–By Nita Balani
Theatre lovers, the modern day musical is back with A Moveable Feast: Paris in the ‘20s! This sold out performance is currently at the Soulpepper Theatre in Toronto. For those of you who like to see the unexpected, this is a marvel in the genre of musicals, seamlessly fusing theatre, music, art, literature and narrative documentary on stage. It is a complete theatrical experience never seen before as you relive the crazy years inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s namesake book about Paris. A Moveable Feast is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway about his years as a struggling young expatriate journalist and writer in Paris in the 1920s.
The experience begins with narration from Hemingway’s novel: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
The musical then progresses with images, sounds and snippets, and cameos of life in the 20s – its art, culture and music of the artists of the Lost Generation. The term was coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Ernest Hemingway for a group of artists (like Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne) and poets and writers (including T.S Eliot, Scott F. Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound) who left the United States to take part in the free-wheeling popular culture movement in Paris and London in the 1920s.
The presentation is interspersed with old and new French and English songs and the music is given a life of its own with the sounds of the 20s swing and jazz. The songs are cleverly curated as their lyrics are full of meaning and relevant to push the narration and story forward.
A unique and brilliant rendition of My Generation (Pete Townsend –The Who) in English and French brought home the point of the rebellion going on and the whole Lost Generation theme. Other songs performed are ‘Changes’ (David Bowie), ‘Break on Through’ (The Doors), Past time Paradise (Stevie Wonder), Stayin’ Alive (Bee Gees) and many more familiar tunes.
All the songs were done to jazz, swing and Charleston music, reflecting what society did not expect from women – dancing to jazz music, smoking, putting on make-up and hanging out at music clubs looking for love.
The musical is also sprinkled with romantic French love songs popular at the time, about Paris, love lost and found, adding the Parisian touch and invoking memories of a time long gone by in the streets and cafes of Paris. The singers and musicians are par excellence and evoke great emotion through their voices and the harmony they create on stage. The live band is of a calibre far exceeding audience expectations.
The sets are minimalist but conjure up the art culture of the time through the paintings of Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso in the backdrop of dimly lit smoky music cafes where artists, painters and poets hung out to have clever conversations and brainstorm together. It clearly shows the audience that Paris moves through life with you and is not bound by conventional rules of time and space and these memories stay with you shaping and influencing you making them indeed a memorable feast.
A must see for those who want to experience the excitement and passion of Les Années Folles (The Crazy Years) of the 20s. This musical is without doubt a masterpiece for arts and theatre fans who want to capture the lost times in a post-war decade dominated by decadence, gay abandon, and joie de vivre.
The show goes on till Sep 23. For more info please see http://www.soulpepper.ca