Reviewed by Paula Citron
August 18, 2011
Book, music and lyrics by Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli
Directed by Jackie Maxwell
Performed by Julie Martell, Mark Uhre, Neil Barclay, Saccha Dennis, Sharry Flett, Jonathan Gould, Jeff Irving, Jacqueline Thair and Jenny L. Wright
Court House Theatre
Jul. 19 to Sept. 23, 2011
The brave new undertaking at the Shaw Festival this season is the musical Maria Severa by company members Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli.
Maria Severa was a real person – a prostitute and singer from the slums of Lisbon who lived in the mid-19th century. She is credited as being the mother of fado, pronounced in the Portuguese, vah-doo – the melancholy songs about love, loss and pain that have made that country famous. She died when she was just 26 of tuberculosis.
In the musical, Severa becomes famous through her fado, but more importantly, the heart of the plot is her scandalous love affair with a nobleman who also happened to be a bullfighter.
In short, the music is quite wonderful. Some of the lyrics are clever. The set is imaginative. The costumes look authentic. The choreography is attractive. The cast is strong, and Jackie Maxwell’s direction is taut.
Unfortunately, the storyline lacks punch.
Maria Severa continues at the Court House Theatre until Sept. 23.