The Shaw Festival now has another miniature gem in its lunchtime crown due to the arrival of Leonard Bernstein’s one-act marvel, Trouble in Tahiti.
The success of the 45-minute musical examination (Bernstein writing both music and text) of a young couple’s crisis stems largely from the seamless collaboration between director Jay Turvey (who also assigns himself two of the bit parts) and musical director Paul Sportelli. Having worked together on and off the stage on so many projects, it’s not at all surprising that what is seen and heard fits like the proverbial glove.
As good as that foundation is, the production—quite literally on occasion—takes flight thanks to choreographer Linda Garneau who so effectively creates movement and dances for the leads and chorus alike that magically drive the story and music forward while totally understanding the skill sets of the troupe. The opening, marvellously silent pas de deux between Dinah (the radiant voice of Elodie Gillett is ideal for the chamber look and feel of the production) and Sam (Mark Uhre offers deft characterization along with beautifully crafted tenor lines) provides all of the loving back-story required to understand the “years later” angst and uncertainty of the suburban New York City couple. The echo of that introduces the most welcome talents of Shaw newcomer Stewart Adam McKensy as he exquisitely moves, lifts and leads Jacqueline Thair around the more troubled floor while Dinah and Sam sing for answers to their marital plight.
Then who would have guessed that the showstopper number would be in the gym as Sam—already sure of the outcome—goes through the final heat of a handball championship. Even tighter than the otherwise engaging commuter-train sequence, the athletic “combatants” jump benches, return shots, saucily snap towels and never miss a beat. They are spectacularly at one with the BIG triplets and percussive punctuation that snaps, crackles and pops from the on-stage quartet (Sportelli leads with customary authority and his colleagues rarely miss a cue; here’s hoping an angel can be found to make a concert grand available for the next round so that the keyboard can be as “natural” as the rest of the band).
This triple threat of Turvey, Sportelli and Garneau should now be given the keys to an even bigger vehicle, because with this production they have infectiously and inventively been able to make everything look like no trouble at all. JWR