by Lynn on February 1, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming on-line as part of the Next Stage Festival, until February 13, 2022

Book, music and lyrics by Jake Schindler and Sam Boer

Directed by Margo Greve

Lighting by Mathilda Kane

Videographer and Editor, Patrick Hodgson

Cast: Jake Boer

Belinda Corpuz

Stephen Ingram

Jake Schindler

This charming folk musical was one of the productions of the Next Stage Festival that was to have performed live at the Ada Slaight Hall,  but because of COVID had to be filmed and presented as digitally streamed.

A lively, engaging musician, guitarist-singer (Sam Boer) sings of his eccentric, imaginative Grandma who was a writer who wrote stories night and day. Her grandchildren loved going to her small house, getting squeezing hugs from her, and most of all, listening to her read them the stories. The one they requested most often was Ursa and the Bear.

Ursa (the wonderful, expressive Belinda Corpuz) is teenager who feels at sea. She sings that there is no place she can feel at rest. She feels that she is different from those in her small town, but does not illuminate that difference. We are told by others that Ursa feels lost but it’s not for home. She feels lost in her world and that her small town is making her feel anxious if not sick. She decides to escape to the forest.

At the same time, in the forest, there is a Bear (a laid-back and sweet Stephen Ingram)  who is timid about leaving his home. It seems he has never left his home or seen another bear. He has a book that deals with everything to do with bears, from their need to hibernate to their mating details that he consults often, so he’s informed about bears. It’s just that he’s never felt the need to venture out to seek another bear. And then he meets Ursa in the forest.

Ursa and Bear come from different worlds, but they find an affinity in each other’s company. Bear invites her to his book-filled home. Bear, especially, is happy with Ursa’s company. At first he believes she is a bear, (one wonders how closely he looked at the pictures in his bear-book?). At night Bear shows Ursa the various star formations, especially Ursa Major, meaning “The Great Bear.” So, in a way Ursa is a bear. And one can say they are ‘star-crossed friends.’

Ursa enjoys staying with Bear. A month goes by and the seasons change. Bear has to give into his bear-function and hibernate. Ursa doesn’t understand why he has to sleep all the time. Bear tries to ignore his nature and keep awake for Ursa.

Ursa: A Folk Musical is a gentle metaphor of how people (creatures?) meet and are beguiled and charmed by the people who change us. One of the many songs of the show mentions how perfect strangers we meet can change us forever. In actual reality, that might have happened momentarily in the show, but change was not lasting.

It’s a sweet example of how people so different try and change to accommodate the partner and sometimes it works and sometimes not. Creators Jake Schindler and Sam Boer present us with a work that makes us look at relationships in a different way; question how they are different; how they are the same and what can be done, if anything to continue in that pairing.

Director Margo Greve and her committed cast tell the story with verve, energy and a quiet grace.

The music is melodic and the lyrics are engaging. At times the songs do seem a bit repetitive, and the way the story is presented suggests we will be hearing more about this eccentric Grandma, which we don’t.  But overall the sweetness and quirkiness of Ursa: A Folk Musical  is engaging.

Produced by the Uncommon Folk Collective

Running on line until Feb. 13, 2022.

Running Time: 1 hour, 13 minutes.

Leave a Comment