BWW Reviews: Jerry Herman's DEAR WORLD - Revised & Revived by The Civic Light Opera Company

BWW-reviews-DEAR-WORLD-a-rarely-seen-Jerry-Herman-musical-revised-and-revived-by-The-Civic-Light-Opera-Company-20010101

In the late 1960’s composer Jerry Herman seemed to be Broadway’s golden boy with two monster hits running simultaneously – Mame and Hello Dolly! His attempt to make it a triple with Dear World, failed rather spectacularly in 1969. This musical adaptation of the Jean Giraudoux play The Madwoman of Chaillot inspired Herman to write a collection of delightful songs, which in turn have encouraged a number of regional theatre companies to investigate ways to make the problematic show work on stage.

Director Joe Cascone, with his Civic Light Opera Company has found a way. He skillfully navigates a balance between the songs that bubble over with the composer’s trademark optimism, and the dark story of Countess Aurelia and her quest to rid the world of evil represented by The Substrate - an enclave of corrupt corporate types chasing the almighty franc.

In the role originally played on Broadway by Angela Lansbury, Barbara Boddy portrays the countess with an enchanting other-worldly quality that typifies the aging idealist. In her introductory number she describes herself as a sensible woman, even if her actions may seem otherwise. “I Don’t Want to Know” she sings when told her dear world isn’t as happy and beautiful as she would like to believe, and she sets out to find those responsible and hold them accountable. Boddy’s performance has such conviction that you believe Aurelia sees her actions as perfectly reasonable.

She is aided in her quest by The Sewer Man, played by David Haines. He nearly stops the show with the second act number “Have a Little Pity on the Rich,” a mock defense for the members of the amusingly evil Substrate who want to see the skies and waters of Paris polluted.

The musical has a romantic subplot involving Julian – an unwilling member of The Substrate and Nina, a server in Aurelia’s café. In the revised version of the script written by David Thompson, the romance is not so much developed as it is telegraphed by the countess. Nina expresses her feelings for Julian early in Act Two when Elizabeth Rose Morriss wins a mini-ovation from the audience for her very moving rendition of “I’ve Never Said I Love You.” It is three minutes of musical theatre heaven. Daniel Cornthwaite who plays Julian has a doe-eyed innocence that almost places him as a relative of the Countess.

The Countess also has a circle of cohorts who join her for a mad Tea Party scene that is true highlight of the second act. Louise Cascone, Susan Sanders and Patricia Byrne – all amusingly costumed by Sheila Lacasse – play the other madwomen.

Given the source material for this musical, it can’t help but get a bit didactic at times but the sparkling score endures. Musical theatre fans will appreciate this rare opportunity to see this seldom-staged show.

Dear World runs until Saturday June 9 at Fairview Library Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Drive. For tickets log onto www.MusicTheatreToronto.com or call 416-755-1717.

Photo: David Haines as The Sewer Man and Barbara Boddy as Countess Aurelia in the musical Dear World. Photo by Pauline Helferty of The Civic Light Opera Company.

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From This Author Mark Andrew Lawrence

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