I have read the book and seen the movie, and read papers on how difficult it was to make the latter, even though the great Richler was there to guide the process. I did not have a lot of expectations of a great musical, and I admit that I was wrong. The musical directed by Austen Pendelton at the Segal Centre (book and lyrics by David Spencer and music by Alan Menken) is really good.
It is not up there with my favourite musicals but it comes close. Most delightful is the cast. Ken James Stewart is a terrific Duddy and his manic laughter echoes that of Richard Dreyfuss in the film version. His energy and innocence combine to make his most heinous deeds forgivable. Marie–Pierre de Brienne was truly exquisite as Yvette and her performance was as professional and polished as her singing was flawless. While the rest of the cast was excellent, the most impressive was Michael Rudder as Jerry Dingleman the Boy Wonder, he managed to make this character menacing and threatening while resting on both a cane and a crutch, beautifully done.
The opening song was not spectacular and the first act had first act blues, Too much information and not enough time. The best song was a shtick on Art and Commerce, the scene and the song both worked wonderfully. Yvette’s final solo song was also really moving. There was not however a single hummable tune at the end of the show and one missed that final curtain company performance that rocked the house.
Nonetheless David Spencer was able to write a credible ending to a play about a young man who is not a particularly sympathetic character. That is an amazing achievement. His lyrics were not greatly inspiring, and the music needed punching up particularly at the beginning. But really it was a very Montreal kind of show, and one does kind of wish there were more Montrealers involved. One particularly wished there was something more exciting musically about Wolenski’s where I used to have a very early breakfast with all the traveling salesmen before heading off to the Laurentians to work at a day camp.
Michael Egan’s set must also be one of the best ever seen on that stage. It was truly inspiring. He managed to create the intimacy of Wolenski’s, and the vast wonder of the Laurentian lake that Duddy craves aesthetically satisfying and totally believable.
In all, it was a delightful evening of theatre, in the city where this opening so very much belongs. The run has been extended to July 5th and so there is every reason to catch this world premiere production of the musical.
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz the Musical is at the Segal Centre (5170 Ch de la Cote Ste. Catherine) until July 5.