Good golly, Miss Molly!

Talented Celine Stubel and Stunning Design Save ‘Fire’ From Fizzling Out

Celine Stubel dazzles as Molly King in Blue Bridge's Fire.

The much anticipated Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre production of the hit musical Fire was not as hot as expected. However, the play’s strong visuals and the dynamic portrayal of female lead character Molly King by actress Celine Stubel managed to bring some real warmth to the evening.

Fire follows the story of two brothers, Cale and Herchel Blackwell, who have a similar religious upbringing and yet follow completely divergent paths in life. Cale becomes a rock ’n’ roll star and then descends into a hell of drugs and addiction. His righteous brother Herchel becomes a famous televangelist, but is corrupted by his fame and pride all the same. Fire is billed as a “rock/gospel musical” but the songs do not work to advance the plot and are more like periodical interludes in the action.

The brothers are based on musician Jerry Lee Lewis and televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who were cousins in real life. The writers of the 1985 musical, Paul Ledoux and David Young, intended to highlight how the passionate and intense atmosphere of the Pentecostal church inspired the wild style of early rock ’n’ roll. However, this meaning seemed to be lost in Blue Bridge Theatre’s production and audience members will only make the connection if they read the small write up in the programme.

Zachary Stevenson plays the rock ’n’ roll piano player Cale Blackwell and he has certainly captured the outrageous knee-shaking, hip twisting, piano pounding, and chair-kicking performance style of Jerry Lee Lewis. However, he sometimes carries the over-the-top physicality into a territory which is more reminiscent of Jim Carrey in some of his goofier films, which takes quite a bit of believability away from the character.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jacob Richmond would have benefitted from a bit more confidence in his role as Herchel Blackwell, as he stumbled over more than a few lines causing the audience to struggle to suspend their disbelief. However, he had a few shining moments when he became passionate about a sermon and truly let the fire and brimstone rain down.

As Molly King, the Blackwell brother’s mutual childhood sweetheart, Celine Stubel was the glue that held the two together. She begins the play as a sweet and innocent young church-going teenager. Lead by her lust for adventure and her curiosity, she finds herself following Cale on tour and transforming into a seductress dancing on the edge of danger. After a painful fall from grace, she runs to Herchel for help and accepts God back into her life, becoming a wise and mature, strong yet compassionate woman. It can be a challenge to portray the many changes in a character over such a long span of her lifetime, and Stubel handled the role with grace.

The production also benefited from a beautiful set design by Patrick Du Wors, which included the soaring gables of a country church, a towering train trestle, a revolving white piano, and an enormous neon cross descending on wires from the ceiling. The costumes captured each era with flair and style, as the play spans several different years in the lives of the characters from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The production carries some thought-provoking messages about religion, politics, righteousness and Christian televangelism, which means that although the performance is lacking in its delivery and feels a bit too long, Fire will likely spark some hot debates within its audience. M

 

By Kelly Dunning

 

Fire

Aug. 10-13 at 8pm, Sun. Aug. 14 at 2pm at the McPherson Theatre.

Tickets $38-$50 at the McPherson box office, rmts.bc.ca. or by telephone 250-386-6121

Just Posted

Emerging Sooke filmmaker takes spotlight with special award

Mary Galloway creates her own opportunities

Government House gala a great time to announce new Langham Court season

Production chair Alan Penty unveils 90-year-old theatre company’s plans for the coming year

Wild about nature photos: Royal B.C. Museum set to kick off annual exhibition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition winners, finalists’ works on display starting Friday

REVIEW: Allan Reid finds a meal fit for a king

Monday’s intrepid restaurant reviewer gets the royal treatment at the Fireside Grill

FILM FEST WRAP: Your winners, reviewer’s favourites make for differing lists

Kyle Wells takes a look back on the Victoria Film Festival’s 25th anniversary event

Seedy Saturday blossoms at Victoria Conference Centre this weekend

Speakers cover wide range of topics, including how to utilize small spaces for gardening

Port Alberni production tells real stories of casual racism

Divided We Fall coming to ADSS and the Capitol Theatre

Women dominated in Grammys nominations, but will they win?

This year’s nominees mark a departure from the 2018 Grammys

Most Read