by Lucy Allen
New musical shows just how entertaining our PM is on the Toronto stage
Oh, Stephen Harper. He’s been the butt of so many jokes, and yet has managed to get elected successfully without any real problem. How on earth does he do it? More importantly, after many poorly executed decisions, how does he hope to get popular again? Daniel and Steven Shehori explore this in their new show, Stephen Harper the Musical currently playing at Second City.
Stephen Harper the Musical is partly based on the now famous YouTube clip of Harper singing “A Little Help From My Friends“. Harper (James Roussel) is now down in popularity and it’s up to his administration (Ashley Botting and Trevor Martin) and a passing janitor (Paul O’Sullivan) to figure out a way to make the people love him. Of course, the only logical solution is to draw inspiration from his single performance and make a Broadway musical chronicling the PM’s life. The show switches back and forth between Harper and the rehearsal scenes and as you might expect, nothing goes according to plan.
Above all else, Stephen Harper the Musical is a good, fun night of comedy. You don’t have to have a deep understanding of Canadian politics to be able to enjoy this show. It manages to poke light-heartedly at everything and everyone leaving no stone unturned. My show partner Jeff was expecting a more politically charged show, but I actually enjoyed their treatment of Harper as a somewhat naive but well meaning man influenced by other people’s opinions rather than the spawn of Satan he’s often portrayed as.
Rather than drawing out the somewhat limited subject matter into a lengthy show, the show runs just over an hour and as a result remains tight and entertaining. Both plot and characters are well developed, which is a difficult task when dealing with real-life characters. The opening number is one part that both my show partner Jeff and I felt was a bit slow and awkward to begin, but it soon found its groove and just kept building from there. Our absolute favourite moment was when two puppets were added to the cast. I would say who they were, but it would spoil the surprise and let me tell you, it`s worth it.
All of the performers give hilarious performances and have some great comedy gold, but it was James Roussel as Stephen Harper that really cemented the show for me. His sincerity and eagerness to please made me empathize with a figure that so far I’ve been practically trained to hate. He doubles as the actor playing Stephen Harper in the Broadway musical and does a good job in separating the two characters (admittedly, it did take a few minutes to get used to the dual plots of the show, but the scene transitions always explain which setting you’re watching).
Of course, this is a musical and it would be a good idea to mention the big Broadway numbers. Considering that my friends and I were humming a few of the tunes well after the show, I think it’s safe to say that we enjoyed the music. The songs are catchy, the lyrics are satirical and fun, and the cast does a terrific job of performing them, especially the last show stopping number titled The Opening Number. Again, I won`t spoil the surprise but it was a terrific ending for the show.
Stephen Harper the Musical might not have the sharp edges that people might expect of it, but it`s still a great, fun night of comedy. The plot is pleasantly developed, the characters and performers are top notch, and the jokes and music keep you laughing for the entire show. And if you happen to like checking out new musicals, this is definitely one worth seeing.
–Stephen Harper the Musical is playing at the Second City (51 Mercer Street) until July 25th
-Shows run Tues-Sun at 7pm
-Tickets are $24 Tues-Fri or $29 Sat
-Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 416-343-0011
-Photo of James Roussel provided by Daniel Shehori (Sweat Equity Publicity)