Sousatzka captivates you as it takes you on an adventure from South Africa and Poland to England. It focuses on the story of a child protégé, Themba, and his piano teacher, Madame Sousatzka.
After his activist father gets arrested in South Africa, Themba and his mother escape and move to London. Once they are introduced to Madame Sousatzka, their families and friends meet, and they begin to exchange stories of struggle and survival.
The whole show is very lively, even as it shares tales with a sombre tone. Sitting in the front row, I saw that the actors had very animated expressions. In fact, when I arrived at the theatre, an usher joked that I was close enough to the stage to be the conductor. I like Sousatzka because a lot of musicals have frivolous plots, but this one can be taken seriously.
The director and actors used the stage quite well. They uniquely incorporated layers to show actors in different locations and/or time periods. For example, they showed Themba and his mother reading his father’s censored letters from prison in London, while the father stood behind them filling in the blanks from South Africa. Likewise, they also made good use of levels, as actors stood on chairs to sing multiple times.
My favourite character is Jenny, a young woman who Madame Sousatzka basically adopts and allows to stay with her. Jenny is a bit of a sleazy rebel with pink streaks in her hair who tempts Themba to misbehave too. Likewise, Jenny sings my favourite song, which is All I Wanna Do (Is Go Dancin’).
Speaking of music, the orchestra was very in sync with the actors, which was made clear when the actors tapped on bells and the musicians seamlessly added sound effects to make them ring.
The TTC is covered in ads promoting this show, so hopefully Torontonians will check it out and immerse themselves in this rich story, which is based on a novel by Bernice Rubens.