The Lights of Shangri-La – A Review

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Sooner or later, the touchstones of childhood call us back home…

I had the immense pleasure of seeing the opening night of The Lights of Shangri-La last night. It was glorious in every sense of the word.

It’s the new play being put on by Toto Too Theatre. The Lights of Shangri-La  is by David Whiteman. It features performances by Sean Toohey as Crockett Sumner, Cathy Nobleman as Pen Sumner (Crocket’s sister), Lucas Kenny as Ilya Petrov (Crocket’s estranged lover) and Nisha Toomey as Maddy Sumner (Pen’s daughter).

The Light’s of Shangri-La is about Crocket and Pen. Each have something that they are keeping close, secret from everyone that loves them. It’s making relationships difficult, strained. Both Crocket and Pen yearn for the days when they were younger, when there wasn’t a care in the world. Who doesn’t dream of their youth and the magic it held?

David Whiteman has penned a play that manages to do the impossible: The Lights of Shangri-La funny at times, heartfelt and mysterious until everything underneath the surface is revealed. It manages to tap into very real emotion that everyone can relate to in some way; and yet it is never sacharine, never over the top, never mundane. Instead, he’s written a play that taps into the depth of emotion and it left me breathless.

This is mainly due to the actors. Sean Toohey as Crocket is a firecracker of an actor. He taps into hilarity, despair and nostalgia in equal measure. He’s taken what could have been played as an over the top character and given Crocket an incredible amount of heart. More than that, Toohey made Crocket real for me.

I was in awe while watching Cathy Nobleman’s performance as Pen. She has an incredible range of emotions to portray and did so with aplomb. She taps into every nuance of Pen’s character. More than any of the other characters, she spoke to me the most. Again, Nobleman could have played the role very over the top or sympathetic to the extreme. The fact that she didn’t and I came away loving Pen is a tribute to the amazing performance that Nobleman gave.

The supporting cast was also stellar. Nisha Toomey as Maddy was lovely and a treat to watch on the stage. She owned that role, every word of it. However, it was Lucas Kenny as Ilya Petrov that really wowed me. As the character with the least amount to say, Kenny has a lot to work to do. He has to convey many emotions, from frustration to remorse with very few words.

I’ve known quite a few men like Ilya, men who made every word they said count. Kenny played him perfectly. Again, he could have done an over the top performance, full of anger and angst. Instead, he chose to play Ilya soft and quiet. You listen when he speaks. You ache for him. Without saying a lot, Lucas Kenny brings Ilya Petrov to life. Ilya is the perfect flip side to Crocket, who’s more flamboyant and flippant.

Sarah Hearn has directed one hell of a play. In a less capable directors hands, The Lights of Shangri-La could have been all camp and no substance. Instead, she has brought out the depth and soul of each of the characters. From the moment the play begins to it’s glorious ending, she has handled the helm of a show that left me spellbound. Everything in the play worked, from the gorgeous set (designed by David Magladry) to the music (an original score by Mike Heffernan) the entire show is a delight.

By the end of The Lights of Shangri-La,  I was emotionally spent, I was in awe at how powerful it was. More than that, I knew these people. They had stopped being actors or characters on the stage and instead became real people.

I loved every minute of this beautifully executed play. There are only four more performances left and I urge you to go and see it. To watch The Lights of Shangri-La is to be transported to another place and I didn’t ever want to leave.

Get your tickets here: http://www.tototoo.ca/tickets.html

And watch the trailer below!

One Comment on “The Lights of Shangri-La – A Review

  1. That is the best and the perfect critics about that play. David Whiteman wrote a little Masterpiece. And the crew mastered it perfectly. The actors did a great and very convincing job, too. I had the immense pleasure to see it on Friday-night with friends and we are still moved!

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