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.

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