Toronto Operetta Theatre opened a run of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld at the St. Lawrence Centre last night. Guillermo Silva-Marin gives it a pretty conventional treatment with minimal scenery, “Greek” costumes and no big surprises. It’s sung in English which has pros and cons for while the dialogue is intelligible enough the comprehensibility of the sung part is a bit variable.
In fact “a bit variable” describes most aspects of the singing. At its best it’s very good indeed. River Guard as Pluto is outstanding in every way and it’s not hard to see why he’s made the finals of the COC’s Centre Stage competition. Vania Chan, as Eurydice makes almost all the words of a high coloratura part clearly intelligible which is no mean feat. She’s also really funny and moves very well. Josh Clemenger is bluffly effective as Jupiter. Chan and Clemenger work well together but I’ve definitely seen more suggestive versions of the “Duo de la Mouche”. Tonatiuh Abrego as Orpheus is pretty good in the dialogue but becomes curiously wooden when he sings. All round though the central quartet works pretty well.
Among the host of minor characters there’s good and not so good. Greg Finney is his typically deadpan effective self as John Styx. Julia McVicar is a high energy and pleasing Diana. Mairi Demings, as Juno, uses her quite dark toned voice to good effect and there’s a very funny cameo by Handaya Rusli as Cerberus. Among the rest (and there are a lot of them) there are rather too many problems of pitch and intelligibility. That said there’s lots of energy and commitment.
There’s a ten piece band arrayed in the sort of mini orchestra pit that the Jane Mallett Theatre affords. It’s a good size orchestra for the space and it produces enough of an orchestral sound to satisfy. Larry Beckwith conducts with both energy and finesse.
It’s not the greatest Offenbach you will ever see but it’s got a lot going for it and it makes for an enjoyable evening. It was certainly well received by the audience (rather too well by the potato chip munching howler monkeys in the row behind me). There are further performances at 8pm tonight and 3pm tomorrow.
Photo credits: Gary Beechey