Review: The Student Prince (Toronto Operetta Theatre)

The Student Prince cast

The Student Prince, on stage at the St Lawrence Centre in Toronto, is enjoyable but lacklustre

The Toronto Operetta Company‘s production of the The Student Prince at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts was my first experience seeing an operetta — a genre I find quite enjoyable. It’s a story about a young Prince, Karl Franz (Ernesto Ramirez), who finds friends and adventure whilst away at university and must eventually choose between love and royal duty.

Written by Sigmund Romberg, The Student Prince was the longest-running Broadway productions of the roaring 1920’s. I’m wondering if the story was a tad bit less predictable back then?

This show has so much going for it, and I really wanted to love it. When my companion Caryhn and I finally managed to distract ourselves from the extreme discomfort of the tiny, cramped seats at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, we both found ourselves barely managing to stay interested.

Despite the incredible singing, dazzling costumes, lively energy, and a live orchestra, we were both very underwhelmed by the story. We both felt as though it had no suspense, no hook, nothing to keep us wondering, waiting, and wanting more. The only unanswered question was essentially: will Karl and Kathie (Soprano Jennifer Taverner) get to be together?

Caryhn and I both felt that if their romance had been allowed to bloom on stage — rather than growing off-stage during a four-month intermission period — it may have been a bit more enticing. I also felt a distinct lack of chemistry between the leads.

To add to this, a great portion of the performance was sung. To me, it was sung beautifully, but largely unintelligibly. The story was still easy enough for me to follow, but I feel as though I may have missed much nuance in the incomprehensible lyrics.

I found the vocal performances of the entire cast incredible, especially from Taverner and Ramirez. The Toronto Operetta Company has a supremely talented roster of singers, at least to my opera amateur ears.

I felt like acting and dancing skills may have been just slightly overlooked for vocal talent, and there were a few noticeable missteps in dialogue and choreography, but overall the cast were lively, energetic, and on-point. Particularly  comical and enjoyable  were Lutz (Baritone Sean Curran), and the Grand Duchess Anastasia (Carrie Parks).

So while they were some highly enjoyable aspects, overall my companion and I were both a bit bored with The Student Prince. I’m someone who loves contemporary story-driven performances that push multiple envelopes.  The Student Prince felt more like a cute, old-timey feel-good story. If that’s your thing, check it out. Only four shows remain.


Photo of The Student Prince cast provided by company