2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Rochdale

11 Aug

Your name: Sabrina Marangoni

Your production: Rochdale

Your role: Performer

Tell me about your show.

Its 1969. The Vietnam war rages on. Apollo 11 lands on the moon. The Chicago Seven are indicted. Nixon is elected. Trudeau is in office. The FLQ bombs the Montreal Stock Exchange. And in Toronto, Rochdale College- an experiment in cooperative housing and alternative education- is about to become very famous for all the wrong reasons

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m really looking forward to seeing ‘Black Ballerina’ ; a movement piece based on Syreeta Hectors experience as a mixed race female in Canada. The storytelling that can be done solely through the body always fascinates me so I’m very excited for that. ‘Gender Reveal Party’ also sounds like a very interesting and relevant piece that I would love to experience.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

Diversity. I’ve definitely seen an improvement within the past few years when it comes to this but I think we still have a very long way to go to ensure that the performing arts scene is fully diverse. I would also love to see more untold Canadian history on stage. A big part of why I love being part of Rochdale so much is because it’s a big part of Toronto’s history that my generation really knows nothing about and to be able to bring it forward has been an incredible experience so I would love to see more of that.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

I go see Trudeaus show. We’ve all wondered how he hasn’t started greying yet, what with all the stress of running a nation right? Well look no further. This show is called ‘Perfectly Quaffed’ and he gives the audience a live tutorial and inside secrets on how he gets his luscious locks looking spectacular! Even on his morning jogs!

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Gender Reveal Party

11 Aug

Your name: Nour Abi Nakhoul

Your production: Gender Reveal Party

Your role: Actor

Tell me about your show.

Gender Reveal Party is a creative subversion of its namesake; an interactive garden party environment featuring a rotating cast of different trans and non-binary people who perform short pieces about their gender, to applause and cheers from the audience.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m excited to see other shows in the Summerworks Lab series, for a rare chance to see productions that are still in the process of blooming. Specifically I’m excited to see emerging productions from folks from marginalized communities, like other trans and disabled creatives.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

I’d like to see less white, cisgender, ‘heteroflexible’ men dominate the arts.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

I feel like Trudeau would have a sad-clown act titled “Please be Nice to Me”, where he tries to draw pity from the audience by pouting and acting disconsolate. It obviously doesn’t work, and the show culminates in the audience members abandoning the theatre while muttering in audible frustration.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: hiraeth

11 Aug

Your name: Mandy E. MacLean

Your production: hiraeth

Your role: Creator and performer.

Tell me about your show.

The piece takes place in a unnamed group meeting; we witness a character searching to be seen, heard and understood. we hope that the audience is reminded how difficult it is to be a young person, and how reconciling with trauma can help you find your own- sometimes chosen- home. it’s an experiment in light, sound, and listening. we’re still working, we’re so happy to be at summerworks, and we hope you’ll join us!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

805-4821! beautiful team and art makers. their thoughts on accessibility are way ahead of the game. we are so giddy to share a space with their piece.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

More devised work with elevated production elements. creation projects often need a longer cooking process, and therefore don’t always fit into programming. when they do, it’s wonderful! It’s beautiful to see projects with resources to see their work to fruition.

A greater variance of of female identifying persons on our stages and and in positions of power. we’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go. This shift needs to keep moving forward as we move into the future of new works being created for our cannon.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

Jagmeet Singh and his production of “NSLSC”. the production features a cast of early stage professionals that are offered full union contracts and benefits. they show discuss free tuition, and debt relief programming for post secondary graduates. there is a series of great and colourful wardrobe quick changes.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Deafy

11 Aug

Your name: Chris Dodd

Your production: Deafy

Your role: Writer and performer

Tell me about your show.

Nathan Jesper has flown in for his big talk and is desperately late. Upon arriving, he launches into his speech but things are soon found to not be what they seem.

