Ancient goddesses can still
show off their long legs
The Segal Centre presents the North American premiere of the musical Mythic
By Byron Toben
The Segal Centre’s North American premiere of Mythic, a bouncy musical with loads of high-powered dancing, is based on the ancient myth of the Greek goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone.
Persephone is a hot number these days as another local production, Persephone Bound, will open on November 15 at Concordia’s D.B. Clarke.
These plays deal on the origin of the seasons as Persephone, who brings spring and sun, is bound to spend six months of the year in the underworld.
In addition, an award-winning musical Hadestown, which combines the above story with that of Orpheus and Eurydice, who also visit the underworld but can escape (almost), just opened on Broadway on November 2.
My own introduction to the legend
Years ago, before I ever knew much about Greek theatre or myths, on a visit to London, UK, I chanced to meet the then young Canadian writer, Joan Haggerty. She was residing there, teaching theatre to young tots, many Cockney, using biblical and Greek stories. In her first book (she has had three since), Please Miss, Can I Play God?, she relates how one child, playing Demeter, started to so weep for her lost daughter, that the other kids , carried away, spontaneously voiced “Don’t cry, we’ll find her, Mrs. Demeter, cum on” and stampeded to the tunnel entrance.
That myth has not been immortalized by any of the great Greek dramatists (Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles), leaving great latitude to our modern interpreters.
Here, Americans Marcus Stevens (Book and Lyrics) and Oran Eldor (Music and Orchestration) have given the ensemble 28 songs to work with (most musicals have around 16). Many of the songs are seemingly inspired by the styles of popular singers of today – hence a lot of high volume voicing.
All this done while performing loads of gyrating and writhing about devised by Israeli choreographer Avihai Haham. What a work out, with somersaults, jumps and lots of pelvic thrusts not seen since, well, Elvis!
Nor is it made easier with the generous use of scaffolding that must need be climbed and dismounted. Folks, this is harder than Ginger Rogers dancing backwards in heels opposite Fred Astaire.
The cast of 12, all melded by director Brian Hill, consists of 5 major characters and 7 members of the obligatory Greek chorus (who also double in 9 other minor roles).
The cast all have a bushel of credits and experience too lengthy to repeat here. Suffice it to say, they’re all terrific! As Persephone, Julia McLellan incarnates the rebellious teen-age daughter seeking her own place in the Pantheon. As the well meaning but overly protective mother Demeter, Heather McGuigan more than suits the bill. As the beauteous but interfering goddess Aphrodite, Jessica Gallant is a good balance to the King of Gods, Zeus (a great crowd pleaser as enacted with sun glasses by Aidan Church). And James Daly is right on as the bad boy/lord of the underworld, Hades.
All this with anachronistic touches like cell phones, selfies, nightclub wait lines. This put me in mind of Woody Allen’s 1995 film, Mighty Aphrodite, where, in response to a Manhattan Greek chorus begging a response from Zeus, an answering machine replies “This is Zeus – I can’t come to the phone right now, but will reply later.”
About the songs
The titles of the songs mirror the plot development.
The show opens with the full company belting out It’s A Myth and closes 100 minutes later with its declaiming Return To You. In between, Demeter’s Sweet Summer Days and Persephone’s My Own Place in the Pantheon lead to Hades and others proclaiming Down Down Into The Dark. Rescue is What Mothers Have To Do leading to the penultimate song I Will Be Your Home.
This show was originally mounted in London UK, at the Charring Cross Theatre, but greatly enhanced for its North American premiere by Lisa Rubin and her team at the Segal. The London cast recording is available on Apple Music and Spotify.
Mythic continues at the Segal Centre until November 24.
Images: Leslie Schacter
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.