Review: From Justin to Kelly (Angelwalk Theatre)

Look no further than Toronto’s own backyard for talent, charisma and quality theatre productions.

One week after seeing From Justin to Kelly presented by Angelwalk Theatre and I’m still humming “It’s all Coming Back to Me Now”. Normally, I endeavour to post reviews more promptly, but the combination of this show being one night only and the opportunistic flu that knocked me flat the next afternoon made me a tich tardy. In the theatre universe, excuses of any kind are simply not tolerated, but I’m wearing my writerly hat currently.

From Justin to Kelly borrowed its title from the 2003 fresh-out-of-American-Idol-fame movie starring Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson. The tagline from the film is “The tale of two American Idols”, and while one could easily support the Idol status of top-notch performers Justin Bott and Kelly Holiff, the similarities between the film and Angelwalk-produced Showcase Series end there. Thank heavens.

Justin Bott is a Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee who is also a self-proclaimed “muse” for Angelwalk Theatre – appearing next in Ordinary Days. An incredible talent, he has a rich, poppy voice (amazing combination) all held together with a suit and tie. He breathed new life into some traditionally sappy love songs, bringing a theatrical intensity to Michael Buble’s “Home”, for example. Every song selection encouraged me to dig deeper into the lyrics or find an overall message that I usually let the radio singer gloss over, showing Justin’s insight and talent.

And then there’s Kelly Holiff. This woman’s electric, out of this world voice is impossible to describe. If a picture paints a thousand words, one note is more than the Mooney article allowance. And the best part of it all is that her sound and vocal sass are paired with a delightful character who reads genuine and off-the-cuff in everything she does. Like Justin, she sang ubiquitous pop like Celine Dion and made me question whether I had ever heard the song before.

Tied together with quippy comedic moments and under the musical direction of Chris Tsujiuchi (who was off to Europe to accompany Sharron Matthews on tour the next morning) the evening was intimate, beautiful, and a showcase of the truest kind. Look no further than our own backyard for talent, charisma and quality productions.

From Justin to Kelly played for one night only at the Studio Theatre at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Wednesday, October 3rd.