Upon my arrival I was greeted by the friendly stage crew who led us to our table. Cozy, intimate and dream-like, the pub atmosphere of the Annex Live was an ideal space to set this love story.
Heart Strings, an original Canadian musical written by Reynold Nathaniel, tells a story of aristocrat Sir William and his determination to provide his wife, Victoria with the perfect anniversary gift – a marvelous musical machine known as the Phono-Liszt Violina.
First performed at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, this remounting of Heart Strings by MOLE productions apparently brings with it an entirely different cast of actors. Set in Ireland in 1908, with the actors speaking in Irish Brogue quite eloquently, the performances are well acted and songs beautifully sung.
Opening with “On Our Way” we have Jackie and Conrad, the devoted and longstanding housemaid and butler, played by Sheila Cording and Jerrold Karch. Both delightful and charming, I found this number energizing and a great start to the show.
Following this number we begin to learn about the dynamics of the various relationships of those inhabiting the home. We meet Sir William’s patient wife Victoria and his bashful daughter Elizabeth yearning to find romantic love. Both Anne Shepherd as Victoria and Kitti Laki as Elizabeth give heart felt performances in ” Shining Night” and “Respect”.
Soon after, we discover Conrad and Douglas’s scheming plan to seize hold of the Violina from Sir William and thus, the drama begins.
The moment Francesco, the Italian apprentice sent to deliver the Violina enters the stage, we are captivated by his charisma and cute Italian accent. Antonio Olivito well embodies the role of Francesco and along with Laki as Elizabeth show chemistry and stage presence in their duet “Let Me Love You.”
Once again, Conrad’s solo, “A Generation of Suffering,” was a show highlight. Comedic and engaging, Karch, despite his sinister character, exudes stage charm from the start of the show to the final group reprise of “On Our Way.”
Musical compositions by Eyes of Gertrude, by Chantelle Pike and Hannah Dean, were unexpectedly modern, ranging from playful to melancholic.
Upon reading the program, I was touched to hear that part of the proceeds of this production will support the St. Francis Table, which offers food for the poor and homeless, making it another reason to see this show.
Although there are some gaps in the script – a bit more character development may have helped – playwright Reynold Nathaniel along with director David Ludwig’s guidance, offers a sweet and endearing original piece of musical theatre.
-Advance tickets cost $20 ($25 at the door).
The photograph of Jerrold Karch and Sheila Cording was taken by Jason Willis and Crystal Leach