Reviewed by Robin Breon
With minimal resources offset by maximum ambitions, The Toronto Operetta Theatre did a great service for the local musical theatre loving public with their recent production of the seldom produced musical, Lady in the Dark. The production itself was ambitious and prescient when it ran on Broadway for 18 months from 1941 to 1943. And with the added hindsight of Steven Bach's 2001 biography of Moss Hart, one cannot help but be struck by the rich contextual template that forms the core of the story and acts as the rack that stretches (not without some pain) the possibility of the musical theatre of its day.
The Kurt Weill score sounds like he was working with Brecht in the first act and then links up with Cole Porter in the second. And this is ok because Elizabeth Beeler's take on the depression laden fashion magazine editor, Liza Elliott, requires her to cope with her manic mood swings in psychoanalysis in the first half while having the opportunity to become a bit of a vaudevillian in the musically lively second act. That is of course, if she can keep up with Thom Allison's thoroughly gay fashion designer turned ringmaster in the second act dream sequence. It's the role that stole the show with Danny Kaye in the original production and Allison does the same 65 years later.
Moss Hart was of course working out his ambivalence toward his own homosexual impulses through a prolonged period of psychoanalysis during this period, and it's truly fascinating to see his neuroses turned into a musical - and a very good one at that!
Director Guillermo Silva-Marin was probably wise to camp it up with Curtis Sullivan as the macho advertising manager Charley Johnson and Fred Love as the handsome movie matinee idol Randy Curtis. One really shouldn't have to take either of them too seriously. Although the TOT is a small scale operation, their audience base is broad and appreciative of the work. The 13 member orchestra (squeezed into the isle between the apron and the front row) directed by Jeffrey Huard did yeomen's work and never flagged.
I wasn't intending to see this production and only by chance was able to catch it on the last performance of a short run- literally obtaining the last seat available in the house. It must have been Kismet, which incidentally is the next TOT production opening on April 22 at the Jane Mallet Theatre in Toronto.