Deafy is a personal story about deafness and community and was created with the assistance of Edmonton’s Workshop West Playwright’s Theatre. Our producing company, Follow the Signs Theatre, is a collaboration between Chris and his director, Ashley Wright. We previously created the hit show, Silent Words, which had two remounts and won three Edmonton Sterling Awards. Deafy blends together ASL, spoken English and captions to weave together a tragicomedy about what it really means to belong.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Those that are accessible for me, including Wah Wah Wah.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

Accessibility for everyone. No one should be left out of participating in theatre due to barriers, whether is it venue accessibility, the need for relaxed spaces, access to ASL interpretation or captioning or audio description for those with limited vision.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

I will go see Trudeau’s show. It’s called “The Ballad of Trans Mountain” where he recites an epic spoken word poem that takes the audience through a journey of Ottawa’s long and complicated history with Alberta.There’s a rap portion too with multicultural dancers! Of course, he’s also booked ASL interpretation ’cause that’s how he rolls.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Wah Wah Wah

11 Aug

Your name: Celia Jade Green

Your production: Wah Wah Wah 

Your role: I am the creator and performer of the piece.

Tell me about your show.

Wah Wah Wah is a highly physical, highly theatrical telling of a young queer woman’s journey (in all it’s humour and beauty and pain) backpacking across Europe. This illuminates for her all the kind of sexual micro aggressions she’s encountered her whole life, which leads her to this moment that happens here in Toronto that rocks her world to the core. So much so that she feels compelled to speak about what’s been going on to these people that have come to the theatre to listen. (thanks to Bilal, my director for articulating this blurb so eloquently)

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I am really looking forward to the AMY Project’s ‘The Breath Between’. I was an AMY participant a few years ago, so I have a soft spot for their work. Also looking forward to Safe and Sorry, Des-Echoes, Black Ballerina and Audible Songs From Rockwood. So many shows to look forward to!

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

More more more highlighting and support for the voices of queer, young, trans, people of colour, and indigenous artists, onstage and behind the scenes. This is part of why I respect the AMY project so much, because they are doing that work of supporting and growing those voices with strength and love.

Also more works that live in the universe between dance and theatre. And more food before and after shows. I think theatres should serve dinner. For very very cheap. Wouldn’t that make things so nice?

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

I….I…..I…….do not have an answer for this question.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Worry Warts

11 Aug

Your name: Julie Tepperman

Your production: Worry Warts

Your role: Creator/Director

Tell me about your show.

Worry Warts is a giant experiment! We invite people to our “Worry Depot” to ANONYMOUSLY talk about their worries and anxieties in a one-one-one encounter with a “Keeper” – a friendly stranger – who will ask them questions and record the conversation so it can transcribed. Excerpts of all 300 transcriptions will be shared during 6 “Audience Sharings” on the final weekend of the Festival, after just one day of rehearsal. People will also be invited to do a series of independent activities which will help contribute to the ever-evolving design of the room. We hope that people will find catharsis in making an authentic connection with a caring stranger, and also in the hearing of other peoples’ anxieties when they attend the Audience Sharing. (Their ticket gets them into both the Worry Depot and an Audience Sharing, but people can also choose to just attend one or the other.)

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Rochdale by David Yee, CHILD-ISH by Sunny Drake, and Zuppa Theatre’s The Archive of Missing Things…that is if I can ever sneak away from the Depot!

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

More live performance in surprising locations with intimate encounters.

Assistant Director Sadie Epstein-Fine adds: I would like to see more generosity and resource sharing. I have heard the term “radical generosity” thrown around and that is something that I aspire to bring to every rehearsal room I am in and that I practice with my colleagues, whether that looks like resource or knowledge sharing, committing time when possible, or sharing information about other people’s work. My belief is that more work could be made and more people could get paid if we got better at sharing amongst ourselves.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

Assistant Director Sadie Epstein-Fine adds: It’s hard to know which show I would go see because it would be hard to stomach Andrew Scheer’s show and watching some of the others would just be uncomfortable. So I think I would force myself to go to everyone’s show just to know what they had to say. Here are titles for what I think the shows should be:

Justin Trudeau: “Pretty Boy, Pretty Lies” OR “I <3 Obama the Musical”
Jagmeet Singh: “Bring Back Jack” OR “How Love Can Conquer All”
Andrew Scheer: “Slick Dick the Musical”
Elizabeth May: “I think I can, I think I can”

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: 805-4821

10 Aug

Your name: We Quit Theatre

Your production: 805-4821

Your role: Davis Plett created and performs the show and Gislina Patterson dramaturged and directed.

