Before last Friday I had never heard the name Thomas Tallis, but I had unknowingly heard his music. Thanks to Orchard Theater collective, I now know the story behind the classic church music, which beautiful fills churches and brings to mind thoughts of worship. Thomas Tallis wrote for 4 british royals, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and lastly Elizabeth I and much of his style was shaped by their decrees and the changing religious landscape.
Within the 70 minute show the Orchard Theater collective covers this historic period and the country’s shifts between Catholicism and Protestantism, and the political ramifications of these changes. This is a lot to fit into 70 minutes, and for the most part Orchard Theater Collective is able to tell this story well. Switching between scenes focusing on Tallis, the nobility, and the priests, split up by beautiful performances of Tallis’ work by the cast. But attempting to fit so much into 70 minutes also leads to the show feeling a bit disjointed, and not getting much below the surface level. I was interested in what was going on and enjoyed the musical performance, but I feel like it transitioned between historical periods too quickly. I wonder what it would have looked like as a collection of 4 70 minutes pieces, each focusing on one specific time period.
As I have mentioned the vocal performances by the entire cast were very strong, and a highlight of the show. But the dramatic performances were just as strong. Damian Leverett plays the title role of Thomas Tallis, and his portrayal of Tallis’ struggle throughout the changing political and religious times made the entire show very engaging. The rest of the cast portray multiple characters, slipping between the characters with subtle costume changes and a shift in mannerisms which did not once leave me confused. Ensemble pieces are one of my favorite types of theater and this show perfectly fits that mold. All parts and actors working together to create a beautiful and balanced piece of theater.
Thomas Tallis is playing for just one more weekend, closing on May 5th at Calvary Baptist Church (give yourself plenty of time to find parking). The show is a thoughtful look into the forgotten name behind eternalized music and the history that shaped it. If you are a fan of choral music this piece is not to be missed.
Click here for more information about the show.
*Photo courtesy of Orchard Theater Collective