Music shines while acting flickers out

Musical theatre tale of Lucille Starr will make you tap your toes, but wish for a better script

  • A Starr is born: Beverly Elliott as St. Boniface-born Lucille Starr, who was the first female Canadian to sell a million records, in Back to You: The Life and Music of Lucille Starr. – Bruce Monk

Back To You is a little like Walk The Line, had Johnny Cash been Canadian, female and – unfortunately – more boring.

St. Boniface-born musician Lucille Starr’s real life had its fair share of hurtin’ and heartbreak.

However, Barbara Tomasic’s musical rendition doesn’t give us a chance to look much deeper than a collection of arguments and a handful of songs into the life of the girl who would eventually become the first female inductee of the Canadian Country Music Association’s “Hall Of Honour.”

Lucille Starr started off as one half of the country duo Bob & Lucille with her future husband, then eventually signed to A&M Records and became The Canadian Sweethearts.

Her real success came from the solo release The French Song, which became a multi-national hit and made her the first Canadian artist to have a record sell over a million copies.

Back To You opens with an older version of Starr, played by Beverly Elliott, back in the spotlight for a comeback performance and taking the opportunity to reflect back on her life for the audience.

Elliot narrates the whole play in flashbacks, but her narration is uninspired. While she has a solid singing voice, she delivers her lines like she’s reading off of a script and skims over much of the emotional turmoil.

Alison MacDonald plays young Starr. While she does act and sing quite pleasantly through an emotional range, she never really delves into that real country angst.

The script by Tracey Power doesn’t give her much room to explore the darker times of her life, waiting until almost the end of the first act before we see any sign of real conflict.

Jeff Gladstone puts on the most convincing performance as Bob Regan, mining some emotional lows as Starr’s abusive husband, whom we see go from charming youth to bitter, resentful husband – jealous that his wife created “that one song” without him.

The musical aspect is the strongest point of Back To You. The three-piece backing band, who are onstage throughout, execute every song with genuine zest.

They even ended with a number that had the audience on their feet, clapping along. While the three actors seemed to come alive most when singing, the consequent standing ovations belonged to the band.

Published in Volume 65, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 18, 2010)

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