Tell me about your show.

805-4821 is a trans coming out story made out of other stories: a dialogue from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a half-remembered swim lesson, and an 80,000 word Facebook correspondence. Performed using a hacked overhead projector, 805-4821 explores memory, identity, and love in an age of apocalypse. Not all men are men. Welcome to the movies!

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

We’re really excited to shows made by our friends! We can’t wait to check out The Archive of Missing Things, by Zuppa Theatre Co., and Bonjour Hi, co-created and performed by: Burcu Emeç, Michael Martini, Nien Tzu Weng and Roxa Hy. We’re excited to get to know the queer artists working in Toronto theatre, and we can’t wait to see Gender Reveal Party!

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

We’re here from out of town so we guess we’d like to see more of us!

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

Straw Man by Justin Trudeau. Trudeau, in an attempt to put a fun spin on rising temperatures, puts on a one man show about how to beat the summer heat. Perched on a throne of ice, the Prime Minister plans to enjoy a delicious strawberry milkshake. Unfortunately, due to the plastics ban, he cannot find a straw with which to drink. As he spends the entire 60 minute run time searching for a straw, the throne of ice melts underneath him, leaving our fearless leader sitting in a puddle, milkshakeless.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: White Heat

9 Aug

Your name: Graham Isador

Your production: White Heat

Your role: Playwright/Producer

Tell me about your show.

A bunch of Neo-Nazis threatened to kill my colleagues at VICE. A bunch of people have been calling me a social justice cuck in the comment section for my articles. White Supremacists radicalized online keep shooting people on mass in America. I’ve been thinking about the intersections of these things. I’ve been a bit obsessed with it. White Heat is a work of fiction based on these things.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

My friends in Lester Trips are doing a show called Safe & Sorry, I can never quite put my finger on their sense of humour and I really enjoy that. They’re unique and they’re weird and they’re unlike most other things out there. Their new show explores pick up culture, intimacy, and how for some reason a lot of people find it difficult to be a good person when trying to get laid. People should go see it.

I’m also really excited for Black Ballerina. I spoke with Syreeta Hector about Land Acknowledgements earlier this week. She was very thoughtful and smart. Her show looks at her experience of being a mixed race (Indigenous, African Canadian, and French) person using dance and storytelling. It should be rad.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

I dunno, man. I think people should just make art about the stories they really need to tell. I think people need to think about how those things are going to play in front of an audience. I think people need to work harder, make big fucking statements, and fail spectacularly.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

Politics is theatre anyways. It shouldn’t be but it is. I don’t need a hypothetical to see the song and dances the higher ups have been doing. Their shows are about what they think this country should be. But it should be about us.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: The Breath Between

9 Aug

Your name: Jericho Allick

Your production: The Breath Between

Your role: Co-Creator and Performer

Tell me about your show.

I like to think of it as a dystopian setting and a series of radical events that require a group of strangers to exist with each other.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

A show that my fellow The Breath Between performer Megan Legesse was telling me about is Wah Wah Wah, written and performed by Celia Green and directed by Bilal Baig. This is a one-woman show, starring a queer woman, about her experiences being a queer woman. I think that sounds extremely interesting. Your life experiences are made through a collection of interactions – so many people have an impact on who you are and who you become. To be able to portray that by yourself is so great. I think it takes both skill and passion to do that over and over again. I want to see how she takes her life and experiences and shows that to everyone else. And I learned that Celia is an AMY alumnus and Bilal is an AMY mentor and director. I am both surprised and not surprised that AMY has played a role in Wah Wah Wah. AMY is very set on making people’s dreams come true and showing off their abilities. AMY is very good at making people bloom.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

I want to see more collaboration and support. I haven’t been a part of performing arts in Toronto in a long time, but I see it’s a small community in a grand scale. I want to see less competition and more community. There’s room for everyone to be a star. I’ve been in drag for a few years now. As a drag king, the one thing everyone tells me about it is that they love the community. There are not enough of us to fight each other; there’s always room for people to perform. I want to keep making that in theatre – that kind of community, that kind of support.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

I would see Andrew Scheer’s one-man show called “How To Get Away With Murder”. It’s about how to strip away life necessities without them realizing you’re screwing them over.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special

9 Aug

Your name: Cliff Cardinal

Your production: Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special

Your role: Cliff Cardinal

Tell me about your show.

