Returning to the Next Stage Festival after a hugely successful run at the 2019 Toronto Fringe is Every Silver Lining, a refreshing new musical that is both light and youthful and a downright tearjerker. The story and music hit at just the right level; these characters sound like teenagers living through teenage lives, and as we’ve all lived through these years, you are bound to laugh, cry, and relate.
Every Silver Lining follows the life of Clara (Allison Wither, who is also the composer and lyricist), a teen trying to carve out a life that is definitively hers when the life she’s given feels like anything but. See, her brother Andrew (Daniel Karp) has been battling cancer, something that Andrew has requested be kept secret from all their friends. Clara’s life is perpetually put on hold to take care of Andrew — time with friends, swim meets, a budding new relationship with the new guy Ben (Alex Furber) — as Andrew and his treatments come first. We follow Clara and Andrew with their family and friends as they discover love, grief, and friendship.
It’s clear why this was such a big success during Fringe and why it’s been brought back now. To begin with, this musical is very well written. Wither, along with playwright Laura Piccinin (who also plays Clara’s best friend Emily), have done great work with this story. Trends may change, but teens throughout the years are generally the same. It may be over 15 years since I was that age, but these characters sound like my friends and I did back then.
The songs are different yet familiar, a soundtrack with certain stand out hits like “Find the Words,” where Ben awkwardly attempts to ask Clara out during science class, and the poignant and touching song “This I Can Control” where Clara pleads with Andrew.
When events turn dark, Every Silver Lining doesn’t hide from the grief of tragedy. One scene in the hospital with Clara’s family, including mom Judy (Alison J Palmer) and dad Kevin (Luke Marty) was particularly heartbreaking. I looked around the audience and saw many were viscerally moved by it.
This is a very strong cast at work here. There isn’t a weak voice or performance in sight. This is a cast that truly cares about the material and it shows and though there are a couple of new faces this time around, it’s clear that no one’s just been thrown into the mix, it’s great chemistry all around.
I’m also quite impressed by director Jennifer Stewart’s seamless and cohesive use of a minimal set without too much dressing, one that utilizes actors to mime set pieces when needed without seeming too out of place. I loved how a chair with the legs removed placed on a table made for a rather effective hospital bed.
I’m excited to see what Wither and Piccinin are able to do with Every Silver Lining and where they’ll take it next. This is the kind of show that would look great with a full-blown production, but there is also something beautiful about seeing it rather bare bones like it is now.
- 2020 Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Single tickets are $18 (tickets purchased online or by phone are subject to a $3 fee), Money-saving passes are also available. See website for ticketing information.
- Showtimes are listed on the Every Silver Lining page.
Photo of Allison Wither and Laura Piccinin by Tanja Tiziana