for them to learn the hundreds of lines by heart.”
Outstanding were the musical segments arranged by final year student Isabelle Larocque who has been a mainstay of Café Chantant since she first arrived at Le Relais.
The 2017 Concours de talent de l’Est ontarien finalist’s musical arrangements and piano accompaniment, and her soaring and beautiful voice in the songs she performed, were highlights of the evening.
Also impressive was Camille Charbonneau who sang in a strong clear voice. She wrote her original solo song which drew applause. Ms. Charbonneau admits she is more comfortable singing in a theatre environment than in competition and it showed last week.
The entire cast including funnyman and Café Chantant stalwart Maxime Leroux, 17, explored the full range of both the tragic and the comic in their characters.
He also performed a musical solo and impressed with his capable and strong voice.
There were many excellent voices and the combined vocal power in finely tuned harmonies was truly effective and the drama and music integrated flawlessly.
Before their three-night run on the Le Relais stage, the week before the troupe performed the play over three nights at the 21st edition of Festival Théâtre Action en Milieu Scolaire (FTAMS) in Ottawa where, like in Alexandria last week, the students received a standing ovation each night.
CAFÉ CHANTANT: Poet David Ménard, winner of the 2016 Trillium French-language poetry prize and the author of “Le Ciel à gagner,” poses with cast members from Café Chantant after the April 19 performance of the student troupe’s play based on his latest...
A SCENE FROM THE SHOW: The show’s set was designed to resemble an office building.