Review: ‘TIL THEN

by Lynn on July 18, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at ‘1871’ Berkeley Church, 315 Queen St. East, Toronto, Ont. until July 20, 2022.

Book and story by Andrew Seok

Additional book by Kyle Brown

Directed by Andrew Seok

Musical Director, Andrew Ascenzo

Choreographer, Nickesha Garrick

Arranger, Andew Seok

Lighting by Imogen Wilson

Sound engineer, Jeremy Michelle

Cast: Ashaya Babiuk

Daniela Bauer

Jillian Cooper

Tatyana Doran

Nickesha Garrick

Zara Jestadt

Elena Juatco

Lily Librach

Allistair (Allie) McDonald

Jeff Madden

Sera-Lys McArthur

Annick Robledo

Kimberly-Ann Truong

Tan Vu

The Live Band:

Andrew Ascenzo—Musical director, cello, guitar and piano

Virtual Orchestra:

Andrew Seok—Piano, guitar, bass, drums, trombone, saxophone

Alix Toskov-violin, viola

Andrew Ascenzo-cello

Chris Staig-guitar

Scott Metcalfe-piano

A well-intentioned, very earnest, song cycle about what it was like coping with the pandemic.

Precious little information was given beforehand about this first show, which was intentional according to Andrew Seok, who got the idea for the story and wrote the book. During the pandemic, he wrote to various composer/lyricists to write a song for the show about how they were coping during the pandemic Seok then took the songs and arranged them for the evening. There are offerings from: Andrew Seok himself, Susan Aglukark, Leslie Arden, Jewelle Blackman, Marcia Johnson, Britta Johnson, Chilina Kennedy, Richard Ouzounian and David Hein, to name some of them.

We were all given a card with the show title, ‘Til Then’ that noted there were 17 news songs, three stories and one defining era. And at the back of the card it asks “In the past 2 years, what was your biggest regret? What was your biggest triumph or struggle? What is your happiest/funniest memory?”

The audience was invited to answer one of these questions and submit the card where it might be selected and read during the show. One of the audience comments though was touching and wonderful, regarding “regret.” The writer regretted not going to the hospital to see their ill grandpa because they were afraid of seeing him sick. Touching.

I can appreciate that these are really hard times for theatres but not having a complete program for this show listing the full cast, creatives, the songs, who wrote them and who sings them, was really unfortunate and clicking on a QR code doesn’t do it if you can’t turn on your phone to look at the program.

I call the show, well-intentioned and earnest because the songs touch on loneliness; walking and appreciating nature, trees and birds; trying to cope with isolation; living with another person when you might want to be alone; knowing you are loved; appreciating the life cycle of a cicada; awkwardly getting back into dating and actually talking to another person; and missing funerals and grieving for friends because of being in lockdown.

This is all well-meaning except that we have heard these themes in various forms, for the last two years, either in other original shows, on social media, in sketch comedy, personal essays, etc. In a way ‘Til Then  is actually out of date and derivative because it’s been done and said before about many and various experiences of the pandemic.  One of the songs, “You Are Loved” was reprised it seemed more than the on-line program suggested, almost as if they were trying to convince us.  It’s almost as if the good people of Eclipse Theatre Company actually thought the audience in attendance hadn’t been to a theatre in two years and this material would seem fresh.  That’s just so hard to believe because theatres have been coming back fearlessly in one way or another for at least a year.  

The cast of 14 (!!!) is first rate and all fine singers with eight leads and six ensemble but too often the stage just seemed cluttered with two leads singing and the ensemble directed by Andrew Seok to move in the background, which I thought just pulled focus.

As is often the cast, whether in a bone fide theatre or a church, as was the case here, the balance of sound was off. Too often the microphoned cast is drowned out by the microphoned live band or virtual orchestra. It’s frustrating if one actually wants to hear the lyrics.

Regrettably ‘Til Then is a miss.

Eclipse Theatre Company  

Runs until: July 20, 2022.

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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