By Amiel Gladstone and Veda Hille
Directed By Weylin Symes
Musical Direction By Steve Bass
Choreographer Ilyse Robbins
Through March 31
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Onegin, now playing at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham is the U.S. premiere of the musical based on the epic poem of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. It has been very popular in Canada, and after seeing this production I can understand why. In this version, Russian literature meets rock opera. The result is two hours of very enjoyable theatre that you won’t want to miss.
Set in 19th Century Russia, it is the story of Evgeni Onegin (Mark Linehan) who has moved to the countryside where he has inherited his uncle’s estate. There he befriends the young poet Vladimir Lensky (Michael Jennings Mahoney). To cheer his new friend up, Lensky introduces Onegin to his girlfriend’s sister Tatyana (Sarah Pothier).
We hear how Tatyana is immediately taken with Onegin as she sings Let Me Die, in which she tells of her love of books and her feelings that Onegin has walked out of one of the great novels she has read. Ms Pothier’s rendition of Let Me Die is beautiful. Her voice is sweet and conveys a vulnerability that captures the essence of Tatyana.
Unfortunately, the object of her affection does not respond in kind. He makes his feelings clear in Onegin’s Refusal in which he sings the lyric, “Marriage is not for me.” Mark Linehan’s voice is strong and rich, and it doesn’t take long to understand the character of the self centered Onegin.
The story moves to tragedy as Onegin’s thoughtlessness causes his friend Lensky much pain. Onegin’s flirtation with Lensky’s fiancé Olga (Josephine Moshiri Elwood) leads to the two friends having a duel. The result causes much pain while giving Onegin what appears to be the first sense of caring for others.
While tragic, the play has many upbeat and funny moments. Christopher Chew as Triquet puts on quite the rock star performance during “The Queen Of Tonight”. Kerry Dowling’s glower seems aimed at each audience member as she sings Rules For Dueling while dressed as a Cossack complete with mustache. There are a number of memorable moments such as this.
Michael Jennings Mahoney who plays Lensky has a remarkable voice. The melancholy that shows during Olga Will You Weep is deeply moving. I was impressed and taken with what I heard.
The five piece orchestra was on stage throughout the performance as are most of the cast members. And, in a nice touch, a few members of the audience are also seated on stage and take part in some of the numbers.
Onegin plays through March 31 in Stoneham, and I highly recommend it. This Greater Boston Stage Company production is well worth seeing. With political divisions permeating so much of our daily lives, it is nice to be able to take a break from the madness and see a play that is touching, human, and has such a great score.
Greater Boston Stage Company
395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA