By Crystal Wood
Smile (presented this week by Randolph Academy) has all the elements of a good musical – impressive music, a good story, and meaty roles for triple threat performers. So why hasn’t this show by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman stood the test of time, like Phantom or West Side Story have?
I’m going to guess it’s the references to Gorbachev and Terri Garr. This show is pure 80’s, complete with rotary phones and Aqua Net hair. So maybe we had to wait for the 80’s to be retro cool again before dusting this dated musical off? In any case, I liked the show; it was toe-tapping and funny (and in some places, kind of sad.)
Smile takes on the world of competitive beauty pageants. It reminded me a little of A Chorus Line, only with beauty pageants instead of Broadway. (In fact, the song “Until Tomorrow Night” vaguely recalls A Chorus Line’s “God, I Hope I Get It.”)
I’ll admit, having never seen a Randolph show before, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I would either be blown away by the professional caliber of talent, or I would leave thinking “Aw, bless their little student hearts, they tried.” I am happy to say that although there were a few minor blips on opening night, my impression was more the former than the latter.
The show didn’t really take off until Sarite Harris (who played the hopeful underdog, Doria) sang “Disneyland.” But when that happened, wow! Harris has an amazing voice and energy that carried throughout the 2 ½-hour show. I thought Stephanie Bartlett also did a nice job as former-pageant-queen-turned-organizer Brenda Freelander. And Jordie Currie, who played Shawn, had a few genuinely funny moments as the catty backstabber amongst the would-be queens.
Now that I’ve named names, however, take note. There are two casts in this show, Team Ashman and Team Hamlisch. I saw Team Hamlisch (go, Marvin!) on my night. Team Ashman will debut this Wednesday evening.
Go on… Smile!
– Shows run July 28 to Aug. 1 at 8 p.m., and Aug. 1 at 2 p.m.
– Bathurst Street Theatre – 736 Bathurst Street
– Ticket price: $22, available online at www.ticketmaster.ca or call 416-872-1111