Review of Bear & Co.’s No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of  Leonard Cohen at The Gladstone 3

Review of Bear & Co.’s No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of Leonard Cohen at The Gladstone

Bear & Co., you have a hit on your hands. 

You need to promote it, tour it, get it out there and nudge this show toward the runaway success it’s poised to become. Your arrangement and production will grab the interest of theatre companies across North America and Europe. Your work begs to be performed elsewhere. That’s how good it is. If this were stock, I’d be buying shares in Bear & Co., like now.

Review of Bear & Co.’s No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of Leonard Cohen at The Gladstone 1
The cast, L to R: Robin Guy, Pierre Brault, Rachel Eugster and Scott Richardson

No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of Leonard Cohen has all the potential to become another Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Like that 1968 Broadway hit, which still gets produced around the world to this day, this similarly conceived production could become just as renowned. It is at least as powerful. It is every bit as evocative. It hits all the notes – arrangement, set, lighting. And it’s homegrown. But what makes No Way To Say Goodbye even mightier to Canadians is that, like Brel the Belgian troubadour was to Belgium and the French, Cohen is to Canada and the English and the French.

Though Cohen was ours, Cohen was everyone’s. The homage that is No Way To Say Goodbye gives the man and his music back to the world. Where it belongs, where it can exalt.

The cast made their talents look effortless, from strumming guitars and mandolin to playing piano, accordion, flute, harmonica and tambourine.

“Nobody writes lyrics like Cohen could,” muttered the man beside me, clearly entranced. This show is an adoring tribute to all that Cohen was – poet, songwriter, ladies’ man, cynic, lover – and Jewish. The 21-song playlist that Bear & Co. assembled, arranged, choreographed, played and sang includes all the familiar favourites: Everybody Knows; Famous Blue Raincoat; Suzanne; First We Take Manhattan; Dance Me (To the End of Love); So Long, Marianne. 

It also included a few arrangements that weren’t as familiar (even to an ardent fan like me). It gave the audience an appreciation of how much music his 60-year career produced. I was touched for the inclusion of You Want it Darker from his final album, but somehow more touched for the surprise inclusion of prayers sung in Hebrew. The stunning soprano voice of Rachel Eugster delivered those beautifully.

Four players, four voices. The harmonies, there had to have been twenty of those, in combination. The cast made their talents look effortless, from strumming guitars and mandolin to playing piano, accordion, flute, harmonica and tambourine.

Review of Bear & Co.’s No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of Leonard Cohen at The Gladstone 7There were exquisite solos (Pierre Brault in Lover Come Back; Scott Richardson in My Gypsy Wife). Some piercing duets (Robin Guy and Rachel Eugster in If It Be Your Will; Pierre Brault and Robin Guy in Ain’t No Cure For Love).

…up went the lights and up soared the joy when the audience too, was given voice.

But it was when the whole ensemble belted out Cohen’s anthemic wonders like Hallelujah and Anthem (Ring The Bells) that they brought the house down. Cohen has been dead a year, Hallelujah has been played to death and yet, it can still give almost anyone the chills.

Review of Bear & Co.’s No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of Leonard Cohen at The Gladstone
The cast with director Eleanor Crowder (R)

Director Eleanor Crowder knew instinctively that voices could not be contained on hearing the formidable Hallelujah or Anthem. So up went the lights and up soared the joy when the audience too, was given voice. It had to be something of an experience of spirituality; why else would my tone-deaf husband join in and sing?

Such is the spirit of this company that visiting choirs are invited to attend and sing these refrains as a spontaneous pop-up choir. Leonard Cohen would’ve smiled his wee smile at this.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said opening night attendee Walter Boyce, “of the show or the theatre, not having been here before. We usually go to the NAC. But this was just excellent, a truly exceptional cast. They articulated remarkably well and I appreciated the strength of the lyrics, which are 70% of his music.”

Review of Bear & Co.’s No Way To Say Goodbye: Songs of Leonard Cohen at The Gladstone 6

You’ll regret it if you miss No Way To Say Goodbye. Especially after it gets big and famous and costs a fortune to see when it makes a stop here again.

Production photos courtesy: andrew alexander photography

Tickets online at:  The Gladstone and at Bear & Co. 

Or by phone: (613) 233-4523

Runs until Nov 4th

910 Gladstone Avenue

 

 

 

Allyson Domanski writes about travel, the arts and reviews theatre for Ottawa Tonite as well as for Newswest. She is currently completing a major work of creative non-fiction to be published in 2017. An avid traveller and not-quite year-round cyclist, she and her husband spent two and a half years bicycling around the world before she joined the territorial then the federal public service. The hockey and lacrosse mom, owner of a Husky and une cabane au Quebec hails from Winnipeg and has lived from India to Iqaluit but she and her family call Hintonburg home.

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