The Ballad of Norah's Ark

Barb Jungr and Russell Churney
Drill Hall
(2003)

Basically this is a modern, female (feminist?) version of the biblical Noah's Ark story, with musical numbers. This is a 'work in progress', semi-staged performance following two years of development, with five people playing all the parts - which was quite a feat, as there are 14 individual characters, plus townspeople and a mob.

I'd been to see Jerry Springer - The Opera earlier the same day, so Norah's Ark had a tough act to follow, but I was interested to note that the big musical ensemble pieces compared very favourably. I also had to remind myself that Jerry Springer - The Opera also went through the 'work in progress' stage, with the audience invited to give feedback. Is this a new trend in musical theatre?

On a first viewing and listening, I'm inclined to feel that the storyline of Norah's Ark is less strong than the excellent music and lyrics, but perhaps that will be remedied in due course by a fully staged version with a larger number of performers, and with the added spectacle of costumes, setting and special effects.

All five performers were enjoyable to watch and listen to. Russell Churney did a valiant job at the piano in addition to playing three different characters with three different accents (not to mention playing a 'mob' single-handed). Barb Jungr as Norah and Sima, and Melanie Tate as Mickey, Angel 3 and Aileen were well contrasted - I just found Angel 3's squeaky voice a bit irritating after a time, but again that might work better in a fully staged version. Christopher Manoe as Stephen, John and Angel 2, and Michael Smith-Stewart as Angel 1, Jay and Terry were also well contrasted. The ensemble singing had some really powerful moments, and the voices blended beautifully.

As Barb says in the programme, "Where might we be, this time next year?!" Well, I hope Norah's Ark will have sailed a few more seas and found itself a good vantage point, so that we can all come and see it in its next stage of development.

Reviewer: Gill Stoker