The Firehall Arts Centre came alive Wednesday evening with the sound of famed singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s music during the opening of the Chelsea Hotel.
The show began with actor Kayvon Kelly standing alone, playing a character clearly suffering from severe writer’s block and possibly alcoholism. This is evidenced by the literal mountain of crumpled paper next to a wooden desk, which is decorated with only a notebook and a bottle of what appeared to be whiskey.
It didn’t take long for the production to break into full-blown song and dance — five other people — three women and two men — appeared on stage, their faces painted ashen white. Throughout the evening, instruments of all sorts (17 to be exact) were revealed: A drum set, guitars and a cello were hidden behind discarded pages, the desk turned into a piano, and a kazoo appeared out of seemingly thin air.
Even if you’re not familiar with Cohen’s collection, watching the six performers play off each other is delightful. Musical director Steve Charles does a fantastic job piecing together titles that create a narrative of love gained and lost. At times the mood is heavy, but there is an underlying humour that surfaces throughout the production.
The audience broke into laughter during a particularly funny scene where performer Tracey Power appears wearing a nothing but a bed sheet. With her back facing the crowd, she opens up the sheet and lets go — and it remains suspended in the air. Power ducks out of view for a moment, and quickly reappears with fellow actresses Marlene Ginader and Rachel Aberle who join her in song.
The great thing about the cast in Chelsea Hotel is that every member is multitalented, with no one restricted to a single part to play. Ginader, for instance, is as good at belting out tunes as she is playing a haunting number on the violin.
The performance ended with a rendition of perhaps Cohen’s most recognized and tear-inducing piece: Hallelujah. Chelsea Hotel runs until Jan. 3, visit firehallartscentre.ca for show times and to purchase tickets.