It’s light-hearted entertainment. Fluff. An appetizer. Tap your toe, have a few laughs.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I like a lot of the artists in the festival but I’m not going to say so no one’s feelings get hurt.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

Scatalogical realism.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

What the fuck are you on about?

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Footnote Number 12

9 Aug

Your name: James Long

Your production: Footnote Number 12

Your role: Co-Writer/Performer

Tell me about your show.

This monologue for two people, an actor and a sound designer, asks you to observe a creature — a creature whose voice is being repeatedly modulated through digital means — try to reconcile a 13-year-old piece of writing with their conflicted contemporary condition. It’s an exhaustive and meandering task that questions how much a shifting social context should influence the reading of the written word.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Child-ish, Audible Shows from Rockwood and Bonjour Hi.

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

I’m from Vancouver and not really in a discerning position, so how about more Ford brothers? We find that tragi-comedy endlessly entertaining on the West Coast.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

Elizabeth May’s piece called We’re all Fucked, it’s a double bill (coalition) with Justin Trudeau’s, Trust Me, I’m for Real This Time.

2019 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Rohinton Mistry’s The Scream

9 Aug

Your name: HRH Anand Rajaram

Your production: Rohinton Mistry’s The Scream

Your role: Conceiver/Performer

Tell me about your show.

The Scream is an adaptation of internationally acclaimed writer Rohinton Mistry’s novella about the horripilating anxieties of a nocturnally micturating sesquipedalianist.

An eloquent elderly man lives in a Mumbai apartment. He heard a scream from the street a few nights ago and hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep since. His caregivers don’t believe him. They abuse him and try to convince him he is losing his mind.

The show will be presented as a living painting. Set, costume, and makeup designer Roxanne Ignatius has designed a stunning visual palette. Nicholas Murray’s ethereal soundscape and Mark Andrada’s hypnotic lighting design enchant and beguile the audience, inviting them into this surreal world.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m very excited by the range of work available and am eager to catch all of it if I can. I’m particularly excited for Des-Echos (cos their show image looks amazing), The Archive of Missing Things (cos it’s interactive and tech-driven), Black Ballerina (cos I love dance and I think I would have a lot of connection with their exploration of being POC in the dance world), Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special (cos Cliff is a terrific provocative and funny artist). I could list so many more, but I assume space is limited. Other artists whose work I am excited for are Jamillah Ross, Peter Chin, Jenn Goodwin, Bilal Baig, Ravi Jain, David Yee, Nina Lee Aquino, Frank Cox O’Connell, Alan Dilworth, and my pal, Tim Walker. And I’m very eager to meet all the artists whose work I don’t know. 

What would you like to see more of in the Toronto performing arts environment?

I would love to see more stuff that is way far from “naturalist” theatre and a touch more experimental in form. I love “naturalist” theatre, there’s just a lot of it and variety would be great.

Campaign advertising for the upcoming federal election is replaced by one-person Fringe shows performed by the party leaders. Tickets are free so you can attend any show without necessarily being a supporter of the performer or their party. Whose show do you go see, what is it called, and what is the show about in a nutshell?

If it doesn’t mean supporting their position at all, I would see Andrew Scheer’s and Maxine Bernier’s shows, just to see what their horrible imaginations have inspired. In both cases, I think they would make a haunted house called “Antifarankenstein’s Castle” with socialists from history jumping out at you. The central room will feature each of them as high priests, offering a baptism in petrol. My fear is, they’ll record me and use my image without permission.

Justin Trudeau’s would be called “First Past the Post” and hold great promise, but he’ll end up cancelling the run.

Jagmeet Singh’s would be a rave-style party show with fantastic energy but no real content or innovation.

Elizabeth May’s would be a one audience member at a time show and she’d drink a cup of tea with you and put on her favourite records. It would be charming, but without enough audience to support it, would struggle to get any buzz. Her show title would be my favourite, though, “Best When I’m Left Alone”.

