BWW Reviews: Louise Pitre's ON THE ROCKS Is A Must-See for Theatre Lovers
Louise Pitre is Canadian musical theatre royalty - well known and beloved for her starring roles in shows such as Les Miserables and Mamma Mia (for which she was nominated for a Tony Award). She's also one hell of a brave woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, knows what she wants, and goes for it with extreme gusto that is incredibly admirable.
On the Rocks is her story, told honestly, simply and without unnecessary fanfare. It's Louise and her longtime friend and accompanist Diane Leah, singing and recollecting memories from her childhood, her failed marriage, her long career in the industry and her relationships with her parents. The show was developed by Pitre with the help of director Jen Shuber and an entirely female creative team.
Surprisingly she has chosen to use all original music (written by herself and husband W. Joe Matheson) rather than singing the songs we've come to associate her with from the shows of her past. It's a bold choice, but I've come to expect nothing less from Pitre and it works well in the context of this production. While not every song is as memorable as some of the ballads she's known for, they're beautifully simplistic, viscerally emotional and do an excellent job of propelling the story along.
And what a story it is. From her days as a seven year old Quebecois girl running around the neighbourhood topless while dreaming of being a full-time housewife, to her love affair with the theatre which led her to Broadway, Pitre captures the hearts of the audience with her unique storytelling ability and that familiar voice we all know and love.
The material is tough, dealing with many difficult and emotional subjects. She handles them with poise and grace, while finding a way to make it relevant to everyone, even those who haven't grown up familiar with 'Louise Pitre'.
Set pieces reference her impressive stage career, with prop boxes from Les Miserables, Mamma Mia, Mame and the upcoming Gypsy scattered across the stage, but Pitre doesn't dwell on one specific show. Instead, she provides a rare and honest glimpse of what life in this industry truly is - a polarizing emotional journey with endless peaks and valleys and very little middle ground.
It is these 'glimpses' into the 'real life' of a theatre star that make the On the Rocks such an enjoyable show despite the heavy material. You get the chance to understand what it's like to choose a career full of uncertainty, nomadic lifestyles, difficult jobs and even more difficult people. A job that from the outside looks glamourous, but which is far more difficult than most people know. Anyone who has worked in the theatre industry or (more importantly) is considering making it their career should make sure they see this show.
On the Rocks could use some fine tuning, (personally I would have liked at least one 'familiar' song and perhaps some additional staging and set design) but for a show in it's infancy, it's already a winner. Given some tender loving care and more of that trademark Pitre sass, I could see On the Rocks having a real future in the Canadian musical theatre canon. And for a city that has been struggling with how to produce new and original Canadian work, Pitre is a ray of light giving us hope that we can continue to grow, continue to challenge and always strive to fly higher than ever before. Bravo indeed.
When and Where?
On the Rocks
Theatre Passe Muraille
On now until September 29th, 2013
Tickets can be purcahsed in person at the box office, by phone at 416-504-7529 or online at http://www.passemuraille.on.ca/category/2013-14-season/on-the-rocks/