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Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: Lies My Father Told Me

Diva Patsy Gallant in Lies (Photo: Andrée Lanthier)

A Child, a Grandfather and an old horse
A funny, enjoyable and well-performed growing pain
By Valerie Cardinal

Lies My Father Told Me deals with the lies children are told by grown-ups as they get older. It’s is the coming-of-age story of Davie, a Jewish boy growing up in a working-class immigrant neighbourhood in 1920s Montreal. Davie’s great joy is the Sundays he spends with his grandfather Zaida and his horse Federleh, selling wares from a carriage. Davie also has to contend with not-so-pleasant things, including a nasty neighbour, a new baby brother and his inventor father’s never-ending cockamamie schemes. 

The second act opens with one of the most cheerful songs about bankruptcy I’ve ever heard.
Bryna Wasserman’s musical adaption based on Ted Allan’s many incarnations of the original story stars Theodore Bikel and Patsy Gallant, two big names who really deliver. 86-year-old Bikel is sympathetic as a grandfather who loves his grandson above all else. Meanwhile, Patsy Gallant is a lot of fun to watch as a no-nonsense hooker with a heart of gold. 
The musical’s young star Jamie Mayers also impresses, and can be forgiven for the occasional wavering in his voice, as he essentially carries the entire show. Kathleen McAuliffe has a wonderful turn as scenery-chewing neighbourhood nag Mrs. Tanner. 
Lies my Father Told Me is a slice of life, a story about loss and growing up
Elan Kunin’s music is catchy and Montreal-centric. While most of the script is in English, French adds some interesting accents in both song and speech. The second act opens with one of the most cheerful songs about bankruptcy I’ve ever heard. The music that didn’t work for me was a few songs that try a little too hard to tug your heartstrings. 
John C. Dinning’s rotating, two-level set was beautifully elaborate. The attention to detail and versatility of a set meant to stand in for an entire street and an entire house was amazing. 
Lies my Father Told Me is a slice of life, a story about loss and growing up that is still relatable to modern audiences. I realized this going in, but the abrupt ending still took me by surprise. It felt odd to have such a cheerful musical end on a down note, with no sense of closure. My play-going companion described the show as one big growing pain, which sums it up nicely. However, this is one funny, enjoyable and well-performed growing pain. 
Lies my Father Told Me is at the Segal Centre
Running time: 2 hours


  1. Overall, good production values, nice set, Patsy Gallant's brassy showstopping number "I'm Not Leaving" that kicked off Act Two (her line about her "deux tetons, tabarnak!" brought down the house) was fabulous, Jamie Myers (who played 7-year-old David) was quite good, and it was pretty damn cool to see 87-year-old theatre legend Theodore Bikel just walk onto the stage. If you're gonna get tickets, though, I recommend a centre-section seat (I was seated first row in the left section and found the music there to be a tad loud). Worth seeing. The late Ted Allan would have been proud.

  2. Saw it last night - and yes our seats were centered - 2 rows below the huge (for Segal) sound set. Wonderful. Joyous. Funny. Moving. Brilliant set, great story, good music. So worth seeing. Get tickets - no really - get tickets. We just don't get enough of this quality theatre, at any price, here in Montreal.


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