Phoenix Theatre turns serial murder into a jailhouse rock ’n’ roll musical

Phoenix Theatre turns serial murder into a jailhouse rock ’n’ roll musical with Love Kills

Love Kills

Love Kills

University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre kicked off their 2011-12 season with the traditional Spotlight on Alumni. This year’s offering is Obie-Award winning playwright Kyle Jarrow’s Love Kills, directed by UVic alumni and Theatre Inconnu Artistic Director Clayton Jevne (BFA ’85, MFA ’87 and PhD ’03).

This psychologically stimulating rock musical also stars past UVic students Cam Culham (MFA’03) as sheriff Merle Karnopp, Marina Lagacé (BFA ’10) as Caril Ann Fugate and Brendan Bailey as Charlie Starkweather.

If the names Fugate and Starkweather sound familiar, it’s because the two Nebraska teens went on a murder spree in 1958, killing 11 people before they were arrested. Love Kills takes a look inside the minds of the two killers after their arrest and the challenges faced by the sheriff and his wife Gertrude (Donna Williams) as they try to extract confessions before lawyers become involved.

Jevne was creative with the use of space on the small stage, using only simple props like chairs and benches to define spaces. He even squeezes in a bed (that cleverly morphs into a bathtub) for the more intimate scenes outside the cop-shop.

Pub regulars The Party on High Street provided the live music, set up with four microphones in front for the actors who instead of performing their numbers from the set, step up and rock out like they are part of the band.

The music, originally written in an emo-rock style, was appropriately adapted and expertly performed by The Party on High Street to have that old southern country twang with a rockabilly sensibility that matches the era.

The vocals, however, didn’t quite match. None of the voices, except for Lagace who started out shaky but quickly found her groove, were strong enough to carry the songs for the length of time they were given and Bailey’s vocals were often so muffled that it was almost impossible to hear what he was singing.

I imagine most of those issues will work themselves out before the run is through.

You may not leave the theatre with one of the songs stuck in your head, but it will be filled with thoughts about passionate young love and how loyalties can shift when the pressure is on. It also reminds us that killers are people, too. M

Love Kills

Phoenix Theatre Until Oct. 22 at 8pm

Matinee Oct. 22, 2 pm; Tickets $13-22 available at 250-721-8000

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