Yorkville ~ The Musical

You Can Take the Girls out of the Country…

Blyth Theatre goers are used to having a laugh at the expense of city folk who wander into the country and get lost. We love to laugh at urbanites who just don’t get it.

Well, Yorkville ~ The Musical has turned that scenario inside out. This show takes a couple of country girls and puts them in them in Toronto’s trendy, tony Yorkville district.

This show marks another twist for the Blyth festival – it’s a musical, in a theatre where plays are the norm.Yorkville

The show opens on an upscale Yorkville street, where even the homeless are very well dressed and drink Starbucks. The pair of young women thinks they can afford the monthly fees at a Yorkville condo, but soon realize the decimal point has to be moved over a couple of places. The two go job-hunting but get nothing but rejection in a sad-but-true song called “Sorry Sorry Sorry”. Finally, their neighbour, a tall, gorgeous, rich, mail-order bride from Russia helps them determine what they are good at: step-dancing. They become dancing waitresses under her direction.

Despite help from a condo manager sprouting rules and a not-gay hairdresser, the girls struggle with city life. When the reality of expensive Yorkville sets in, one of the duo is ready to return to Druxburg, their Huron County home, somewhere near Listowel. But of course, love triumphs and like Mary Tyler Moore so long ago, we know the girls are “gonna make it after all.”

The country girls are played delightfully by Jess Abramovitch and Steph Sy. Abramovitch has a natural, warm and comfortable acting style, while Sy brings energy.

Sarah Cornell plays Tasia, the Russian with a business plan. She has some great lines, using her lack of knowledge of the English language for word play: she tells the dancers to “kick it up a snatch”. Cornell has an impressive bio, and will be remembered for playing Ulla in The Producers in Toronto, L.A. and Broadway. While her character provides much of the humour, on occasion it’s difficult to understand the Russian accent and the audience loses some jokes.

Ryan Bondy as the condo manager is reminiscent of a young Jim Carrey in his frustration travelling rural roads. Michael Torontow is excellent as the handsome hairdresser, and has an exceptional singing voice in “Don’t get too close” and “I’m not gay”. Rob Torr adds comedy playing multiple roles, including the gas station owner who was a real crowd-pleaser.

It is wonderful to see a new Canadian musical, filled with Canadian content. It’s a light, romantic comedy with a good combination of solos and duets. Credit goes to Director Donna Feore for bringing a new work to life. Blyth is fortunate to have Feore, who directed Fiddler on the Roof at the Stratford Festival this year and has other Stratford directing credits.

The staging of a musical can be a bit of a challenge when they aren’t part of the usual fare. The three piece orchestra, while providing excellent music, was a little too loud at times drowning out the singers, and at other times forcing the singers to belt loudly, despite their amplification.

Author Carolyn Hay didn’t do enough rural homework in some of places – for example, every Huron County girl knows that you can’t play ringette with a broomstick. It is obvious from the dialogue that the writer didn’t know what real ringette is. But overall, she does well exploiting the urban-rural differences. The two main characters are believable, and then the Hay creates comedy using caricatures and stereotypes in the supporting roles.

Yorkville ~ The Musical continues at the Blyth Festival in repertoire until August 11. Call 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or go to www.blythfestival.com for tickets.

Yorkville ~ The Musical
Book & lyrics by Carolyn Hay
Music by Tom Szczesniak
Directed and Choreographed by Donna Feore
Musical direction by Tom Szczesniak
Performed by Jess Abramovitch, Ryan Bondy, Sarah Cornell, Steph Sy, Michael Torontow, Rob Torr
Musicians: Junior Riggan, Stephen Szczesniak, Tom Szczesniak.
Blyth Festival, Blyth
July 5 to August 11, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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