2019 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 3

9 Jul

Three Men on a Bike

For anyone who may have questioned whether this follow-up to the smash hit Three Men in a Boat could possibly match the original, rest assured, lightning has indeed struck twice for the veteran creative team of playwright Mark Brownell and director Sue Miner.

This hilarious victorian travelogue, based on the novel by palindromically-named author Jerome K Jerome, reunites foppish and foolhardy friends Jay (Matt Pilipiak), George (Victor Pokinko), and Harris (David DiFrancesco) as they plan for a cross-country bicycle tour of Germany. Naturally, little goes as planned and not even their resolute English optimism can save them from an abundance of bothersome misadventure.

Brownell and Miner work hand in hand to deliver a taught and charming production replete with visual flair, fourth-wall breaking, and sharp and witty dialogue. The trio of performers are superb and practically work as a single unit – each delivering distinct but perfectly complementary performances.

 

The Huns

Playwright Michael Ross Albert has been producing excellent work for some time now, but caught the attention of many a Fringe-goer last year with his taught and thrilling two-hander Anywhere. He returns to the festival with some equally dark, but more darkly comedic fare with The Huns, in which three disparate office workers (Jamie Cavanagh, Breanna Dillon and Cass Van Wyck) attempt to brief their international co-workers about the theft of five corporate laptops via conference call.

It starts innocently enough as a comedy of errors bolstered by malfunctioning technology, office politics, and clashing personalities, but Albert artfully redirects it into more intriguing territory, eventually peeling back the personal costs that today’s increasingly pervasive live-to-work culture exacts on the human psyche.

Director Marie Farsi impressively manages to transform “three people at a table” into a lively and dynamic affair, and stage manager Aidan Hammond deserves a special shout out for nailing the natural rhythm of what must be dozens of pre-recorded dialogue-based sound cues (designed by Andy Trithardt), without ever betraying the artifice of it.

The three performers each deliver sharp and highly-honed performances, but it’s hard not to single out Breanna Dillon for nailing THAT high-strung kool-aid drinking co-worker we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives.

 

Horseface

Full Disclosure: this reviewer is creatively involved in an upcoming production in which Alex Dallas will be appearing. Like all of our Fringe Picks, we have chosen to make note of her show based solely on the strength of the work.

Veteran performer and life-long feminist Alex Dallas is in the enviable position to be old enough to have experienced several societal sea changes first-hand – most notably the #MeToo movement – but also the unenviable position to possess the perspective of how much work is still to be done when it comes to the safety, equality, and respect of women. She channels both these thoughts in her compelling and no-holds-barred one person show, Horseface (if you’re wondering about the title, it’s in reference to Donald Trump’s less-than-diplomatic comment on Stormy Daniels’ appearance).

Her text is replete with personal experiences and anecdotes, some of which are cheeky and amusing (a wholly inappropriate birthday present given to her on her 60th birthday is a standout) but more often than not, are unseemly and sometimes downright harrowing. Tidbits about her early family life and her parents’ marriage effectively tie the issues of past and present together, and recollections of her time working the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival reinforce the unsavoury realities of show business that have recently come to public light.

As a performer, Dallas is a dynamic powerhouse; her pleasant and polite English disposition is the yin to her steely gaze and eruptive passion yang. She manages to spin the serious subject matter into an hour of entertaining theatre while never diminishing its importance.

Hannah Gadsby may have gotten the Netflix special first, but Dallas possesses no less of an effective and creative voice, and she ought to be heard.

 

Unbridled Futurism

This delightfully off-the wall cosmic and comedic musical is perhaps most aptly described as a live multimedia concept album. Written and performed by Nick Di Gaetano (backed by a real spitfire of a band), the show centres around the odyssey of an astronaut from an alternate earth trying against all odds to return home to his wife and cat – all while battling an evil racoon overlord through multiple bizzarro dimensions. The psychedelic narrative is interspersed with funky and delightfully DIY video clips and a plethora of impressive songs that invite comparisons to both 70s prog rock and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Di Gaetano is a natural performer who doesn’t need to over-emote to grab your attention; his gruff-voiced and silver body suit-donning protagonist channels Tom Waits and Wolfman Jack, and his quick wit rewards the audience with some dry gems of jokes.

