Circle Game gives new life to Joni Mitchell classics

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Circle Game | Firehall Arts Centre | January 12 – February 9, 2019 | On tour around the Lower Mainland February 14 – March 26, 2019

Joni Mitchell’s songs are full of classic themes of love, environmental consciousness, and social justice. In this marathon musical, her songs have been updated and reimagined with new arrangements or musical styles, and sometimes with new narrative interpretations. Mitchell’s words still retain a great deal of relevance for today’s generation, and Circle Game reminds us of her wisdom.

While I thoroughly enjoyed basking in these timeless tunes, I felt that the narrative thread holding everything together could have been stronger. Each song seemed to jump from vignette to vignette without a strong overall narrative arc, and this was a bit distracting. Each scene in and of itself was a nicely contained story told through song, but they didn’t seem to be part of a larger story other than hinting at common themes or sentiments.  

Despite that, this is an extremely well put together production full of extremely talented musicians. In particular, Benjamin Millman stood out for his R&B influenced rendition of “Woodstock,” and Scott Perrie and Adriana Ravalli shared a wonderful, intimate duet of “A Case of You.”

Everyone’s favourite iconic songs such as “Big Yellow Taxi,” “River,” and Both Sides Now” make the cut, and the entire ensemble brought these songs to life in new ways that honoured the originals and gave them new significance through their freely flowing choreography and authentic energy.

For both long-time Joni Mitchell fans and those just discovering her music, this is an uplifting ode to her canon of classics and her endlessly poetic lyrics. While the set and costumes were decidedly set in the ’70s, the songs could have been written yesterday.

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