It’s hard being famous. It’s harder being famous siblings. In The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour playing at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, we learn about the rise to fame and the inevitable fall, with a bunch of great songs in-between.
At its best, The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is a fun take down of country music tropes. Mattie Haydell (Donna Kay Yarborough) is the older, put upon conspiracy theorist sister to Maybelle Haydelle (Sadie Bowman) who is younger, obsessive, and possibly dangerous. Together they take the stage in their comeback tour only to find they are still fighting over what led to their break-up.
Yarborough and Bowman definitely have the sibling dynamic down. My absolute favourite scene consists of Mattie trying to sing a song she wrote while living in the shadow of her sister. As she tries to start the song, Maybelle tries to upstage her by embellishing the music with frustrating and pointed flourishes. It’s the perfect sibling fight. Yarborough and Bowman have great facial expressions that speak volumes and Bowman’s guitar work is at once hilarious and beautiful.
Of course, most of the concert works because the music is entertaining. It really rewards you for listening to the lyrics and, quite frankly, has some fantastic songs. There’s the Holiday classic about being under house arrest, the seven second sex song, and a classic break-up song that advises women to spell their frustration and hide their “murderous rage.”
Where the play is at its weakest is when it tries to break away from the concert and slip into a more conventional narrative, complete with “obligatory flashback.” I don’t know why, but compared to the first half of the play, this entire section is considerably slower. If they’d trusted that the same material could have played out in real time, by which I mean in the concert format, I think it might solve the sudden change of pace.
The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is a good time. I left the theatre with a smile, humming a little under my breath.
- The Famous Haydell Sisters Comeback Tour is playing until July 11 at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the peformance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
July 04 at 04:00 PM
July 05 at 05:15 PM
July 07 at 04:30 PM
July 08 at 07:45 PM
July 10 at 02:15 PM
July 11 at 07:30 PM
Photo of Mattie Haydell (Donna Kay Yarborough) and Maybelle Haydell (Sadie Bowman) by Dave Carrico