Ottawa, ON, Sep 19, 2011 — "Amelia: The Girl Who Wants to Fly" has opened the season at the Great Canadian Theatre Company in Ottawa, running through October 2. Resident theater critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.
AMELIA: THE GIRL WHO WANTS TO FLY by John Gray, who also wrote BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR and ROCK AND ROLL, makes a terrific season opener for GCTC. An import from the Festival Players of Prince Edward County, this fascinating fact-based three-character musical explores the life and times of Amelia Earhart during the 1930s, the Golden Age of Flight. As the playwright has said, “It seems to me like a musical with competing narrators, all of them unreliable.”
There are three of them, (narrators that is), all strong actors and singers. Midge, Amelia’s sister, is played by Karin Randoja in a subtly layered performance, who settles for what she considers a “safe” life. Her Act II solo, “The Man Who Is Not There,” is very powerful.
Steven Gallagher makes a terrific G. P., George Putnam of the Putnam publishing house. G. P. was an enthusiastic entrepreneur in spite of what he calls “the Lindberg fiasco.” As Amelia’s husband in a rather peculiar marriage, he managed to turn her into a myth. He’s especially good in the number “America.”
Eliza-Jane Scott gives a stunning performance as Amelia, a complex woman who wanted to be alone and couldn’t quite figure out how to manage it. Her Act II blockbuster, “I’ll Be Alone,” is a perfect blend of acting, lyrics and music.
Speaking of music, Michael Barber, music director and pianist, has done a wonderful job, especially with the vocal trio arrangements for “At the Air Show,” the title song and in particular “Born to Fly.” This is in spite of the music director’s nightmare – playing a show with your back to the stage. I do have one quibble about something that will probably bother only musicians. In the Act I finale, “Take Me Home,” the 1950s rock triplets in the accompaniment seem jarringly out of period, although the lyrics, melody and harmonies are great.
Jennifer Triemstra’s set works well for the production. The stage floor platform is backed by three shallow steps leading up to a low upper platform with the piano center, a bookcase and desk stage left and an ironing board and hutch stage right. I really liked the constant presence of the suitcases. Miss Triemestra’s costumes are good as well, in particular Amelia’s Lindy look.
The lighting designed by Raha Javanfar is very effective, especially the silhouettes that appear periodically on the side curtains. Jon Carter’s sound is, as always, excellent.
Sarah Phillips has done a creative job of staging and directing. The choreography for “The Lindy Look” is fun and I liked her use of model airplanes for the various flights. She’s made good choices of pre-show and intermission music. Most of all, she and her first-rate cast have created three very interesting and thoroughly human characters. To quote Miss Phillips’ program notes, “Unanswered questions are so much more . . . interesting. Don’t you think?” This is a production not to be missed.
On a scale of one to five the Festival Players of Prince Edward County’s production of AMELIA: THE GIRL WHO WANTS TO FLY presented by GCTC gets, (in spite of the triplets), five solar panels. For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.