Sexy 17th Century Murderess' Musical Tale Opens in Halifax!

Posted by Waves Volunteer 20/02/2014

By TheatreSpeak

Mimi (Kirsten Howell) her lover St. Croix (Zach Faye), her husband (Kyle Gillis) and their maid (Karen Myatt) do things that Mary Poppins would never allow.

Opening tonight at Neptune's Studio Theatre in Halifax, as part of the Open Spaces program is 'Mimi, or, A poisoner's Comedy, a chamber musical by Allen Cole, one of Canada's most esteemed theatre composers; produced by local, independent company, TheatreSpeak , and directed by Mary Lou Martin.

Out of "a most unusual arrangement" comes a most unusual play: Mimi, TheatreSpeak's third production, tells the tale of a 17th-century French murderess whose freedom and sexuality are subjugated at the cost of those she loves. Mimi (Kirsten Howell) kills her father (Marty Burt), her husband (Kyle Gillis) and her lover St. Croix (Zach Faye), and is finally brought to justice by Louis XIV's star detective Desgrais (also Marty Burt).

Mimi is sexy, and complex. "She literally gets off with her partner in crime", explains Kyle Gillis, who is both acting in and producing the show. "There is a masculine and feminine energy in the play," embodied in the strong central character.

Part morality tale and part indictment of an oppressive patriarchy, it remains up to the audience to determine whether Mimi celebrates its heroine's will to live, or condemns her for actions. Howell says of the self-determined woman she plays and her relationships to the men in her life: "I definitely wear the pants!"

Musicals often tell tales of outsiders – from the radicalized youth in West Side Story, and the bohemian misfits in Rent, to the victims of an oppressive state inWicked. Stories of the little guy or gal fighting a hostile, oppressive system abound. It is no wonder the form has attracted so many queer lyricists and composers.

"This is a fun show", says Gillis. "It's entertainment". But like so many modern musicals, such as Next to Normal and Spring AwakeningMimi is not afraid of tackling dark subject matter, as its subtitle A Poisoner's Comedy suggests. Indeed, from the sexily polyamorous opening quartet "To Come, To Be" through the ironic ensemble number, The City of Love, (during which Mimi poisons Parisian tourists and citizens), sex and love take many forms. 

Howell remarks, "Mimi has mother issues". Her mother's ghost mother (beautifully sung by Karen Myatt) appears to her throughout the musical. The theme of mothers' love is darkly echoed by the Italian poisoner Exili, played by Garry Williams.

Mimi's leading ladies bring star quality to this production. Howell, known from her performance in TheatreSpeak's inaugural production [title of show], as well as Neptune Main Stage productions, brings an impressive vocal range and comedic ability to the title role. Myatt, double cast as the maid Francoise and Mimi's mother, may be known to audience from her cabaret More Amore, which she performs with Stuart Heisler. No stranger to queer and sex-positive material, audiences may anticipate a top notch performance Myatt.

The men in the cast include Gillis, Marty Burt (known from Cole's Rockbound at Ross Creek, and other roles with Two Planks and a Passion), Zach Faye (familiar to queer audiences from A Little Cabaret and DaPride Café) and Garry Williams, Menz and Mollyz' Sing-Along Show Tunez host, and artistic director of DaPoPo Theatre.

Directed by Mary Lou Martin, a veteran of Nova Scotia musical theatre, who comes from a dance background, this show is clearly and simply staged. She "knows how to let the actors breathe", says Kirstin Howell, and "is very good at delineating the story's arc".

TheatreSpeak's inaugural production was off-Broadway favourite [title of show] about two gay men who struggle to pull off a Broadway hit, followed by Wild Abandon by Daniel MacIvor.

Programming works by, with and about queer artists, Kyle Gillis wants to create opportunities for emerging and established theatre artists.

Like the characters in [title of show], TheatreSpeak's producer Kyle Gillis has had a few of his own struggles producing 'Mimi'. "We are still looking for sponsors", he tell Wayvess.  Hewas able to finance this production through a generous loan. Despite not receiving government funding for this project, Gillis is committed to offering something local, and something different. "Mimi is a great show. Most people still don't know musicals written in Canada."

The property he selected for TheatreSpeak's third production is this odd little gem from the pen of one of Canada's most produced musical theatre authors.

Allen Cole, a celebrated Canadian musical theatre songsmith ( Pélagie, Rockbound) with roots in Nova Scotia, is one of Mimi's creators. Cole's erudite, eclectic, yet distinct score lends itself to non-traditional subject matter. For those not familiar with his work, this production will be a delightful p'tite amuse bouche.

This is definitely the kind of show that people for whom Mary Poppins may not be the most exciting theatre event of the season will want to see, but TheatreSpeak hopes a wider audience will take a chance on Mimi, "We think there's enough fun and great music that anyone might enjoy" Mimi, or A Poisoner's Comedy will open at the Neptune Studio Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 20 (tonight!), and runs through Sunday, Feb. 23; evening shows at 8pm; Sat and Sun matinées as 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at the Neptune Theatre Box Office, (902) 429-7070, or by visiting their website here

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