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BRYAN SCHWARTZ

By MYRON LOVE

Consoulation: A Musical Meditation”, Bryan Schwartz’s first stab at musical theatre, has been eight years and more in the making – but its gestation actually goes all the way back to his time studying law at Yale University in the late 1970s.


“I had an epiphany,” recalls the long time University of Manitoba professor of law. “It was my 22nd birthday when Jacques Brel died.” 
 (For those readers not of a particular vintage, Jacques Brel was a Belgian songwriter whose songs – translated into English – were the basis of a popular long running musical revue called “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”.)
“A few days after he died,” as Schwartz remembers, “Yale’s theatre students put on a show of his songs. Each song seemed like a wonderful self-contained world. The audience absorbed every single moment. I thought that if I could ever write something like that, make an audience feel like that, I would have done something in the world.”
Schwartz has had what might be described as a haphazard musical training over the years. He studied some piano at 17 and took musical theatre courses at his university.
“I have long been interested in the relationship between music and Jewish culture,” he says. “Music has been central to Judaism since the beginning. Music in central to the cantillation marks in Torah and Talmud. I have spoken on the subject a couple of years ago at Music and Mavens.
“I have tried in my own way to raise awareness of our rich Jewish musical heritage.”
He points out that the Broadway musical genre is largely based on the Jewish musical tradition – citing the preponderance of Jewish composers and lyricists, not only in creating the Broadway musical, but who are also creating modern music.
Schwartz notes that he first workshopped “Consoulation” eight years ago – and has been refining and polishing the show ever since. The plot, he explains, is a “simple, yet inspiring story of Isaac Erevan, a middle-aged Jewish man who has just lost his father and his own young son, asking if his father is in heaven.”
Isaac answers in song. 
“Consoulation is about ways we try to cheer ourselves up; about realism versus faith, and the consolation of art,” Schwartz explains. ”In the play, I am trying to explore profound themes in a way that people will enjoy. I am hoping that everyone who comes will stay engaged for every second.”
The production, which will be presented April 23, 24, 26 and 27 at the Gas Station Theatre on River at Osborne, features 27 songs, Schwartz says.
The show’s director is Ross McMillan, a veteran of Winnipeg stages, and features local actors Tom Anniko, Katy Hedalen, Kevin Klassen and Simon Miron.
A book and album will also be available.
For tickets, contact the Gas Station Theatre at 204- 284-9477. 
The show starts at 7:30 with a running time of about 100 minutes.