The latest musical at the Panasonic Theatre fails to impress Toronto audiences
Craig Martin, producer of Classic Albums Live, presents GIG, a new musical about life in the music industry that’s chock full of the lights, glitz, glamour and all the tropes you’d expect — the Diva, the Rock Star, the Rapper, the New Talent, the Groupie, the Agents and the fans. On paper, it sounds like a show that could be a lot of fun. In actuality, it’s misshapen and cringe-worthy.
There’s no real story that strings the hour-and-a-half long show together. Jason the Rock Star (Nicholas Walsh) needs either a new hit song or a girlfriend or both, the Diva (Nicole Robinson) wants meaning in her life in the midst of her long music career, Belle (Tiera Watts) is done with being a secretary and wants to be a star, the Groupie (Lexi Soha) wants to sleep with the rock star, and the Rapper (Stokes the MC), well, he’s just there. The two agents, the Veteran (Pat Kelly) and the Upstart (William Alexander Doyle) want what music agents always want — whatever makes them money. The performance mixes them all together with not much resolution to be had.
And it’s quite sad, really, because the cast is talented — Soha was quite fun to watch during Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale — but the writing is just atrocious. At no point do any of these characters break out of the tropes and the caricatures they’re set up to be. The Rock Star is a sad amalgamation of David Lee Roth and Axl Rose who rarely wavers from that single note of “I need a new hit and women only want me for my name”. Some of the side stories for the other characters get lost in the ether and at the end, the audience haven’t been given a reason to care. I’m going to add in here that a couple of the characters, Belle and the Groupie, were given painful fourth wall-breaking moments that were unnecessary and disruptive.
The saving grace for a musical should be the music but that’s not the case here. Though GIG is supposed to cover various musical genres with the characters involved (rock, R&B, hip hop, pop) the music had very little variance. It all blended together and ended up sounding the same. None of the actual songs or lyrics stood out to me (aside from the song “Groupie” which featured one ‘cannot be unheard’ lyric referencing contracting herpes from her exploits). During a musical, a song should emphasis poignant emotional moments for the characters where there is no better way to give voice to that moment than through song. That is not the case here which adds to how unmemorable the songs were.
Even the staging didn’t do much to help the story along, and in fact it added to making the whole production feel cluttered and chaotic. The set didn’t change and was taken over with ‘stations’ – a dressing room, a bedroom and centre stage with the band. With these stations being in constant use, it made the show feel stagnant with little progression and movement.
The saving grace for the performance comes from the onstage band that performed the music live rather than being lost in a pit unseen by the audience. Lindsay Clark, Mike Thomas, Tara McLeod, and Brendan McMillan did fine work with the music they were given and their interactions with the audience and the actors.
GIG feels like it was written by high school students while being performed in high school. Not to nag on the talent of high school students but I expect far more from a production of this level and caliber. This failed to meet that caliber by far and I am highly disappointed.
- GIG is playing at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St) until March 20, 2016.
- Performances run Tuesday through Sunday at 8 pm with weekend matinees at 2 pm.
- Tickets are $30-$59 and can be purchased online or by calling TicketKing at (416) 872-1212.
- Audience advisory: This performance uses strobe lighting. The performance playbill can only be found online at gigmusical.com.
Photo of Nicholas Walsh by Craig Martin