The second instalment of The Secret Sessions was an experience that we here on FERNTV was looking forward to especially with a successful inaugural run of the theatre immersive Anchorman back when Donald Trump won the presidential election. It was wise that their second instalment was not rushed and that it followed approximately four months after because the film that was chosen could and should not be rushed. No it was not Fools Rush In, but the film was way beyond our expectations because a lot of us at that time were not even born. So it was difficult to guess. The film is none other than Casablanca which is Hollywood’s all time classic and it was a call for all Secret Sessioners to come in and dress like it’s the 1940s which was quite a slick and sleek time when it came to fashion. The location would be none other than one of the most longest running and eclectic night clubs in Toronto on College St. which is Revival. It would take the reigns of being Rick’s Café American during this theatre immersive experience of Casablanca by The Secret Sessions.
When you entered Revival you were greeted by Stephen O. Martin who plays the part of Captain Louis Renault who asked you if you had your passport before you immersed into the hottest nightspot in Casablanca. Captain Louis Renault then views your passport to see if you withstood the first test and if you did the night would belong to you. And so it did for many of us as, Revival transformed into Rick’s Café Américan by the drop of a hat. All of your senses became heightened as you were able to grab a cocktail, or fine Moroccan food or mingle with Rick’s clientele who were either Vichy French or German. There were interesting times to be had inside the nightclub because you never know that someone could come up to you and ask you for a fake passport or for your assistance to get one.
What stood out at Rick’s Café Américan was the music that was being played by a white piano that was placed by the stage and where Emma Banigan was singing at the top of her lungs to give you a sense of what it actually felt like being in a 1940s nightclub in Morocco. The music was a very important aspect of the film Casablanca which fuels the romance between Humphrey Bogart who plays Rick the American expatriate played by Jonathan Sconza and Ingrid Bergman, his past lover Ilsa who is played by Melissa Williams. The Secret Session team put the music into the forefront of this immersive theatre experience and brought it to a much higher unexpected level. While the piano playing filled the room with romance, the audience were invited to a little song and dance to get our blood flowing and our ears listening. Andres Jaramillo got the audience and the cast to merge into a dance session while Rawle Harding who plays the pivotal role of Sam the piano player got us to learn the song “As Time Goes By” which certainly got everyone in the club to get into that Casablanca mentality.
When you wanted to get out of the spotlight of the main floor, you were able to go upstairs to the casino where we decided to take a break from the action. We were then greeted by other cast members such as Michael Scott Collins who plays Victor Laszlo and Alyssa Blasak who were both asking what our story was and how we got to Casablanca. This is another highlight of the night as you were able to get away from the spotlight but at the same time dig deeper into the immersion of the film Casablanca. We were all getting to know one another over a couple of cocktails and watching others play roulette just like any other star-studded night at Rick’s Café Américan. All of sudden, the character of Ugarte played by Basel Daoud was being arrested and being taking away from the club which took us back to the film of when this scene took place. This scene alone makes The Secret Sessions what it is because at any moment at any time something surprisingly could happen which would make you say, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”
Immersing in the film Casablanca is one thing but reenacting the film is another. As were taken back to the ground level because Rick’s re-opened once again portraying another part of the film, the film itself started. This is where the cast of this instalment of The Secret Sessions provided the WOW factor. Reenacting some of the most classical scenes such as the closing bar scene with a drunken Rick and his piano player Sam to the infamous ending in the airport was not an easy task for this cast. Going back to an era that was almost 80 years ago and speaking the English language that was less urbanized and non poetic but yet symmetrical to the tone of the anxious time of WWII was a true feat in itself. We cannot stress enough here at FERNTV that the acting led by Jonathan Sconza, Michael Scott Collins and Melissa Williams is precisely on point to the film’s scenes and so wonderfully executed. Rather than the audience being immersed in the theatre and then watching the film to gain its similarities, we were reminded of how beautiful this film is crafted when the cast reenacted those memorable scenes of one Hollywood’s greatest films of all time. BRAVO!