Hodge: Musical with a big wow factor

Raft of the Medusa has the potential to be as epic a stage performance as it is a story.

It’s been a while since a girl made me shiver like that. Or a guy, for that matter.

In fact, the last time my body tingled like that involved both a girl and a guy performing together, but that was several years ago.

However on Wednesday, Ashlie Atkinson and Neville Bowman gave me goose bumps, made hair on my neck stand up, and sent shivers down my body.

Gosh it felt wonderful.

That is the power of music and voice.

When Atkinson and Bowman broke into an original score Is this Love, the entire room went quiet with 30 or so witnesses spellbound by the beauty of their voices.

It is a rare moment when I get teary-eyed at a musical performance. In my lifetime of involvement in music it may have happened three or four times—yet Ashlie and Neville succeeded where so many have failed.

The duo amazed those gathered for a wine and cheese kick-off Wednesday afternoon at the Kelowna Community Theatre for the upcoming musical-theatre Raft of the Medusa.

The one-song tease by them, “How Can This Be Love?,” was followed by an equally impressive original by another music gem in our midst—Pat Brown.

All three play lead roles in the 22-member cast new rock-musical.

Written and produced by the talented team of Randall Robinson and Pat Brown (of rock band Ten2Nine fame), Raft of the Medusa captures the agony, tragedy and human condition of one of the worst maritime disasters in history.

In the early 19th century the French passenger ship the Medusa sank off the coast of Africa with 400 on board.

Due to a lack of life boats more than 150 castaways were set adrift on makeshift rafts. Two weeks later when rescued only 15 had survived.

The disaster inspired French painter Theodore Gericault to paint his famous painting of the tragedy—Raft of the Medusa.

The performance examines both life and death on the raft, and the struggles of Gericault himself.

The production is referred to as “four years in the making,” yet in fact it has been two life-times.

Long-time friends, Pat and Randall have shared their own epic journey through the tumultuous times that can surround those who actually dedicate their life to pursuing music or any other true art form as not only a passion but a career.

Like most other gifted, talented Canadians, Brown and Robinson have had to subsidize their income with ‘real’ jobs over the years to put food on the table.

But unlike many, they passionately live and breathe for the creative and meaningful insight and impact their artistic skills allow them to share with others.

In Raft of the Medusa,  they have succeeded brilliantly.

Of course, there should be no surprise at how marvelous the tease performance by the three Okanagan actor/singers was. Consider this snapshot of some of their accomplishments to date.

Atkinson is a graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts with honours in three disciplines—song, dance and acting.

In addition, she has theatre experience working for The Arts Club, Theatre under the Stars, and the Gateway Theatre Co., in Vancouver, wrote a short play for the Vancouver Fringe Fest, and was the main stage singer for Norwegian Cruise Lines.

She has played the lead roles in Chess, Eva Perone in Evita, and Lady Blakeny in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Bowman boasts an astonishing musical biography including work in various forms of music and arts.

Highly regarded for his skill on keyboards and piano, Neville is also accomplished on the pipe organ, French horn, bass guitar and other instruments.

When not playing jazz, country, funk, or rock music Neville has also revealed his vocal talents the past few years.

Known locally for his work in local bands Ten2Nine and Just in Time Neville has also worked musical theatre shows across the continent (including New York) and in other countries, most recently Tokyo.

He has likewise earned respect for his talent as a sideman, arranger, writer, producer and actor.

Since taking part in Showboat, Neville has also played lead or key roles in Sweeney Todd, Camelot, Fantasticks, Venus in Fur, and A Street Car Named Desire.

Brown is certainly no stranger to Okanagan music fans or theatre goers. Probably best known as lead singer of the multiple awards winning rock band Ten2Nine Brown (winning 2005 Male Performer of the Year in Interior Music Awards), Brown has focused a majority of his singing energy on theatre performances the past few years. He wowed crowds in his portrayal of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar and played the lead roles in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sweeney Todd, and as Ebenezer in the musical Scrooge.

Make no bones about it folks, Raft of the Medusa has the potential to be as epic a stage performance as it is a story.

Raft of the Medusa could well be one of the most powerful, impressive and brilliant artistic  stage creations to ever come out of Canada.

But don’t count on me, find out for yourself.

Opening night for the four-show run is July 24. To learn more, check out raftofthemedusaamusical.com.


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