Folk rock musicals have become trendy in recent years. People love the notion of sitting in a bar and listening to the music of the people who live there. Stephen Geddes attempts to create that nostalgia with “Memories and Legends.”
Stephen Geddes wrote the book, music, and lyrics about a has-been rock star in the mid-80s whose estranged father just passed away. His French supermodel girlfriend gives him an ultimatum to make him go to the funeral in Newfoundland. He packs his bags and finds himself in the pub for the wake. The locals, who adored his father, refuse to let him leave and he has to face the realities of who his father was and why they were separated.
The heart of the show is good: acceptance, forgiveness, never letting a moment pass you by.
The book is a little disjointed but in all tells a story of mystery and longing. It is written in a realistic and compelling way with some rather clever jokes thrown in. They do spend a lot of time on Newfie mythology, mermaids, fairies, and witches. At times the dialogue was hard to hear so the audience may have missed some of what was going on.
Again sound was a bit of an issue with the music. The recorded music was a bit too loud and made it difficult to hear or understand what was being sung at times. The culture of pub music was very well captured throughout the piece with the seamlessness by which they would switch off between singing, playing, and listening. The most touching songs were “Canvas Wings,” which is a father-daughter duet about living in a leaving your hometown, and “How Hard the Heart,” a moving ballad sung by Michael Reeher (Lenny). “All the Way Home” was a rousing start to Act II where the cast truly looked like they were just having fun.
Michael Reeher also performed the powerful piece “Maddy’s Missing” about his daughter’s personal tragedy. The song had a strong message but was performed as a spoken (yelled) word piece which was a little strange but did capture the heart break of a father not being able to protect his daughter.
Oran Tobin, the leading man, was played by Christopher Overly, a generous actor with a powerful voice. He showed the great internal struggle of this troubled rock star coming to terms with his childhood abandonment. His moments of rage were in great contrast to his gentler scenes, particularly those with Maddy (Lauren Patton). He finds a connection with this troubled girl and that seems to be the impetus to change his mind about why he is there.
Pete (Paul M. Davis) was a burly man and best friend to Oran’s father. He has a bit of a secret and he too shows great contrast between a friendly man trying to welcome a boy he loves and a troubled old man trying to come to terms with his mistakes. He gives a powerful performance and shows us the importance of forgiveness and redemption.
The set design by William Leary, was simple and definitely gave the feel of a wake at the local pub. The walls were covered in seemingly random items and a large wood casket sat in the middle of the stage.
Leary also directed the piece for a proscenium stage in a thrust space, so those who were sitting on the sides did not get to see much of the action at all. Which is a shame because the cast seemed to move about the stage with a natural flow.
The heart of the show is good: acceptance, forgiveness, never letting a moment pass you by. “Memories and Legends” should probably go back into some workshops to really narrow down the message and plot. The music, if performed or recorded well, could make for a nice song cycle. There is definitely potential for this piece.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
“Memories and Legends” will be running at Greenbelt Arts Center through October 9. Click here for tickets and information.