Adam Charles and Julie Casselman in Darling, A Musical.
Adam Charles and Julie Casselman in Darling, A Musical.

In an impressive debut, Springboard Theatre Productions drives the dreamer’s whimsy of Peter Pan into the grit of the Great Depression.

[pullquote]Cheeky nods to J.M Barrie’s book are beautifully balanced by raw emotion and heartbreak. Despite a few technical issues, Darling, A Musical succeeds in showing off the talent of its performers and providing a bleak look at the reality of a lost boy.[/pullquote]Set in 1929 Boston, Darling, A Musical follows sixteen year old Ursula as she flees from her mother’s expectations of an upper-class lady and into the “adult” underworld of feather­boys, fairy dust, and burlesque. While the individual performances speak to the impressive talent of the performers, the production is let down by some distracting technical choices.

Julie Casselman  shows off her acting chops as Ursula. Overwhelmed after learning that her inheritance has been given to the unforgiving Captain Rose, Ursula runs to her bedroom intending to escape through the window. Instead, she is pulled inside and into the arms of Peter (Adam Charles), a dashing and excitable lost boy on the run from the police. Ursula’s path through the harsh realities of the Great Depression drives the show and while Casselman bears the weight of it well, her delicately haunting soprano disappears when paired against the strength of belters like Steffanie Davis (Stella) and Adam Charles (Peter).  In fact it is Charles’ performance that is a highlight, with the song “Lost Boys” conjuring an audible “wow” from the audience.

The ensemble are a joy and add the perfect mix of colour and humour to an otherwise darkly melancholic show. The feather­boy trio played by Victor Hunter, William Ford Hopkins, and Nick Preston became an audience favourite with their unfinished joke provoking some of the best laughs of the night. Not to be outdone, the female ensemble showcases Dawn Ewen’s choreography and leverages their “assets” with a confidence that turns scenes that could be uncomfortable, into pure fun.

Despite the talented performances though, the production is hampered by poor lighting. While not an issue in group scenes, the intimate moments see the leads’ faces cast into a shadow which prevents their emotions from fully connecting to the audience.

The incongruously rousing penultimate number notwithstanding, the show succeeds in portraying the overwhelmingly harsh reality of life in the thirties with style. Cheeky nods to J.M Barrie’s book are beautifully balanced by raw emotion and heartbreak. Despite a few technical issues, Darling, A Musical succeeds in showing off the talent of its performers and providing a bleak look at the reality of a lost boy.

Darling, A Musical. Music and lyrics by Ryan Scott Oliver. Book by Brett Ryback. Directed by Dawn Ewen. A Springboard Theatre Productions presentation on stage at the Renegade Productions Performance Studio (125 East 2nd Ave) until October 18.  Visit http://springboardtheatre.ca for tickets and information.