by Lynn on October 2, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the CAA Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto, Ont. until November 12, 2023.

Presented by David Mirvish and John Sachs for Eclipse Live and Sony Music.

Music by Roy Orbison

Bood by David West Read

Directed  by Luke Sheppard

Choreographed by Fabian Aloise

Set by Arnulfo Maldonado

Costumes by Fay Fullerton

Lighting by Howard Hudson

Sound by Tom Marshall

Video design by George Reeve

Cast: Leon Craig

Alma Cuervo

Lena Hall

Manuel Pacific

Sian Reese-Williams

Nasim Ramírez

Noël Sullivan

Oliver Tompsett

Richard Trinder

Writer David West Read has written the book of In Dreams with depth, smarts and heart. Using the music of Roy Orbison to advance the story and flesh our characters, is inspired. This is one of the tightest most thought provoking ‘juke-box’ musicals around. Moving and joyful.

The Story. Kenna Ryan is living the carefree life of a country-rock and roll singer who always seems on the road. She gets some startling news from her doctor and we assume it’s bad. She sees an ad for a family run restaurant in New Mexico that specializes in Mexican food and memorials to commemorate the dead.  Kenna wants one of those—a memorial for herself–and she plans on inviting bandmates of her former rock group, Jane and Donovan, but not the drummer, Ramsey, because they had a relationship and they broke up. And Kenna will also attend her memorial.  Her bad health isn’t a spoiler. We learn this in the first 10 minutes and she spends the rest of the show keeping the bad news from her friends. Kenna lost track of her band-mates when they broke up and this will give her a chance to connect and make amends before the end.

The people who own the restaurant also have their issues. The place is run by Oscar, his pregnant wife Nicole and Oscar’s grandmother, Ana Sofia. Oscar is still mourning the death of his parents. He does not feel able to confide in Nicole. Ana Sofia proves to be a center of wisdom and sense when she secretly invites Ramsey as well. If Kenna is going to make amends with her friends, it should be all of her friends.

The Production. Writer David West Read has worked his wonders again. His previous musical hit was & Juliet, a re-imagining of what might have happened to Juliet (as in Romeo and Juliet) had she lived, set to established music. With In Dreams David West Read has created a story of a country-rock singer who has to face her life when she thinks it might be ending and reconnect with the relationships that she has neglected.  The story is connected with the stunning music of Roy Orbison. Roy Orbison’s music is full of longing, dreaming, wondering, loving, and regretting. Songs such as “Crying”, “It’s Over”, “Love Hurts” “In Dreams” (both in English and Spanish) all have such resonance in telling the story and fleshing out character that their meshing in the story is seamless.  David West Read’s script is funny, moving and goes right to the heart of these characters.  

Luke Sheppard directs In Dreams (as he did with & Juliet) creating a dynamic duo with David West Read. Luke Sheppard’s direction is economical, never flashy and always serves the piece and the characters. Relationships are beautifully established.

Front and center in this sparkling production is Kenna Ryan, played with full-throated, rocking energy by Lena Hall. She appears before the stage curtain ready to rock. There is swagger and attitude in her first appearance. When Kenna gets a call from her doctor with the bad news, that thing at the back of her mind, her health, now adds a touch of regret and vulnerability. She also has anger when Ramsey shows up—anger at him for their breakup and for the fact that he was even secretly invited. Lena Hall illuminates all these emotions.

Oliver Tompsett plays Ramsey with kinetic energy and a rousing voice. There is chemistry between Ramsey and Kenna because of the powerful performances of Oliver Tompsett and Lena Hall.

Alma Cuervo plays Ana Sofia with wisdom and a glint of mischief. What a privilege it is to see her on a stage. Her singing and interpretation of “Blue Bayou” will make you sit up and pay a new kind of attention to a song you thought you knew.

Manuel Pacific play Oscar with a quiet sadness. It’s a lovely performance of a man who is lost and can’t find his way to confide in his wife. Nasim Ramírez as Nicole is a strong presence, a wise partner who knows how to help her husband. The whole cast is very strong and play characters that are full bodied and surprising.

Set designer Arnulfo Maldonado has created the restaurant that is a mix of garish with neon signs that announce the menu and commemorative of the past souls that have been remembered. Along a shelf at the top of a wall are pictures and other memorabilia of those who have passed away.

In Dreams is a celebration of life, dreams, relationships and friends. And you will probably want to reacquaint yourself with all the music of Roy Orbison once you’ve heard some of it here.

Presented by David Mirvish and John Sachs for Eclipse Live and Sony Music.

Plays until Nov. 12, 2023.

Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (1 intermission).

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