Monday, February 18, 2013


Elizabeth and Francesco in Heart Strings 

Reviewed by James Karas

Heart Strings, the Musical, opens with a soprano singing “Nessun Dorma” from Turnandot and the first act finishes with the explosion of a couple of sticks of dynamite in the drawing room. In the second act, the butler shoots the master of the house from point blank range. Despite all that, we still get a happy ending.

Heart Strings is a small musical by Reynold Nathaniel with music by Chantelle Pike and Hannah Dean. It takes place in the house of Sir William Cosgrove, a wealthy entrepreneur, in Ireland about a hundred years ago. He has a nice wife named Victoria, a very pretty and talented daughter named Elizabeth and a maid and a butler. The maid seems fine but Conrad the butler is a dark, vengeful, angry character who is up to no good!

Sir William’s “friend” Douglas is a smart lawyer who has gone over to Satan’s side and has in fact recruited Conrad to do harm to the Cosgrove family.

Sir William is buying his wife a Phono-Liszt Violina, a machine that plays 3 violins and a piano. Francesco, a handsome Italian delivers the machine and falls in love with Elizabeth. No sooner has the perfect gift for the wife and a lover for the daughter arrived, than there is a serious explosion in Sir William’s home. Serious injuries and fatalities result.

Pike and Deane provide musical numbers and a dance routine. Their songs are a mixture of the  tunefully romantic for Elizabeth and Francesco, the budding lovers, to angry for the vengeful butler and some simple ballads for the other characters.

David Russell Elliot as Sir William appeared nervous and kept shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He is supposed to be a tough business executive who may have done some unscrupulous things in his life. We are not shown any of that. All we see is Sir William the decent wimp. A glimpse at his gruff side would be helpful.  

Nicole Marie McCafferty is pretty and fetching as Elizabeth. She is given the task of singing a tough tenor aria that frightens many tenors. She does a much better job than we have the right to expect but why is she given that aria as her opening number?

Evan Boutsov as Francesco looked young and eager but his vocal chords may be best used in speech rather than song.

Lars Classington plays the plotting lawyer Douglas. He tries consistently to maintain an Irish accent and is perhaps the most successful at it. The rest of the actors are less persistent.

The musical has its generous share of miscues, many of them easily correctible. The cast mispronounce words like Leipzig, grazie and Deutschland.

There is some recorded music but much of the singing is done a cappella. There is no set at all except for several chairs. In other words, the show cannot boast even a shoestring budget. Like most amateur theatre, it is flies on a hope and a dream.

The plot has a beginning, a middle and an end with a nice twist thrown in the middle to keep the right tone for a musical. 

The Annex Theatre is small and intimate and you can sit at a table and have a coffee or a drink. The actors mix with the audience and the playwright is there to greet everyone. This is amateur theatre and the word has many meanings some of them condescending. I prefer the original meaning of amateur which means doing something you love because you love it and not for  money. For Nathaniel and the cast and crew Heart Strings is just that – a work of love.
Heart Strings, The Musical, by Reynold Nathaniel played from February 12 to 16, 2013 at The Annex Live, 296 Brunswick Ave. Toronto, Ont.

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