Comment: BLACKOUT, High Park.

by Lynn on August 5, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live, in person, outdoors in High Park, Toronto, Ont.

Book by Steven Gallagher

Music and lyrics by Anton Lipovetsky

Director/dramaturg, Ann Hodges

Musical director and orchestrator, Wayne Gwillim

Set by Brandon Kleiman

Costumes by Alex Amini

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Sound by Kaitlyn MacKinnon

Cast: Brandon Antonio

Michael de Rose

Chilina Kennedy

Rami Khan

Germaine Konji

Yemie Sonuga

Jonathan Winsby

Synthia Yusuf

The Band: Wayne Gwillim, piano, conductor

Steven John Dale, guitar.

Note: Because Blackout is a work in progress and a ‘preview production’ still in development, for a complete production in the future, this won’t be a ‘formal’ review, but a ‘comment.’

Mitchell Marcus, the always exuberant, newly minted CEO of the Musical Stage Company, welcomed the audience back to live theatre. He got a loud round of applause. He also gave one of the most thoughtful, moving ‘Land Acknowledgements’ I’ve heard in a long time. He acknowledged “the uncovering of our history of damage” and talked about the land and the stewards of it. But that message of “history of damage” was sobering.

Steven Gallagher (bookwriter) and Anton Lipovetsky (composer & lyricist) who created Blackout write: “Blackout is a musical about the connections people made one hot August night in 2003. When the lights went out, something miraculous happened. Everyone felt a little braver. It was a night to take a chance, have a drink with your neighbour, and share stories with strangers. We came out of the blackout a little changed, a little more connected.

As we emerge from another crisis, this one lasting a lot longer than twenty-four hours, we are all looking to make those connections again. To be in the same space with one another, to laugh with loved ones, to hold each other close. The resilience of the people of Toronto is inspiring and as we celebrate moving forward, we can’t imagine a better place to start reconnecting than High Park under the stars on a warm summer night.”


Blackout has been workshopped and developed over the years. I would think more work will happen so there are some questions I had while watching and listening.

This version of Blackout focuses on four couples over three specifically named sections. Gemini is about Eddie (Synthia Yusuf) and Leighton (Chilina Kennedy) who are two estranged sisters. Pandora is about Pandora (Yemie Sonuga) and her husband Manny (Jonathan Winsby) and Sarah (Germaine Konji) and a new acquaintance Flynn (Rami Khan) as they have an impromptu party in Pandora and Manny’s backyard. Cygnus is about Lenin (Michael de Rose) who meets Zachary (Brandon Antonio) in the park by accident.

Each segment happens at different times in the blackout. Gemini takes place in Eddie’s apartment during the daytime. The blackout is in effect but it has not dampened any activity. Eddie is a confident woman. Her sister Leighton is a bit flighty. She is into Chakras, crystals and astrology. They have been estranged since their mother’s funeral some time before. Leighton drops by since she was on the subway and so close to her sister’s apartment.

I wanted to know why Leighton decided to visit. What prompted it? Each sister has issues with the other but also a history of getting along at one time. Perhaps the prickliness can be more fleshed out.  

Pandora takes place at 2 am in the backyard of Pandora and Manny’s house. Pandora met Sarah in the convenience store and just invited her home for a drink. Flynn is Pandora and Manny’s tenant who lives in the basement. Manny was hoping for a quiet evening with Pandora. They have an important appointment the next day. Pandora wants to avoid it all and have fun with people.

Again, the story between Pandora and Manny should be fleshed out and expanded. The lives of the other two guests are also ripe for development. Moving piece to be sure.

Cygnus takes place at 5 am in a park. Cygnus refers to the star in the sky. Lenin has talked to Cygnus for solace in his lonely life and needs assurance now. Lenin meets Zachary, an attractive man who has just come from a wedding, his own. Talk about rife with possibility. This segment seems almost complete in itself, but it certainly can be expanded. What kind of life-work-existence has Lenin lived? What kind of a tease is Zachary? Has he had an epiphany in the park?

 The music and lyrics by Anton Lipovetsky are clever, upbeat and touching. They beautifully move the story and flesh out the characters. We get the sense of each personality in the smart lyrics. Steve Gallagher’s book is also moving. The stories reference the blackout but as a background. The issues already existed but the blackout gave them a reason to be revealed.

Ann Hodges’ direction is clear, spare and uses the space very well. The band supports the singers and doesn’t overpower them. It was lovely being in the amphitheater at High Park seeing a play.

I look forward to the next iteration of Blackout.

ps. also, when leaving the park a fence along some of the way had lights to illuminate our path, and tied to each small section of the fence was an orange ribbon signifying the discovery of the remains of the Indigenous children who were buried on the grounds of residential schools. Sobering reminder.

Produced by the Musical Stage Company

Runs until August 15, 2021.

Running time: 100 minutes, no intermission.

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1 Алиса August 16, 2021 at 6:27 pm

Musical Stage Company, founded in 2004, is an esteemed presenter of musical theatre, whether extant or new. In fact, I would place MSC among the most important in the country when it comes to this genre. Regardless of the relative merits of the material, the company always mounts quality work, which is why I am an admirer. was originally slated for MSC’s 2021-2022 season, but the company has taken advantage of Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park program to, as they say in the trade, get the show on its feet before a live audience. Another reason for this preview production is the similarities between the 2003 blackout and the present pandemic, both of which brought the city to its knees. An audience would surely feel the resonances, and in fact, we do.