An Evening with Tammy Faye – 2010 Toronto Fringe Review

By Winston Soon

Who knew that Tammy Faye Baker was a champion of gay rights? Not this audience go-er. But a new appreciation of the sweet and broken Tammy Faye is what I left with after watching Shannon McDonough’s “An Evening with Tammy Faye”.

Years ago I met McDonough after a show and, I have to say, she is not a thing like the late Tammy Faye. The transformation – impersonation? – is truly stunning. Tammy’s story is one that you might expect – coming from a broken home fixed only with a more broken and insensitive fire and brimstone ministry.

The discovery of love in Christ and equally exciting – the discovery of eye shadow – made Tammy Faye who she was. McDonough’s portrayal is so spot- on, it is easy to forget that we are not watching Tammy Faye.

It is also easy to watch her as a person and not as the caricature that many have come to associate with her, especially during the scandals of her husband and ministry in the early 80’s.

McDonough’s portrayal does not in fact need the clips of Tammy Faye herself behind her on stage – in fact I feel like this undermines the strength of the show and her performance. She also does not need the extra help that she gets
from the quiet and awkward angel – Peter Laneas.

The performance is hers – the story is Tammy’s – and would have been more effective were it kept that way. The use of puppets add to the hurt of the piece Each puppet is meant to be a mouth piece of god like some hateful Church ladies and the evil Jerry Fallwell.

All are done with such ironic joy that it shows that Baker – even with no real eyebrows – was the only one who was real in preaching God’s love. It says that it has been edited and it feels this way – it would have been nice to see who
was truly there for her at the end of the play and at the end of her life.

That said, definitely worth your time. I walked out of this show thinking that despite all the judgment cast onto her – Tammy Faye Baker truly judged no one.

Maybe that IS a god I can get behind, after all.

– An Evening With Tammy Faye plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace
– Playing Saturday July 10 at 12:30 pm & Sunday July 11 at 3:30pm
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)
– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows