I was fortunate enough to see Every Silver Lining again for the Next Stage Festival on Monday, and I have to say I love this show just as much as I did the first time I watched it. The long and the short of it is that the music is amazing, the book is solid and the acting is fantastic.
But when you watch something for a second time, especially when so little has changed, the things that bothered me the first time became much more magnified- but even then my minor quibbles with the story pale in comparison to the Goliath achievements and the incredible performance that this show carries with it.
First off, Allison Wither’s music is fantastic. The songs are all coherent and I found myself remembering many of them months after I had only heard it once last summer. This music is good, and with one notable exception, everything in the show resonates with the audience. I still love the music and would love to own a copy of the soundtrack if it is ever released.
The book is equally fun and frenzied. Laura Piccinin’s characters are as fun as ever and her text bounces with such ease that it’s impossible to not get wrapped up in it.
Now, when dealing with such dark subject matter, it’s so easy for a script to go down wrote and unoriginal paths - but ESL is smart. It manages to capture just enough of the darkness while still keeping everything light, fun and engaging. It is impeccably optimistic, which not only is appreciated in today’s day and age- but also sorely needed. The way the characters feel makes sense - they’re kids and they wont fully grasp the gravitas of what they’re up against.
Long and short of it, I still love this piece, and can’t wait to see what they manage to do with it next. And please for the love of all things, give me my soundtrack.
Now to be more critical, I can’t let it go that leaving the theater for the second time I still have issues with the show. Bev and Sam are still incredibly underused, but I trust that in the longer version this will be fixed. I love the use of cast members as set for the first few scenes, and was disappointed when this is done away with in favour of traditional chairs and sets for the rest of the show. (The transition between Joel Cumber as the drip nozzle, directly into the next scene is genius, even if you feel bad for him for having to hold his hand up for a 5+ minutes). The acting across the board is better this time with much better interactions between the cast- but there is still one moment that bothers me to the point where I need to say something.
In the first act, there is a song number that feels so jarring and out of place that it actually made me frustrated that it hadn’t changed since their initial fringe run. In the scene the overprotective mother faces off against the son and they are joined by the father who attempts to play moderator. This song feels like it was ripped out of a different (and frankly, worse) show. The song is the only song where different characters project their emotions in such a blunt and un-nuanced way that it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the show. It is overwritten with far too many syllables in each line, and while the melody and music to it is fine, it just feels so incongruent with everything else in the show that it feels like a wasted opportunity. And it’s such a shame because literally every other song is so beautiful, that this one really stands out as more cliche than anything else.
To take that idea a bit further, I was fortunate enough to get to attend the talk-back for the previous show and loved gathering the insight from the creators on the process. One of the things they mentioned is that the show wanted to focus more on the teenagers understanding of grief. Which I love - and I question the inclusion of the parents characters at all. Yes, there’s a lot to love about them, especially the absolutely heartbreaking song from the mother - but apart from that their inclusion is perhaps the most unoriginal part of the story. Do they need a mother and a father if the one character doesn’t get to do much except for sing one song and provide backup? Could they not get away with just one parent? If so, could the parent not also be the teacher? I trust in the longer version there is more for the adults to do, but as it stands, they don’t detract from the show - but why are they really necessary? Obviously, they both performed admirably, but if the show wants to focus on the kids and their journey through grief, why tease us with the parents grief and then abandon it right at the moment where it could become most interesting?
Much to dissect here.
When all is said and done, this could be one of the finest Canadian musicals to come along in a long ass time. And I hope I can see it in many, many future iterations. If I am a bit harsher on it this time, it is only because I love it more now, and would urge anyone to watch it if you get the chance.