Mimi or A Poisoner’s Comedy, lyrics and music by Allen Cole, book and lyrics by Melody A. Johnson and Rick Roberts. Directed by Alisa Palmer. Starring Trish Lindström, Tamara Bernier Evans, Paul Braunstein, Martin Julien, Ron Pederson and Victor A. Young. Until Oct. 25 at Tarragon Theatre Mainspace.
Food, wine and sex.
Three things that epitomize the French way of life.
Such is the case nowadays.
Paris is full of lovers — of every genre.
And such was the case during Louis XIV’s reign, where the aristocracy flaunted their pursuits whether they were savouring a fine glass of wine or a fine woman.
That joie de vivre extended to midtown’s Tarragon theatre Sept. 23 with the world premiere of Mimi, or A Poisoner’s Comedy.
Mimi tells the tale of 17th-century femme fatale, Marquise de Brinvilliers.
With book and lyrics by Rick Roberts and Melody A. Johnson, and lyrics and music by Allen Cole, the two-act musical opens with a good ole’ Parisian romp.
Mimi, her husband, Mimi’s lover and the couple’s maid, Françoise, are found in bed, frolicking to their hearts’ content.
Mimi, played by Trish Lindström, loves food, wine and sex, especially the physical part when it comes to her young lover, St. Croix (Ron Pederson).
Mimi’s husband (Martin Julien) is too a lover, and his love? The maid (Tamara Bernier Evans).
Mimi’s father (Victor A. Young) isn’t a fan of the love-fest.
With his ban on his daughter’s debauchery, the mischievous Mimi sets out on a transformation into a “good girl” sans wine, food and sex.
Add in homemade pigeon pies, the Bastille and costumes that rival Malabar’s collection and you’ve got a winning combination.
I love a good French comedy and Roberts and Johnson definitely deliver.
Roberts, who is well known in Toronto’s acting scene, includes drama, satire and physical laughs with Mimi.
If you’ve read my previous reviews, any word of a musical usually makes me recoil in fear.
Yet Mimi’s musical acts are equally entertaining and fun.
I also adore Lindström’s performance. The actor brings a mixture of both innocence and mischievousness to the role.
Her quips and performance in general, is quite enjoyable.
Tarragon regular Paul Braunstein, who plays a variety of roles, including Torceaux, a quadriplegic beggar and Exili, a captive Italian, awaiting his execution, is a hit.
Comedy is key in this production and Braunstein’s performance is right on.
He is lovable yet funny as the beggar, while he plays a mixture of crazy yet full of Italian anecdotes, as the captive.
Equally pleasurable is the set design by award-winning Camellia Koo, who has worked on such stage productions as Tarragon’s East of Berlin and the Shaw Festival’s The Stepmother.
A large mirror frames makes up the majority of the set’s backdrop, while three doorways, a small stage to house a piano and drum set, plus a chandelier, complete the look.
A disco ball even drops down from the ceiling when a particularly upbeat song happens.
All of this could have been a disaster though.
On one hand, who would believe a musical about debauchery would work? Not me.
But it does.
Secondly, shortly into the beginning of Mimi, the lights went out, and the theatre space was awash in darkness.
So, not chic.
The actors stopping singing, lights were turned back on, and Pederson joked with the audience, saying the lights off aspect was “a question and answer period”.
The lighting malfunction was soon remedied, actors — the stars that they are — returned to their cues, and the production continued. By the time the second act came to an end, two hours after the laughs began, the lighting incident was completely forgotten.
As the Sun King asks in Mimi, “What is a Frenchman without food?”
While that might be correct, in terms of the actual production, the play without the comedy element, particular actors and yes, I’m saying it — music performances — would be, well, a major disappointment.
Definitely not, a French love.
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