I wish I had taken a friend (or five) with me when I saw Recurring John, A New Song Cycle on Sunday afternoon. That way someone would have been able to join in the conversation when I inevitably rave about it for the next few months. It was just that good. Playing as part of this year’s SummerWorks Festival in the Musical Works in Concert series, Recurring John is a gorgeous new piece by Kevin Wong.
If Wong has any doubts about his ability as a composer and writer, he should let them go now. The piece is beautiful, raw, engaging and memorable. The dream cast he assembled certainly helped make the show what it is but the work itself is unique and lovely, and it’s clear he poured much of himself into it to great effect.
The 60-minute show is entirely sung, and tells John’s titular life story through the eyes of other characters in his world. Each character has their own solo number, and the whole company join together for the prologue and other interludes/updates as time jumps forward in John’s life. The music is fantastic, and the six-piece live band that accompanied the singers were amazing as well.
If I had the time and the space, I would go on and on about each and every performer, because they were all fantastic in their own ways. I was particularly struck by the seemingly effortless, gorgeous performance of “Mother’s Lullaby” by Alexis Gordon, and the emotional, romantic, highly moving “They Never Saw Me” performed by Christopher Tsujiuchi.
The audience loved every moment, and I caught many people subtly bobbing their heads along with some of the faster numbers. Arlene Duncan’s “Stories in the Park”, in particular, had the audience moving and clapping, and ended to such intense applause that I’m sure we added a minute or two to the show’s run time.
Jeff Madden’s direction brought the whole brilliant package together. His work took it from being a concert in which performers simply stand in front of a microphone and sing (though, with the music being what it is, that still would have been enjoyable…) to an incredibly beautiful piece to watch. Never was the audience bored or tuned out or aware of what was coming next, and he helped connect and move the characters along in really effective, subtle but powerful ways.
I hope this show is remounted somewhere again, and soon. Everyone involved should be immensely proud of the work they’ve created, and Kevin Wong should know that he’s written something heartfelt and effecting, something any singer would consider a privilege to be part of.
He should also let me know when the next performance is, because I’ll be first in line for a ticket.
Recurring John plays at Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street)
Sunday August 10, 8:00pm
Individual tickets are $20 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone by calling the Ticketwise Call Centre at 416-907-0468, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) August 5th-17th from 10AM – 7PM (Advance tickets are $20 + service fee)
3/7/10 Show Passes cannot be used to purchase tickets for this production
Poster by Eduardo J. Avenir II