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.

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