Get Happy is an interesting multi-disciplinary work incorporating music, dance and poetry. Harking back to the swing era, the show combines torch songs with lindy hopping and wistful, poetic verses.
An unrequited love triangle between the three main characters is hinted at. The poet (Nicholas Power) longs for the pretty bartender/lounge singer (Alisha Ruiss) and she in turn pines for the handsome, young dancer (Phil Bourassa). However, any inklings of a plot are just a thin pre-text to present a collection of songs, dance and poetry.
For the most part, the flimsy scenario can be forgiven because the performers are so talented. Alisha Ruiss shows off her versatile voice on a variety of jazz standards, switching from bold and belty to soft and nuanced as appropriate for the individual song. Her rendition of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is particularly affecting.
The Simple Joys Jazz Band provides the accompaniment on guitar (Mikko Hildén) and violin (Aline Homzy). I thought the paring down of the traditionally big, brassy arrangements of jazz and swing standards to these two instruments was an interesting choice that better suited the more intimate nature of the show.
Phil Bourassa proves himself to be very fleet footed as he mixes various styles of swing and tap. Alisha Ruiss occasionally joins him for duets and can definitely hold her own on the dance floor. The program has a note mentioning that the dances in the production are almost entirely improvised which definitely adds to their wow-factor.
Nicholas Power’s poetry is the thread that ties all the elements of the show together. He is our de-facto narrator and though the imagery of the poems is often evocative I find his delivery to be a bit stilted and he has a stiff stage presence that feels a bit awkward.
Together, the songs, dances and poems of the show are meant to evoke a sense of sentimentality. Although the show hints at the nostalgia for a bygone era it stops just short of evoking it and fully transporting me there. Still, the songs, dances and poems are reason enough to see the show.
Written by Nicholas Power and Alisha Ruiss
Performed by Phil Bourassa, Nicholas Power, Alisha Ruiss and The Simple Joys
Presented by Public Gesture Productions
in association with The Toronto Fringe Festival
VENUE: Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse – 79A St. George Street, Toronto
East side of St. George St. South of Harbord, theatre is on second floor and is wheel chair accessible
Wednesday, July 6, 2011 – 6:30pm
Friday, July 8, 2011 – 8:45pm
Sunday, July 10, 2011 – 1:30pm
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 – 11:00pm
Thursday, July 14, 2011 – 7:45pm
Friday, July 15, 2011 – 1:45pm
Saturday, July 16, 2011 – 3:30pm
Ticket Price: $10.00
Tickets: www.fringetoronto.com / (416) 966-1062
Advance Ticket Box Office at the Randolph Centre, 736 Bathurst St.
Public Gesture Productions – Get Happy – Alisha Ruiss, Phil Bourassa, Nicholas Power