It’s a quirky and imaginative blast of fun from an equally unique artist.

2019 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 2

8 Jul

Boy Falls from the Sky: Jake Epstein Live at the Supermarket

If the title of this Kensington Market situated site-specific show leads you to believe that it’s little more than a string of musical theatre tunes skillfully performed by one of Canada’s most illustrious musical theatre talents – boy are you wrong.

Yes, there is indeed all of the above, but more so than that, it’s a touching, earnest, and  biographically-driven rumination on the nature of success, fame, and what it means when you reach for your dreams, catch them, and find out they may not be what you imagined.

Epstein – who has trod countless Broadway stages and is immortalized as one of the stars of Degrassi: The Next Generation (yes, he knows Drake; please stop asking) – isn’t trying to embellish his life like some grand classic narrative complete with fall from grace and eventual redemption; he is obviously aware of his good fortune and accomplishments, but is honest about the less glamorous associated costs and consequences, and is able to communicate as much using memorable anecdotes plucked from his young but dense career.

Fortunately for the audience, he is a charismatic showman, a natural storyteller, and an inherently likable person, and weaves the serious themes into an hour of pitch-perfect entertainment – including plenty of recognizable and cleverly curated Broadway standards. Musical Director Daniel Abrahamson provides nearly continuous backing on the keyboard, an element which never pulls focus but provides highly effective underscoring of Epstein’s narrative.

Reader beware: the entire run of Boy is already sold out so best to keep your ears to the ground for a remount or extension. And if you are fortunate enough to have one of the coveted tickets, arrive early to be treated to a fantastic pre-show featuring Epstein backed by his old highschool jam band (their ska-inspired mashup of ‘Trouble’ from The Music Man and ‘It’s the Hard-Knock Life’ from Annie is worth the price of admission alone).

 

Honourable Mention: Tales of a Cocktail

Although billed as a 1920s speakeasy-themed reimagining of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, Tales of a Cocktail’s sparse and largely wordless narrative plays a distant second fiddle to the real star of this production: dance.

It’s an hour of high-octane flapper-inspired contemporary jazz choreographed by Adam Martino, Alayna Kellet, and Leah Cameron, performed by a top-notch cast of eight dancers and one singer to a bumpin’ soundtrack that blends vintage tunes and modern-day hits. Even audiences members will feel out of breath just watching this spectacle of a show.

2019 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 1

5 Jul

Here is our first pick of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival!

Death Ray Cabaret

Musical comedy, when done poorly, is a real slog; but when done well – like really well – is sublime. Fortunately Death Ray Cabaret falls firmly in the latter category. It’s a hot 50 minutes of expertly crafted tunes, artfully clever lyrics, short and delightfully dorky bits, and self-deprecating banter.

With Death Ray Cabaret, performers and real-life couple Kevin Matviw and Jordan Armstrong aren’t trying to reinvent the musical comedy wheel, but there are several notable choices and elements to their songs and performance that elevate them above similar acts.

In terms of charisma and stage presence, they offer a polished but relaxed presentation that eliminates any sense of barrier between them and the audience. One can likely give director Shari Hollett credit for helping them to walk that ostensibly effortless but difficult-to-achieve fine line. Similarly, the relationship between Matviw and Armstrong is always tangible and is the basis for some of their material but is never treated with artifice or manufactured conflict for the sake of cheap laughs. Larger moments of physical comedy and theatricality are used sparingly and are saved for just the right occasions, giving them even greater impact.

The songs and short sketches are clearly the work of two outside-the-box creative minds; their material ranges from relatable issues, such as adult anxiety and childhood fears, to some very “shower thought”-esque material, such as a ballad from the perspective of the third and lesser known Apollo 11 astronaut, two cowboys with a tense relationship, and a take on a Halloween classic that had this reviewer guffawing embarrassingly loudly (my apologies to the lady sitting in front of me).

Equally impressive were their two improvised songs, especially one based on a contribution of “material” from the audience (no spoilers here).

This charming and hilarious revue is an early highlight of this year’s festival.