Feathers flutter and sequins glitter as sounds of a piano, drums and other instruments accompany the vocalists, dancers on stage. The opening night preview of Pieces of Me, inside Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille really feels like a Broadway musical at times.
The play, written, directed and produced by Deon Denton, covers a wide range of themes including hopelessness, despair, abuse, frustration, love, deception and forgiveness and centres around Pamela, played by Shahi Teruko, who is restless and seeking purpose in life.
“You write from your pain, at least for me,” explains Denton. “I am not a song writer, but if I am going through something, I write. The back drop of the script we took from a Bible story, but the experiences are all mine.”
“For the most part I wrote from experiences, I was jobless at home, with nothing to do, going through depression. Just asking myself, “Who I am?” I started singing “Who Am I”, and sang through the depression, wrote a few more songs through the night,” she adds. “Four or five days later, I had almost an entire script.”
“You write from your pain, at least for me. I am not a song writer, but if I am going through something, I write. The back drop of the script we took from a Bible story, but the experiences are all mine.” Deon Denton
Teruko flawlessly plays out the confusion of leading two lives, one of deceit and past dwellings, and one with her loving, career motivated, husband Patrick, played by Sheldon Neil. The musical incorporates various elements of stage theatre, including a narrator, live band and vocal ensemble, dance routines, and phenomenal singing, with some tracks occasionally written to a known melody.
“I think it’s about taking one scene at a time, as opposed to saying I’m going to conquer the play at once,” shares Neil, explaining the challenge of dancing, and singing on stage. Neil performed a monologue with a Broadway-like feel
that ended in a tap dance sequence with two other dancers.
“There are so many talented people, and each of them have their strengths, and we as a family came together and helped each other out,” says Claudia Wit, who played Pamela’s foster sister. “To play someone like Pamela who has this double life was really tough, and I spent a lot of time training with Denton, who coached me into the role, emotions and how to appropriately portray those,” says Teruko.
“To play someone like Pamela who has this double life was really tough, and I spent a lot of time training with Denton, who coached me into the role, emotions and how to appropriately portray those.” Shahi Teruko
Crystal Neil provides hilarious narration, with more than just words, encompassing dance and vocal while captivating the audience, dressed in her red top hat, with a smooth, jazzy, Broadway-like demeanor. Providing the theatre with entertainment during set change, alongside the live band’s jazz renditions. And pushing the story forward with scenes like her musical showcase to compare and contrast the inner character struggle with, “Pamela the housewife vs. Pamela the prostitute.”
The play evokes emotions, according to audience member Sandra Edmondson. “One minute you are crying, and then they bring you back to a place of happiness again, it was absolutely brilliant.”
Words By. Dinusha Wijemanne
Please Note: This was originally published via Urbanology Magazine.