by Lynn on June 15, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the High Park Amphitheatre, Toronto, Ont. until June 19.

Book, music and lyrics by Fatuma Adar

Director and choreographer, Ray Hogg

Music supervisor, orchestrator and arranger, Adam Sakiyama

Musical director & piano/conductor, Chris Barillard

Set by Brian Dudkiewicz

Costumes by Georges Michael Fanfan

Lighting by Logan Raju Cracknell

Sound by Matteo Desimone

Cast: Krystle Chance

Starr Domingue

Omar Forrest

Rose-Mary Harbans

Gavin Hope

Germain Konji

Michael-Lamont Lytle

Danté Prince

Shakura S’Aida

Travae Williams

Band: Chris Barillard

John Gzowski

Evan Porter

Aubrey Dayle

Impressive effort.

The Story. It’s 1991 in Somalia.This is the story of Batoul, a young Somali woman and her father Zaki, mother Safiya and grandmother Halima. Zaki is an accomplished photographer and he has just gotten a cultural job in government. Things are looking good for the family. But on that very day civil war breaks out and the family has to leave immediately. They immigrate to Canada but Halima stays behind because Somalia is her home, her land and where she belongs.

The family settles in Dixon Road, a neighbourhood near Pearson airport that is the heart of the Somali community. They are taken in by a family friend, Abdi, to live in his one-bedroom apartment. Abdi drives a cab and suggests that that might be the job for Zaki, although Zaki has hopes of better jobs.

Combining traditional Somali melodies, R&B and contemporary verse, Dixon Road is an exhilarating journey about dreams, displacement, and finding a new sense of home. Join The Musical Stage Company & Obsidian Theatre Company for the arrival of an extraordinary new Canadian musical.

The Production. Fitting in, yearning for home, longing to find common ground are some of the many themes of the musical. While Safiya wants a traditional life for Batoul, to learn how to cook and keep house and marry, Batoul has other aspirations. She wasn’t to go to school and educate herself. She wants to be a writer. She has an ally in her father, but has to work hard to win over her mother. Batoul has a friend who wants to be a computer games creator but his father wants him to be an engineer. The children want to follow their own path while their parents want something safer and more secure. T’was ever thus no matter the culture.

Brian Dudkiewicz has festooned the back of the space with colourful, long scarfs etc. that represent Somalia. Georges Michael Fanfan’s costumes are often traditional for the men and women. Batoul (Germain Konji) gets into the traditional clothes of Canada—jeans, t-shirt, etc. Konji is a vibrant, compelling performer as Batoul, fierce and a beautiful singer. As Zaki, Gavin Hope is a gentle soul looking for hope and trying to optimistic. Starr Domingue as Safiya illuminates Safiya’s struggle to fit in and find her own place in that strange world.

And while the effort of is impressive I have some concerns. Ray Hogg’s direction is either busy or simplistic. There’s a lot of business with moving various screens around the set that is distracting and adds nothing. Much of the action of the huge amphitheatre is in a small space centre stage and often two steps downstage.

My biggest concern is with the piece itself. The book seems slight compared to all the songs that we are listen too. I can appreciate that Fatuma Adar is using many forms of music to tell her story, often it seems we are being bombarded with song after song telling the same story, but in slightly different way. Not every thought requires a song, as seems to be the case here. Also not every character, if not developed, should not have a song. Halima and Safiya have a song “Breaking the Cycle” without giving context before it. We learn information about Halima in Act II that seems to come from nowhere. A rethink is in order.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes with an intermission is too long and seems draggy. A re-think of the songs is in order and the piece should be 90 minutes with no intermission.

 Comment. Fatuma Adar is one gifted woman. She has written, composed and lyricized Dixon Road drawing on her own life and that of her parents as immigrants. She has given the audience a look into what is it like to be a Muslim, celebrating Ramadan and then ending the month long fast with Eid, who might not be aware of Muslim traditions etc. We see the traditions of making certain food at those holy holiday times.

Adar has also created a community of caring, generous people who take in their fellows and help them to cope and settle. Dixon Road is a journey of discovery for all its participants in one way or another, and reminds us of our own journey.

But I think that Dixon Road needs another look to tighten and rethink it.

A Musical Stage Company and Obsidian Theatre Company production, in association with Canadian Stage.

Plays until June 19, 2022.

Saw it June 14, 2022.

Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes, (including one intermission)

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