Review: Major Tom (Victoria Melody / WorldStage)

Major Tom

The pomp and circumstance of the pageantry world takes to Toronto’s EnWave Theatre in Major Tom

When you see Major Tom (playing the EnWave Theatre as part of WorldStage), you don’t watch Victoria Melody perform nearly so much as run into her at a dog park: she smiles in recognition, and you start chatting. She has the sort of personality which, with nothing more than a wink and a well-chosen anecdote, brings you into her world. Vicky’s going to talk, and you’re going to listen–and you’re going to enjoy every minute of it.

And this particular story is fascinating: she walks us through more-or-less a year in the life of a dog fancier who, feeling it unfair that her basset hound (the titular Major Tom) must be primped and trained and perfumed and tweezed into a perfect specimen in order to compete at dog shows, decides to begin entering beauty pageants herself–with all the attendant weight loss, relationship strain, pink-ribbon runs, spray-on tans, and charity calendar shoots.

It’s hilarious, and it’s heartwarming. But don’t let Melody’s affably-dim, say-goodnight-Gracie stage persona fool you: she’s the cleverest person in the room. This is no mere amusing anecdote. She’s crafted something which works on multiple levels: this is a show about the relationship between dogs and their people; about the upsides–and downsides–of the competitive drive; about third-wave feminism; about our own secret foibles and embarrassments; and, perhaps above all else, about the human dignity she clearly craves for not just herself, but for all of us.

Please don’t misunderstand: this is not a serious, thinkity-think sort of show. The writing is so nimble and the performance so understated that, if you want to ride this roller coaster as a single-level comedy show, you’re free to it. Melody herself would approve!

But it’s her zeal to make you think, to put yourself in the shoes of another person, and to share in her joy and her adventures, that elevates this exercise beyond mere story-retelling. Sometimes she guides you to conclusions like a dog on a leash, and sometimes she leaves a trail of doggy treats to lead you in the right direction–but more often than not, she gently touches on a suggestion and leaves you to ponder it all the way home. And you will. In this sense, Major Tom–despite its mass-market packaging–is one of the most rewarding pieces I’ve seen in awhile.

And the dog’s pretty good, too.

Details

  • Major Tom plays the EnWave Theatre (Harbourfront Centre, near Lakeshore and York) through March 1st, 2014.
  • All tickets $29; $23.25 for seniors.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416 973-4000), or in-person from the EnWave theatre box office immediately before performances.
  • Be advised that latecomers will not be seated.

Photograph of Victoria Melody and Major Tom provided by the company.

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