There are special times when something so captivating, imaginative and refreshing happens onstage, that you’re transported to another world. This is certainly the case with Vancouver Opera’s The Overcoat - A Musical Tailoring. This brilliant contemporary opera, co-produced with Canadian Stage and Tapestry Opera, is a whimsical interpretation of the 1942 short story by Ukrainian-born Russian author Nicolai Gogol.
Like many classic Russian tales, the heart of The Overcoat’s story is dark and somewhat disturbing. But Vancouver Opera’s production takes this dark and disturbing essence and runs with it in a way that’s so clever and entertaining that you can’t help but smile throughout he entire show.
The story centres on Akakiy, a hard-working, slightly deranged accountant who makes little money and doesn’t have much going for him. He wears a tattered overcoat and is bullied by his co-workers. As fate would have it, he is eventually able to afford a new overcoat from his drug-addicted, alcoholic tailor, and what happens next is life changing.
This production is staged in a curious way. There are mental asylum patients running around the stage throughout the show, serving as the show’s storytelling chorus. Some of them even climb up onto stage from the orchestra pit. Kudos to the show’s movement director, Wendy Gorling, who has done a brilliant job using movement to bring this quirky interpretation to life. The overall effect is a very animated, cartoonish presentation. The characters are larger than life. There’s even a superbly done dance between Akikiy and his new overcoat when they first meet – yes, you read that right!
Geoffrey Sirett is wonderful as the bland Akakiy whose life takes an interesting turn when he receives his new overcoat. Sirett has a pleasing baritone voice and the ability to command your attention with his stage presence – while still appearing bland.
Peter McGillivray is outstanding in his three different roles as Petrovich (the tailor), Head of Dept. (Akikiy’s boss), and Personage (chief police officer). His comic timing is genius and he’s able to wonderfully transform into all three characters in a very distinct way.
Meher Pavri is superb as the Secretary. Not only does she have a beautiful soprano voice, but her characterization and body carriage across the stage is brilliant. Every little detail, down to her finger movements has been wonderfully calculated.
The entire company deserves praise for their over-the-top, highly entertaining performances.
Also deserving of much praise are the creative design team. Scenic designer Ken MacDonald, lighting designer Alan Brodie, and costume designer Nancy Bryant have really done an outstanding job of painting this whimsical, fantastical world. MacDonald gives the set an eerie industrial feel – but in a fantasy-like setting, including the use of lights descending from the ceiling. And Bryant’s costume design is simply next level. Akakiy’s new overcoat pops off the stage with its vibrant colour and design. And the gloriously decadent cocktail dress that Meher Pavri wears in the second act is absolutely ravishing.
Vancouver Opera’s The Overcoat - A Musical Tailoring is a true delight and is a wonderful celebration of creativity, wit and theatrical genius.
Vancouver Opera's The Overcoat - A Musical Tailoring, a co-production with Canadian Stage and Tapestry Opera, runs at the Vancouver Playhouse until May 12. Visit the Vancouver Opera's website for ticket information.