Based on Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 satire, “The Government Inspector,” the Canadian musical adaptation “The Man From the Capital” is light-hearted fluff laced with ironic humor. The result keeps the basics in place, retaining some — but definitely not all — the power of the more biting original work, which required intervention from Russian Czar Nicholas I in order to be staged at all.
Like the play, tuner focuses on corrupt, greedy officials involved in a comedy of errors stemming from one man being mistaken for the government bureaucrat. It sticks close to the original storyline in having the false government inspector romance the daughter of the senior municipal official.
But the tone is very different from Gogol’s. The unusual combination of musical instruments — a banjo, an accordion, a tuba and a trumpet — sets the quirky mood, while the near-slapstick acting style places the emphasis on silly fun.
Overtones of Gilbert and Sullivan, Bertolt Brecht and even Kurt Weill are evident, making “The Man From the Capital” an entertaining romp that is less an adaptation than a riff on Gogol’s theme.
Story unfolds in the interior of British Columbia in the Great Depression of the 1930s. The unknown visitor is a tramp riding the rails to look for a better life. He finds it by cheating the corrupt gang running the town.
Director Jennifer Brewin focuses on keeping the mood light and in tune with the sound of a solo banjo. She calls for a minimum of subtlety and constant mugging from the competent ensemble of actors. The music has charm, but the show nonetheless looks to have limited prospects.