Steve Charles and Lauren Bowler perform in Chelsea Hotel – The Songs of Leonard Cohen at the Belfry Theatre until Nov. 15.

Belfry heats up with cool Cohen show

Chelsea Hotel - The Songs Of Leonard Cohen premiered at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver in 2012

In Chelsea Hotel, Tracey Power interprets the songs of Leonard Cohen and transforms the theatre into a cabaret.

“Leonard Cohen’s lyrics are open to interpretation, when I listened to them I could hear the arrangement in my head,” says Power, creator and director of the show. “This carnivalesque world formed in my head.”

Raised in the Comox Valley, she attended theatre school in Edmonton and has performed across Canada and internationally.

“I found six performers, multi-instrumentalists, singers, dancers, actors. … It’s pretty amazing how many artists do have those kind of skills,” she says. The most highly sought skill, however, was that of storyteller. “Once I knew who those people were: great. Replacing them gets more difficult as the roles were really pieced together around the people.”

Chelsea Hotel – The Songs Of Leonard Cohen premiered at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver in 2012 and has toured the country. The Belfry Theatre presents the show until Nov. 15 as part of its 40th anniversary season.

“I’m happy to bring it home. All my mom’s family is from Victoria. Every summer and holidays we spent time in Victoria. Bringing it to the Belfry is pretty fantastic,” she says.

In the stylish musical, the audience checks into New York’s infamous hotel and is transported into a world of music, mystery and desire.

“It’s almost like a concert in a way, a theatricalized concert,” says Power. “The songs spoke to me. It’s a poetic journey.”

With extraordinary new arrangements, six performers play 17 instruments in this exuberant tribute to Cohen’s most transcendent songs. “Some are very different than audiences are used to hearing them. I think that’s fantastic, it’s like hearing them for the first time.”

Other songs will be more familiar, she says. “The audience wants to hear certain songs, so you have to find out what context will work best in the piece.

“It’s an exciting and moving music and theatrical experience. It’s unique and yes, if you love Leonard Cohen music, you’ll love the show and if you don’t know his music at all it’s just as exciting and fulfilling a musical and theatrical journey.

 

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