Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen Musical Returns to Vancouver for the Holidays

Image sourced from firehallartscentre.ca

Image sourced from firehallartscentre.ca

Attention Leonard Cohen fanatics: The classic that puts the spotlight on Canada’s most beloved poet-crooner-novelist is back for a holiday run in Vancouver.

The Chelsea Hotel returns to the Firehall Arts Centre, Dec. 15-Jan. 9. The wildly creative musical is pieced together from Cohen’s acclaimed music and poetry. It premiered in 2012 to rave reviews (the Globe and Mail praised its “overwhelming inventiveness”) and has since played to sold-out shows across the country.

At the start of the musical, we encounter young Cohen suffering from a serious case of writer’s block. In fact, a literal mountain of crumpled paper rises next to his bedside at New York’s Chelsea Hotel. As the story progresses, he’s visited by a series of characters and lovers, all drawn to his outsized creative gifts and magnetism. Women are picked up and discarded; serious heartbreak and reflection ensues. And, in the process, Cohen discovers his artistic voice.

The plot, as it is, is fairly free form. But what really drives the musical forward is the interpretations of Cohen’s classic songs. The six performers pick up and play 17 different instruments – from guitars to cello, accordion, keyboards and even kazoo – as they work their way through the iconic Cohen catalogue. 

Image sourced from firehallartscentre.ca

Image sourced from firehallartscentre.ca

Don’t expect off-the-record versions here. Almost all of the tunes are creatively reimagined, from the classic Hallelujah to I’m Your Man, Chelsea Hotel, Suzanne and Tower of Song. Beautiful melodies and great harmonies shine through in renditions that Cohen faithful will certainly recognize but also be pleasantly surprised by.

There’s plenty of dancing and intricate choreography, too, as Cohen wrestles with love, lust, self-doubt and regret and finally manages to find his mojo.

Image sourced from firehallartscentre.ca

Image sourced from firehallartscentre.ca

Theatre-goers looking for a traditional, tightly-woven play or musical may be disappointed by the Chelsea Hotel. But if you’re keen on seeing Cohen’s songs performed live – with daring new arrangements and instrumentation – than Chelsea Hotel just might qualify as a can’t-miss holiday classic.

The Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen is on Dec. 15-Jan. 9 at the Firehall Arts Centre in Vancouver. Tickets start at $23.

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