PéLAGIE by Vincent de Tourdonnet and Allen Cole, directed by Michael Shamata, with Susan Gilmour, Réjean J. Cournoyer, Shaun Amyot, Edward Belanger, Cliff Le Jeune, Mary Ellen Mahoney and Mike Nadajewski. Presented by CanStage and the NAC at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). Runs to May 1, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm and Saturday 2 pm. $20-$77, limited Monday pwyc and same-day rush. 416-368-3110. Rating: NN Rating: NN
it's taken six years for pélagie, Vincent de Tourdonnet and Allen Cole 's musical adaptation of the classic Antonine Maillet novel, to come to the stage. Too bad it still feels like a workshopped show that's far from finished. Taking a little-known chapter in Canadian history - the forced dispersal of the Acadians in 1755 and their attempts to return home decades later - Maillet concocts a heart-warming tale about history, home and family.
You can see why the creators thought they had a winning musical formula on their hands - part Fiddler On The Roof, part Les Misérables.
But it's not until Pélagie's superior second act that we - to quote from those other musicals - hear the Acadian people sing, at least with any indigenous-sounding music, or get a sense of their traditions.
Worse, there's so little character development early on that later moments meant to wring tears make us shake our heads. Why should we care about a mother seeing her daughter marry when the two have barely said hello to each other?
What we're left with is a rather simplistic, soulless show about a hard-working woman who wants to get home, but not before scorin' some lovin' on the side - oh yes, she takes up, Harlequin-style, with a swarthy Acadian seaman.
That's not to say the performers don't work hard, especially the charismatic, ageless Susan Gilmour , who's onstage nearly the whole show as the title character, with fine support from Mary Ellen Mahoney , Cliff Saunders , Mike Nadajewski and a scene-stealing Cliff Le Jeune . Acadian musical hits many notes but needs more character depth