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"Out Of A Dream" is a labour of love

If there’s one recurring theme in these songs, it’s love. I almost wished we’d waited until the 14th to see it together. We walked into the beautifully redone York Theatre, expecting perhaps a glitzy or flashy affair. Instead, we were gently enveloped by what would become a very intimate evening.

Sayer Evans, Caitriona Murphy, Warren Kimmel and Kazumi Evans in Out Of A Dream.
The cast of Out Of A Dream: Sayer Evans, Caitriona Murphy, Warren Kimmel and Kazumi Evans. Not pictured: Kaylee Harwood.

My wife and I went to see Out Of A Dream this weekend, not really aware of what we were in for. I will admit that my smattering of exposure to Rodgers and Hammerstein as a child was limited to three movies: The Sound Of Music, South Pacific and The King and I. As much as I enjoyed hearing my old favourites, I was astonished by the sheer number of songs I had never heard before – and how good every last one was.  

If there’s one recurring theme in these songs, it’s love. I almost wished we’d waited until the 14th to see it together. We walked into the beautifully redone York Theatre, expecting perhaps a glitzy or flashy affair. Instead, we were gently enveloped by what would become a very intimate evening.

Watching the show, we both felt pulled into the romantic arc. The title of the piece evokes the dreaminess of the whole thing; I found myself becoming less aware of the time and my surroundings. The dynamics and pacing are perfect, the transitions smooth and easy. The quick tunes had us tapping our feet while the heartfelt ballads, I am not ashamed to say, had me tearing up. There are at least two pivotal moments during the show where you may find yourself suddenly in need of a tissue.

This is the work of Vancouver's Peter Jorgensen - actor and musical theatre director extraordinaire. With a cast of five prodigiously talented actors, minimal but effective staging and props, and 42 of the most well written songs you will ever hear, this is a production that delivers what it promises. Alongside veteran musical director Nico Rhodes, Jorgensen has deftly spliced together perhaps the most sophisticated presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's work to date.

Before opening night, I spoke with Peter by phone as he was putting the finishing touches on the final scenes. I asked Peter to describe how this revue came to be.

"It's really very sophisticated work", says Jorgensen. "I think audiences tend to assume a lot about Rodgers and Hammerstein, that it’s fluffy, like there's not much to it. But there is. That’s part of how they helped the musical mature, they chose subject matter than had depth to it."

In the world of musical theatre, there is no equal to the timeless work of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. They defined the modern musical, introducing a new era of maturity and sophistication to the art form. Their canon exemplifies the golden age of musical theatre. Most are familiar with their music from the Oscar winning film, "The Sound Of Music" - the most successful adaptation of a Broadway musical in history. Together they wrote some of the most enduring and well-loved music of the 20th century.

"This is a particular piece that I conceived, partly because I wanted to get to know these guys better, but also because there are a couple of existing Rodgers and Hammerstein revues, and [I didn't feel] the two major ones pay tribute to their work in the way I wanted."

Jorgensen pointed out how Rodgers and Hammerstein’s immediate appeal lies in its ability to tell convincing stories about love and loss, about family and society.

"I sometimes joke that the subtitle for the show might be 'Highly Flawed Men and The Women Who Love Them'. They all come to embrace that love’s not perfect, love’s not neat and tidy, love’s something that takes courage and strength and bravery to face. And when you get to know the real life stories of Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers, you realize that they knew a thing or two about relationships and struggles in marriage."

Peter Jorgensen's love for the music that shaped our understanding of what a musical should be is evident. There was not a flaw to be found in the delivery, the singing is world class, and the musicians behind the scenes equally gifted. Jorgensen described his vision for the kind of theatre he hopes to bring to a growing audience.

"What we try to do at Patrick Street Productions is create musical theatre that people who love musicals will love - and people who hate musicals will love! Our goal is to create a level of sophistication and depth that people maybe aren’t used to experiencing in a musical. Those who love Rodgers and Hammerstein will come because they love those shows. But maybe there are people thinking, 'Oh, Rodgers and Hammerstein, it's pretty light and fluffy, it’s not edgy enough, its not contemporary enough’ - those people MUST come and see this show, to experience the depth and sophistication of the writing."

Having seen the show myself, I can attest. I loved it. I do not consider myself an avid theatre patron. But my wife and I were both deeply affected by this show, so much more than from what a movie might do. There is something about the human element of a live show that recorded media cannot reproduce. If you've ever gotten shivers from a perfectly sung note, you can expect many moments like that here.

Jorgensen's talent in crafting a successful revue reflects the genius of these two men who gave so much to music.

"There is so much artistry, so much to appreciate in what they do", he says. "It's really a show for any generation of musical or theatre lovers to come and experience."

Out Of A Dream is presented by The Cultch and runs until February 16th at the newly reopened York theatre on Commercial Drive. Tickets start at $19 and are available at the Cultch box-office (604-251-1363) or online at thecultch.com.

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