One of many musicals at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, Omen: The Musical is an apocalyptic tale that tackles the terrifying reality of climate change. Set some time in the future, after a climate catastrophe and subsequent violent uprisings, society has collapsed into disparate factions of desperate survivors.
Among these survivors are four witches. They have powers of physical manipulation that seem (it wasn’t entirely clear) to be related to the four natural elements—earth, air, fire and water. As the story begins, trees are going mysteriously missing. The witches must discover who is hoarding this precious resource before the arrival of some threatening force that looms on the horizon.
The songs, by Evelyn Long and Marley Kajan (additional music and lyrics by Taylor Shoulice) have an earthy, urgent quality that resonated with me. It was frequently difficult to make out specific lyrics, but the meaning is undeniably clear; the music carries it. These musical sequences are made even more visceral by the forceful sensuality of Rachel Cvecich’s choreography.
Though the story takes place after a global disaster has already occurred, humanity has been slowly making progress to reconnect to the earth and foster healing. The witches lead the way towards this hopeful reconciliation between people and planet, but reckless human greed begins to rear its ugly head and resources are once again being squandered for the unsustainable betterment of the few.
This witches (Kat Letwin, Marley Kajan, Rachel Cvecich, Rosie Callaghan) and the ensemble cast (Andrew Eldridge, Christian Hodge, Joy Mwandemange, Teaghan Young) are a commanding presence. I must confess a particular enthusiasm for Letwin’s intense and hilarious performance. Without drawing unnecessary attention away from the story, she does provide the humour that helps to ground this dystopian fantasy.
I wasn’t entirely on board for the current pop culture references. We are never told exactly how far into the future this story takes place, so it could be that these references might be a clear and present reality for the characters, but they did briefly dispel the illusion for me.
With resonant echoes of our very real climate crisis, Omen: The Musical is a relevant and captivating hour of persuasive world-building.