A musical as immersive as love itself is coming to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on March 4. Sweeping audiences into a searing romance that will strike them to their core, the Arts Club’s Onegin bares itself in its wild opening number where the ensemble tells you: “We hope to please, we hope to charm, we hope to break you open.”
Co-written by musician Veda Hille and playwright Amiel Gladstone, the story of Onegin is sung through with comprehensive scores as the cast of characters act out the story of a charismatic young man and his ill-fated romance
The charismatic Evgeni Onegin finds himself inheriting land in the country when his uncle dies, and soon he finds himself embroiled in the lives of the neighbouring Larin family. The shy eldest daughter of the Larin family, Tatyana, quickly falls in love with the rakish man, but her feelings aren’t returned as Onegin is not one to simply settle down. His friend Vladimir Lensky, a poet, is engaged to Tatyana’s enigmatic sister Olga, and soon Vladimir finds his romantic ideals challenged as Onegin flirts with his fiancée.
In 2016, Onegin took the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards by storm, where it won 10 awards, including Outstanding Production. Hille and Gladstone’s musical version of Onegin draws from both the opera by Tchaikovsky and the original novel in verse by 19th-century Russian author Alexander Pushkin, which inspired it.
By giving these classics a modern reworking, Hille and Gladstone aimed to please both traditional fans of the opera and a new modern audience. The show may be set near St. Petersburg in the early 19th century, but Gladstone plays fast and loose with time, place, and everything in between.
“We wanted to immerse ourselves in something about connection, a story that could challenge our sometimes corseted Canadian sensibilities,” said co-playwright Hille.
“Something where the audience could swoon and get swept away; something full of grand gestures, dance, and light; something honest, but also modern, because in the age of the cynic, where does the romantic fit?” asked Hille rhetorically.
Wanting to give audiences the visceral experience of unrequited love, Hille said Onegin illuminates what happens when we don’t embrace love when it comes our way: what it looks and feels like to turn away from its vitality and beauty.
”Ultimately, the show is our celebration of love. Our love of the theatre, our love for performing, our love for making things together, our love of the audience and their connection to what we create.”
Get pulled into a 2018-feeling 19th-century Russia, where love and even life may prove ephemeral. Onegin is a show destined for great things, and is one of those rare theatrical moments which both deserves and demands to be seen.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m., tickets start at $29 for value seats, and can be purchased at the Centre Box Office, online at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca, or by calling 604-391-SHOW(7469).