Cynthia Dale, an icon of Canadian stage and screen, offers a lovely evening of story and song. Blending personal anecdotes with music and lyrics from the work of Stephen Sondheim, she takes us on a thematic journey through her life and career. Presented by The Musical Stage Company, Take the Moment is an elegant, understated delight.
This isn’t a grand, scandalous tell-all. Dale gently meanders through rich and evocative memories, offering poetic insights into her history. And that sense of personal history is a solid, guiding thread. Proclaiming herself “Actor, Singer, Archeologist!”, she imagines her ancestors’ lives leading inexorably towards her own.
Her mother and father figure prominently. He’s the tall, dark and handsome protector and she is the glamorous, sophisticated champion of her daughter’s talents. Their deaths figure here too. A late snapshot of her mother’s final days in a rest home is particularly vivid and poignant.
Accompanied on the piano by David Terriault and Benjamin Kersey (who also provide music supervision and arrangement), the songs feel like an extension of her rather than stylized covers. Some songs have been blended together in surprising ways, a musical analogue of her drifting remembrances.
My two favourite numbers were from Gypsy. Remembering her mother’s firm support in early childhood auditions, she gives us a soft, measured a cappella rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” that resonates with delicate affection. Following this up with “Rose’s Turn,” she hits us with the evening’s dose of glorious Broadway belting.
Though there aren’t any full-on dance numbers, movement director Genny Sermonia and Dale punctuate key moments with graceful flourishes. They suggest a song and dance spectacle—teasing, priming our imaginations to fill in the rest. On the whole, Richard Ouzounian’s direction favours this minimalism. We are here for Dale and nothing will distract from her persuasive charms.
Aging in an industry that isn’t particularly kind to older women, she laments the loss of certain opportunities. But she doesn’t dwell on the negative; instead, she finds power and joy in the changes of attitude and perspective that age brings. And for 80 minutes, they are a vicarious pleasure for us as well.