Review: FINALLY THERE’S SUN, Stratford Festival

by Lynn on September 18, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person under the Festival Theatre Canopy, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont. until Sept. 26.

Curated and directed by Sara Farb and Steve Ross

Music director, Franklin Brasz

Lighting by Kaileigh Krysztofiak

Sound by Peter McBoyle

Cast: Noah Beemer

Sara Farb

Germaine Konji

Steve Ross

The Band:

Franklin Brasz, conductor, keyboard

Dave Thompson, acoustic guitar, electric guitar

Michael McClennan, acoustic bass, electric bass

David Campion, drum kit

From the info on the show:


“…a musical journey through a year of enormous change and growth. It explores the isolation, the loneliness, the upheaval and the unexpected silver linings that came out of a time like no other. Join us to reflect on this “great pause” as we move forward and get back to living freely.”

The twenty songs in the cabaret are listed in alphabetical order. They aren’t sung in that order. I think it’s the curators, Sara Farb and Steve Ross being impish and cagy. After all, this past 18 months or so have left us unsettled, confused, angry, fragile-minded and emotional. We never knew from one day to the other what was coming. What better way to encapsulate that ‘confusion’ than by listing the songs to be sung, in alphabetical order, then singing them in the order that made most sense as we carefully picked our way through the ordeal.

The songs at the beginning were wistful, about remembering a better time: “I Remember” from Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim, in which a person remembers sky among other things.  Sara Farb sang with quiet emotion “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” by Randy Newman, in which the lyric talks of ‘human kindness’ that existed so much at the beginning of the pandemic, before the anger set it. Steve Ross sang “If You Can Find Me, I’m Here again from Evening Primrose sung almost with a wink, but not with desperation.

Isolation and loneliness set in. Noah Beemer sang “Answer Me” From The Band’s Visit with such longing and also hope. Germaine Konji recited her searing poem of “The Smearing of Silent Blood” that conjured the murder of George Floyd and the rage the erupted because of it. It was a poem that nailed us to the seat because of Konji’s impassioned performance.

As the emotions shifted during the pandemic so did the emotions of the songs. “Our Time/Like It Was” from Merrily We Roll Along looked hopefully to a better time full of anticipation and optimism. The group blended beautifully on this haunting combination of two songs from that haunting show.

“Light of a Clear Blue Morning” by Dolly Parton just lifts up the listener to all sorts of possibilities as only Ms Parton can. Sara Farb sang it with clarity and a sense of release as a corner seemed to be turned in the pandemic.

“Time/I Feel So Much Spring” by William Finn from A New Brain carries on this sense of renewal and hope.

There was little patter between singers in the concert but there were inserts of statistics, facts and comments about the pandemic and words from experts that put things in context.

Franklin Brasz conducted the band and played the keyboards beautifully. The sound balance was perfect so that we heard the singers clearly as well as the band who did not overpower anyone. The concert showed a lot of thought in the selections of songs and what they meant in terms of what we have gone through in the last 18 months. And we came through singing, or at least tapping our toe to those who sang to us, beautifully.

Produced by the Stratford Festival.

Plays until: Sept. 26, 2021.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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