It's official. UBC Theatre need to do more musicals. Directed by MFA directing student Barbara Tomasic, Triumph of Love presents easy laughs in the tale of confused, complicated, cross-dressing, cheesy love.
Turning traditional prince-pursues-princess musical style on its head, Triumph of Love tells the story of Princess Leonide’s (Catherine Fergusson) pursuit of her beloved Agis (Zach Wolfman), whilst causing the entire household to fall in love with her. Made up of a cast of seven final-year BFA acting students, this production is the ideal way to finish their UBC Theatre careers.
The "devilishly debonair" production takes musical notes from other well-known and beloved composers of musicals -- one can hear hints of Sondheim, Lionel Bart, Leonard Bernstein and Andrew Lloyd-Webber in the ridiculousness of the story. Such a story can only be told through musical; although elements of the tale are predictable, lyricist Susan Birkenhead is fully aware of this and makes almost a mockery of the serious theatrical elements. Throughout the show, the audience is vastly aware that this is, indeed, a musical -- which is certainly not a bad thing.
Andrew Pye’s lighting design undoubtedly deserves a mention. Completely in sync with the music and lyrics, the effects caused laughter (of a good kind) and added new dimensions to this rather adult Disney-style musical.
Set in 1732 French style and located in Sparta, the musical uses text and musical styles from the entire spectrum of genres. Full of gardening innuendoes, sexual puns and wonderfully terrible rhymes, the easy laughs generated from Triumph of Love are the result of equally strong performances across the spectrum, on stage and off.
Each scene left the audience thinking that there couldn’t be anything funnier, but the chemistry and rapport between each and every cast member ensured that every single scene generated laughter, yet one never tired of the humour. The two hours of the performance flew by, and it certainly was, as in the script, an "engineered triumph."
Composer Jeffrey Stock employs light, operatic sounds rather than typical musical brassy tones one might expect to hear. Making use of leitmotifs, the music adds familiarity to the melodies, with characters combining their own musical motifs in a cacophony of sound, highlighting the confusion and change in statuses.
The hilarity of the cast made every detail matter. Ghazal Azarbad and Matt Kennedy, even when singing about a single tree, made the audience fall in love with their two unfortunately adorable characters, and Cassandra Szabo, Charlotte Wright and Nathan Cottell made the perfect "mélànge a trois" throughout.
As a cast of actors, rather than a cast of singers, the musical aspects of Triumph of Love were strong. Full of demanding roles vocally, there were solid harmonies and dramatic finishes to songs. The quartet at the end of act one was reminiscent of Bernstein’s West Side Story, and helped by Kate De Lorme’s sound design the cast were certainly well-equipped to pull it off.
It is refreshing to see a piece of theatre which isn’t obviously trying to make you think. Of course, one can discover important social issues implied throughout the production, but the strong one-liners and puns, accompanied by Christopher King’s superb musical direction means that Triumph of Love is an ideal way to take time out of any real-world stresses and spend some time just for enjoyment.
"Penetrating logic and stimulating thought?" Triumph of Love certainly does both these things and more. Everything is present in the wonderfully hilarious script, and as an audience we don't have to figure anything out -- it's all spelled out for us. Yet there are jokes every other line, keeping the audience in uproarious laughter. You will want to listen to every word and catch every reaction onstage. If you miss anything, you'll want to see this production again.
Triumph of Love is playing until April 4 in the Frederic Wood Theatre