I was especially prepared to like "TrudeauMania", and it aims to please from start to finish, but it isn't the show I hoped it would be.
The show gets a lot right. Adam Olgui pours on the charm and brings great physicality to the lead role and the diverse cast is talented and committed. But the show, for all its energy and razzle-dazzle, was problematic for me. It lacks a clear through-line on Trudeau as a character, giving little sense of his struggles or what drove him. Admittedly, that seems not to be what the show is aiming for - it's more of a high-energy romp through the Trudeau years. But I wanted to learn more about who Trudeau was – and care more about whether he succeeded or failed.
Of course, it's a daring task to take on such a well-known figure and do him justice. But the Trudeau we see here leans more toward a crowd-pleasing, clowning figure, not the intellectual, driven, polarizing politician he really was.
I learned a thing or two about his relationship with Margaret Trudeau, like the fact the sitting Prime Minister and his then-girlfriend lived together at 24 Sussex Drive. And his pursuit of Margaret, after being wooed by celebrities like Barbara Streisand, says a lot about his character.
Margaret is well played by Katrina Teitz, presented as a forward-thinking feminist "70's Girl" (as she sings). But I wish she had more to work with, or that I got a little more of a sense of her character.
Trudeau's political success is a given, and arrives all too quickly - in a scene that unwisely tries to wring some kind of suspense from a party convention ballot count whose result is obvious from the start. The acerbic, witty and provocative character that Trudeau was is more alluded to than demonstrated, in dialogue - and lyrics - that were often too on-the-nose.
Stylistically, it uneasily shifts from straight biography, to light satire, to serious dramatics, interrupted by at least one panto-style comic moment late in the show which provides a big made-in-BC laugh, but is a jarring shift in tone from the heartfelt ballad that immediately precedes it.
The most engaging part for me was the part of the show dealing with the FLQ crisis. The debate over free speech vs. a police state is well presented with some of the show's most dramatic moments. Still, the presentation of the police here veers between showing them as humble, bumbling reservists and a fear-inducing force of oppression.
The integration of some French folk songs and some dialogue felt very appropriate in telling this story and provide some stirring moments.
The cast is full of strong voices, and especially when they join in chorus, the effect was stirringly satisfying.
Pierre Trudeau still looms as a complex and dynamic figure of Canadian history, and I hoped I'd see more of that reflected in this portrayal - but instead it aims for a rather surface-level hop through his story.
Some loved Trudeau, some hated him, but at the end, the show hadn't made me care about Trudeau the man. Maybe that's a tall order, but it's what I'd hoped for.