#MannequinGirl: The Musical (Ready Set Go Productions) 2016 Toronto Fringe Review

Photo of Alyssa Minichillo with mannequin by Sage Whitworth.

This afternoon, amidst a roaring thunderstorm, #MannequinGirl: The Musical (Ready Set Go Productions) opened to an enthusiastic audience and a semi-standing ovation at the Toronto Fringe Festival.

The premise is really funny: Kelsie, your average adorable type millennial, achieves internet fame overnight when a video of a mannequin falling on her goes viral. Seizing on her newfound unearned fame, she attempts to expand her fifteen minutes in the spotlight into an internet empire.

I was a little more lukewarm than the opening day audience, not because I disliked the show in any way, but because in my opinion I think it still needs just a little more workshopping. I can see a tremendous amount of potential here, and a lot of the elements are carried off wonderfully.

First off, you have a winning performance from Alyssa Minichillo, who is earnest and energetic throughout, carrying the weight of a one person show with chirpy charm. Her mannerisms, like the tone of the show as a whole, feel like they owe a lot to Ellie Kemper’s Kimmy Schmidt, but as a dynamic it works when ported to a more tech savvy protagonist.

The staging is also very clever, with phone messages and YouTube videos projected on the back wall of the Annex, where the frantic culture of the Internet world is always flitting in and out. It’s really effective as a comment on our culture of distraction without ever getting moralizing, and it makes for some really funny sight gags.

For all its golden elements though, I was left a little wanting with the whole they made together.

The songs (it’s a musical!) are all very pattering, very fast and similar sounding. They feel more like rapid spoken word poetry than music, and even though the songs all have good concepts (the goldfish one is particularly genius and had me laughing a lot), the music itself is pretty forgettable and often didn’t feel keyed in to the character’s emotions in any meaningful or memorable way.

Kelsie’s character arc is also a little muddled–negotiating fame, loneliness, and learning to move on and start again are all gestured to, but don’t amount to a strongly cohesive arc. I was left wondering what it was this girl really wanted–to be loved seems the simplest answer, but as the lights went down, I didn’t really have a sense of what the character had learned or where she wanted to be, except in broad strokes.

There’s a really winning premise here and a lot of funny gags, with some smart staging and a likable, energetic performance by Minichillo. In my opinion it needs more fleshing out, but what’s here is promising enough to recommend it. It’s a fun way to spend an hour, and it certainly pleased the crowd. Give it a try.

Details:

  • #MannequinGirl: The Musical plays at the Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St).
  • Tickets are $10 at the door, $12 in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible provided you arrive early (at least ~20 minutes) and notify the House Manager you require an accessible route.

Performances:

  • Friday July 1st, 01:15 pm
  • Saturday July 2nd, 09:15 pm
  • Monday July 4th, 10:45 pm
  • Wednesday July 6th, 05:15 pm
  • Thursday July 7th, 12:00 pm
  • Friday July 8th, 08:00 pm
  • Saturday July 9th, 11:00 pm
Photo of Alyssa Minichillo by Sage Whitworth.