THUNDER BAY, ON ------ December 6, 2011 ---- The current production at Magnus Theatre, Thunder Bay, is a riot. Mario Crudo told me it has been “many years” since the Theatre has produced a melodrama. Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and from the movie of Alfred Hitchcock “The 39 Steps” is a blast from beginning to end.
Melodrama has long been associated with dinner or amateur theatre in the Northwest. With very little in the way of staging the actors have to ham things up with a few simple props and they tell their story. This particular story has it all, a victim or two, a murder, a spy plot and a secret to reveal. Any good story has its share of betrayal and a love interest. Melodramas are all about having fun with the material you are given to act out, and I cannot help but feel the cast really are having a lot of fun with this play. This fun transfers easily to the audience and there were busts of spontaneous applause, the occasional hiss and boo throughout the performance just like there should be for a good melodrama.
In this production the play for amateurs has moved into a modern fully professional theatre. Creative lighting by Vancouver’s Ockley lends a lot of support to the creative efforts of the cast on stage. The theatre also makes use of projected graphics and animation to tastefully augment the players on stage. The effect is amazing since the lighting and animations create a centre of attention on stage. As soon as an actor is outside of this focus they return quickly often as another character.
The gentleman behind me had finished a tough day and “really didn’t want to go out that night”, but it wasn’t long before he was laughing and right into the melodrama. That is the kind of production Magnus has running on stage. Magnus has had success running some great musical productions of late, but my guess is that we have already seen the cream of the crop and it is time to try something new. If you want a fun night out check out Magnus theatre and see what a professional troupe can do with a good melodrama. The cast includes Mark Crawford, Alison Dean, Alex McCooye, and Martin Sims. Direction by Mario Crudo, Set Design by Ed Kotanen, Lighting by Graham Ockley, Costumes by Mervi Agrombar and Stage management by Gillian Jones.
39 Steps runs until December 17, call the box office at 345 – 5552 to reserve you seats now.