When Nickolai Gogol wrote his play, The Government Inspector, he probably didn’t have Canada in mind.
This causes some problems for Colin Heath, who adapted the play into the musical comedy The Man from the Capital, which is being staged by the Guild this month.
In 1836, Moscow was a city of considerable power and mystique.
It was the home of the government and Tsar, it was the centre of culture and intellectualism, and it was the largest city in the country.
Ottawa has a tough time measuring up.
So when depression-era townsfolk begin fawning over a man in a fancy suit from the cultural mecca of Ottawa, the audience is asked to suspend their disbelief somewhat.
But the audience is probably prepared to take this leap of faith.
It is, after all, a musical.
Eric Epstein delivers his farewell performance as Mayor Ira Trout in a voice that sounds like an old Chicago gangster.
Epstein’s singing isn’t exactly killer, but he pulls it off somehow, and gives a fun performance that makes you almost cheer for the corrupt mayor.
However, Bronwyn Jones steels the show with her over-the-top performance of the mayor’s wife, Daphne Trout, a lascivious egotist who has a mirror attached to her wrist.
Her solos are like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
Jones has fun with the role and seems able to reach more octaves than Mariah Carey, varying from low to glass-shatteringly high.
Her accent does become more and more English the higher she goes, but it seems to fit her pretentious character.
Doug Mayr plays Hector Spratt, a passing vagrant who gets mistaken for a government inspector and the title’s man from the capital.
Mayr, like Epstein, isn’t the world’s greatest singer, but his warbling vocals fit the comedic play quite nicely.
The set is fantastic, with panels that double as shop fronts on the town’s main street and the inside of rooms when flipped around and held in place by some of the extras.
It was interesting to watch these rooms take form and the small space in the Guild Theatre used so effectively.
It was a little distracting having extras holding up walls and doorways throughout the scene, but one forgets that they’re there after a while.
There are so many extra citizens that, at times, it seems like there are more people on stage than in the audience.
However, the large citizen chorus is worth it.
For anyone who doesn’t regularly listen to choirs, the chorus will be surprisingly beautiful and moving.
As the citizens awake and go about the town in song, it feels almost as if it were Christmas Day.
The live music, directed by the Banjo pickin’ Kim Barlow, was fantastic throughout.
Graeme Peters’ pump organ, Colleen McCarthy’s euphonium and the high-pitched squeal of Bryden Baird’s muted trumpet made for some interesting tunes that sounded as if they should be coming out of an old gramophone.
The rat that wanders onto the stage from time to time is cute (and one heck of a Halloween costume), but inexplicable except for the mayor’s casual mention that he had a dream about a giant rat.
By the end of the play, this rat, played by Sadie Segriff and Madisen Bacon-Traplin, takes on the job of town crier and the townsfolk don’t seem to notice or care.
All in all the play is fun and worth checking out.
Any problems it may have are due to the script, which has its slow moments and is cribbed a little too liberally from Gogol.
The corrupt town of Salmon Elbow isn’t quite believable.
Now, if the corrupt town had been farther north and named Greyhorse, or something like that, maybe it would have been a bit easier to suspend disbelief.
The Man at the Capital is on until April 24, showing Wednesday through to Saturday at 8 p.m. sharp.
Tickets are $20 during the week and $22 on the weekend.
Contact Chris Oke at