Craigslist Cantata is soulfully sweet

- Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata by Bill Richardson and Veda Hille, an Arts Club Theatre production presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival at the Revue Stage to Feb. 18. Box office: 604-687-1644.

THE PuSh Festival is as much about the art of creation as it is about the works of art that are presented at Vancouver's home-grown but international festival. The embers from the fire it lights in the dark days of January burn throughout the year, sparking other endeavours.

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Case in point: Do you Want What I Have Got? was originally presented as a 20-minute PuSh workshop production in 2009. Now it's a full-length (90 minutes, no intermission) musical. Writer and broadcaster Bill Richardson wrote the witty libretto while Veda Hille wrote the score for voices accompanied by herself on piano and longtime collaborator Barry Mirochnick on percussion.

How cool is that? The PuSh festival has spawned a fully fledged, locally created musical that walks an exquisite tightrope between humour and sadness.

Not having seen the original workshop, I think I was expecting A Craigslist Cantata to focus on the eccentricities of what is for sale in the online world. Certainly, the springboards for many of the songs use just that convention: a children's guillotine "used once" or a cat's hat collection for sale; a "dead" ringnecked dove wanted - to replace a husband's pet that just won't die. But the core of the musical is woven around the desire to connect; whether for love, for validation or just the wish not to be alone, that's an almost universal human need - one that drives the show slightly towards the melancholic side of the tightrope.

Richardson's writing contains as many surprises as Hille's music with scenes and characters occasionally revisited just when you thought their story was over. The challenge for the cast is to create fully fledged personalities and situations out of the few words of a posting. Under Amiel Gladstone's direction they almost always succeed. I especially liked Selina Martin's lugubrious sultriness, but J. Cameron Barnett, Dmitri Chepovetsky and Bree Greig are all well cast for the contrasting energies they bring to this delightful ensemble.

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