The waters and the winds from the underworld may be dousing down Montreal’s electric wiring this weekend, but dare I say the inconspicuous culprit of this metropolitan blackout is a high-wattage theatrical wonder currently taking the city by tempest.
The deities of Greek mythology are manifestly amongst us as Mythic makes its hyped North American Premiere at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts this fall – an electrifying stage spectacle met by thunderous ovation on a rainy Halloween opening night. And a mightily invigorating retelling of the origin of seasons it is with its green take on an old legend: a slick, vernacular adaptation for a hip new generation of theatregoers.
And yet, with its timeless themes of conflict, devotion, and love in family, it’s bound to transcend and bridge gaps in age.
Featuring original book and lyrics by Marcus Stevens and contemporary music and orchestrations by Oran Eldor, Mythic takes us from heaven to hell and back in a wild riff of the well-known myth of Persephone.
Here framed in her teenage years, the Greek goddess rebels against her well-meaning but overprotective mother Demeter in order to escape her sheltered, mundane existence and find her own “place in the pantheon” (classic “I Want” number) among the idols of Olympus. Persephone’s journey towards independence, however, spirals down from the celestial blue into shady Hades’ crepuscular black world below when a scheming Aphrodite casts them under a love spell.
Pastures may not be more emerald on the other side, but, as per the venerable adage: there is light to be found even in the darkest of places.
And it is positively love that prevails in this rip-roaring romp (here helmed by Brian Hill) – one that steers clear of the murky myth of Persephone’s abduction and instead propels the young Goddess of the Underworld to her empowerment. Upbeat tunes, snappy lyrics, and explosive dancing summon feel-good party vibes in this edgy piece that oft plays more like a pop-rock concert (beloved musical director Nick Burgess leads the live band of six). Kineticism is Mythic’s defining virtue and the intermissionless, one-act affair flies fast and ferociously as a result.
Driving the high horsepower musical home is an all-star, all-Canadian cast featuring Julia McLellan as a charismatic Persephone. Alongside Heather McGuigan as the boho-chic Harvest Goddess Demeter, they convincingly sell the centrepiece mother-daughter relationship that roots Mythic and elevates it beyond sugary surface entertainment. Exceptional heart and performance technique emanate from both leading ladies, and their duet “I Will Be Your Home” is the emotional apogee of the night.
Making their own gunpowder appearances are a magnetic Jessica Gallant as an artful Aphrodite (she reigns as a standout; “Ew!” is a riot), an instantly likeable Aadin Church as a megalomaniacal Zeus, and a charmingly subdued James Daly as a moody Hades. All are empyrean presences in their own turn.
The real motor of Mythic, however, may just be its Greek Chorus – a rock solid ensemble comprising the triple threat talents of Megan Brydon, Alexia Gourd, Kathline Gréco, Patrick Park, Eva Petris, Matt Raffy, and Jacob Sheffield. Avihai Haham’s thrilling choreography is an indisputable highlight of this production and it is executed by the septet of artists with infectious energy and machinal precision.
“Industrial” indeed is the fitting look and feel for a streamlined show about reinvention – the perennial cycle of change of nature and of the self. Olivier Landreville’s scaffolding set is a novel vision at the Segal, and with Martin Sirois’ striking lighting one can’t help but recall the riveting rock aesthetic of Rent and Next to Normal. Costume designer Louise Bourret re-ascertains her own real-life goddess status with her slick leather and denim getups (Aphrodite’s garbs in particular are of a Dionysian decadence). Insert expert sound design by Patrice d’Aragon, Sylvin Sévigny and Steve Marsh and we’re transported to the urban sur and sub-terrestrial.
(Might it also be added as an aside that one of the creative highs of the soirée was the ingenious use of fabric in 11 o’clock number “Look to the Sky.” Sheer craftsmanship and theatre magic.)
Mythic feels minty fresh in Montreal – and right on the money when we look to current New York trends (think Hadestown and Hercules). Youthful and heedful of 2019 sensibilities, there is Broadway potential here. The local production has already extended due to popular demand and life after this run seems almost a given.
For classicists, however, the selfie-taking spectacle falls short of substance. The book of this easy breezy musical is featherlight and airy, presenting essential plot points of the Greek fable – or even slashing them altogether – without engaging build and development. There is some depth, as aforementioned, in the Persephone-Demeter kinship and in the piece’s elementary critique of a power and celebrity-obsessed culture, but story and character arcs are rushed. Understandable, I suppose, given the 90 minute cap.
And that’s not to say mythology diehards won’t enjoy the show; Mythic is dynamite and divine fun. Its intention and target audience are crystalline clear, and, per its own message of expressing one’s authentic identity, it commendably stays true to that.
It’s a hit for the Segal – who auspiciously continues to evolve its programming for modern audiences and to lead a surge of musical theatre in Montreal.
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts presents
A North American Premiere
Now extended until November 24th
$53 – $67 (Group, Senior, Student, Under 30 discounts available)
(514) 739.7944 | www.segalcentre.org