BWW Review: New Musical EVERY SILVER LINING is a Beautiful Exploration of Grief and Loss
On Sunday night, audiences in Stratford Ontario were treated to a performance of a new musical that had most recently been seen at Toronto's Fringe Festival. EVERY SILVER LINING was brought to the stage at Stratford City Hall for one night only as a way to continue to workshop it and to be a homecoming of sorts for former Stratford resident Jennifer Stewart, who directed the show and is in the ensemble.
Written by book writer Laura Piccinin and Composer/Lyricist Allison Wither, EVERY SILVER LINING tells the story of young people processing death and dying. With beautiful music and dialogue that is at times both witty and profound, the show explores the complex emotions felt by a family coping with their son/brother's illness and eventual death, as well as how his teenage friends process such an unthinkable loss.
We first meet Clara (Wither) and Andrew (Daniel Karp) as they get ready for school. Andrew just wants to have a normal experience despite being sick and Clara feels invisible because her parents (Kristi Woods) and (Tom Davis) are so focused on keeping Andrew safe. As the show progresses and Andrew gets sicker, the reality of his situation starts to set in and eventually Clara, her best friend Emily (Piccinin), and several of their friends are forced to cope with a situation that no human ever feels ready to deal with-let alone a teenager.
When BWW spoke with Piccinin a few weeks ago, she shared that both she and Wither lost a friend in high school. Wither had a friend die of cancer after being sick for a long time, and Piccinin lost a friend suddenly in a car accident. Although the story in this show more closely resembles Wither's experience, the fact that Andrew's friends were unaware of his illness means that their loss felt very sudden, much like Piccinin's would have. The writers' ability to tap into real emotions they witnessed or experienced first hand in both types of experience allows for a sense of authenticity in this production. The ability for this show to weave in and out of pathos and humour so effortlessly further adds to its authenticity. This, after all, is how life works.
The music that Wither has written for this production is wonderful, and beautifully sung, as are the arrangements by Music Director and pianist for the show, Aaron Eyre. The use of the cello during one of the most emotional moments during the show is heartbreakingly clever and cellist Zou Zou Robidous is clearly at the top of her craft. Rounding out the small but mighty band is percussionist Yang Chen. Together, this three add a gorgeous layer to the show and seamlessly blend with the performances on stage.
The simply staging with limited props and actors seated at either side of the stage if they are not in a scene, works well with this production. The show explores how a community can come together in grief, so it feels fitting that they are all constantly present and supporting one another. Props are just stuff, and this show is about people, so limiting that is also very clever.
Playing some of Clara and Andrew's classmates are Taha Arshad, Joel Cumber, Jada Rifkin, and Ben Skipper. All four have moments to shine and do well to differentiate how each of their characters navigate grief.
Due in part to the time restrictions of Toronto Fringe, this production was approx. 90 minutes in length. During our interview, Piccinin had mentioned that there is a longer version in the works. This would be very interesting to see, as it would allow for the performers to delve deeper into their characters' experiences with grief. I for one will be keeping an eye out for the longer version because if this show in its current form is any indication, it will be great success.
Photo Credit: Taha Arshad