Courtesy of Michael Dekker

BY CLIFF KASDEN

The dauntless production team at Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) continues to utilize clever, creative strategies as they seek a new, permanent venue.  Their latest New York premiere is “Marguerite,” a musical biography of courageous 17th-century Sister Marguerite who becomes the first female saint of Montreal, Canada.

Executive and artistic directors Jeff Griffin and Dev Bondarin explain how the production mirrors the troupe’s situation.

“This year we find ourselves in motion … APAC is literally ‘without walls’ and this year’s work is reflective of that fact,” they said. 

The 80-minute uninterrupted musical monologue is offered by Tony Award-winner Cady Huffman.  To maximize the impact of a sainted nun, the performance is presented in the actual sanctuary of the Church of the Redeemer at the corner of Crescent Street and 30th Road in Astoria.  Two rows of seats are filled with sisters from the Congregation de Notre Dame.

Huffman dresses in a humble habit from the colonial era (designer Jennifer A. Jacob). Her voice echoes and resonates beautifully against the chapel’s stone walls. Huffman punctuates each segment with a modest, yet self-assured smile. The audience, seated in pews just feet from the action, feels the reverence, strength and pride that Sister Marguerite possessed.

As Huffman continues, the story becomes more compelling. By the conclusion of the story, Huffman’s tears are streaming down her cheeks. Brava! 

A tasteful two-piece orchestra features music director Yan Li on piano and Frederick Alden Terry on cello. The music itself (by Michael Cooper) ranges from deeply mournful to upbeat and optimistic. Throughout the performance, it serves as an extremely solid background for the sister’s story. The book and lyrics (by Anton Dudley) is much more than a detailed narrative of Marguerite’s life. It is a tribute to one woman’s strength and self-sacrifice through extremely trying times.

APAC’s 2019-2020 season includes a new drama entitled “Jump” and a revival of “Man of La Mancha.”

For information on their current project and future performances, call 718-706-5750, visit www.apacny.org, and follow APAC on social media.

As always, save me a seat on the aisle.  

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