Review: Evangeline musical a true gift

Lennie MacPherson comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 22, 2015

Evangeline has found her way back here.

It was quite the ordeal.

This production is enormous. Not just in the logistics of its creation, but in scope, and in artistic ambition.

Two years ago, Islanders were treated to the world premiere of Evangeline.

People were widely impressed, and moved by it.

We also understood that it was an evolving work, and were willing to accept certain aspects that weren't fully developed, simply because we were grateful that the centre would take such a bold move to stage a show like this - an earnest, ambitious Canadian show.

This year, the payoff is evident.

Creator Ted Dykstra has poured his soul into this work based on Longfellow's epic poem.

Bob Baker has taken the reigns as director.

His commitment and vision are well articulated.

The music finds its way deep into you. And the writing is balanced. Its wistful and big, but with many human, funny moments.

Carrying the weight of this story, the performers are just magic. Their family bonds so sincere.

With a cast of this size, one might expect some filler. But not here.

Everyone who has to handle more than a couple of lines finds full character beneath.

And with a score that features such demanding swells of emotion, the energy of the cast is truly commendable.

Of course, to cover such a sweeping journey, you have to rely on a little short-hand to define the regions and cultures encountered.

But it avoids caricature, and just serves the larger narrative.

Josée Boudreau is sweet and honest as Evangeline. She has a masterful voice.

Jay Davis is her love, Gabriel. He’s affable and strong, which makes his breaking point really hit home.

Laurie Murdoch aches with conflict, as he tries to remain the stoic face of imperial orders. A fascinating choice to act, in part, as a narrator.

Brent Carver plays a stirring Father Felician. What a presence.

Réjean Cournoyer teased us with moments of contrition, but is just so deliciously dastardly as Captain Hampson.

Shame to not be able to list the many outstanding performances. It will have to suffice to say that the chorus of voices will shake you.

Along with the rest of the production, the set has matured.

The moody, woody stage adapts smoothly, as the journey takes us from the Maritimes down the coast of North America.

The lighting is smart and digital projection has rarely been used so tastefully as it is here.

A powerful work to cap off one of the most well-rounded seasons I can recall at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Adds perspective to the stunning Samuel Holland exhibit now in the gallery, as well.

And I hope it is a signal of the sort of commitment to art we can expect in the coming years.

Evangeline will remain a significant part of Canadian theatre well into the future.

And we were given the privilege to watch it grow in our own community.

What a gift.

 

 

Lennie MacPherson, a Charlottetown-based writer, actor and musician, writes theatre reviews for The Guardian. He welcomes feedback at mockmywoods@gmail.com.