I was ready for a concept album live performance when I entered the Al Green Theatre for Kevin Nelson’s 50 Times Around the Sun – a cabaret journal at the Toronto Fringe Festival. That’s not what I got.
I was promised intimacy. That’s not what I got either, and maybe that was the problem. The Al Green, while lovely, seats over a hundred, the first row starting ten feet from a high proscenium stage. If this had happened in a coffee shop, maybe I could have felt and enjoyed the emotion rather than sitting back to critique it as acting. Maybe there wouldn’t have had to be acting at all, which there didn’t need to be, because it felt inauthentic against the heartfelt lyrics. If we’d been in some listening room, maybe I could have grooved with it all. But I found I couldn’t.
I liked the songs, don’t get me wrong. Kevin Nelson is a gifted (and much-awarded) lyricist. Louisa Burgess-Corbett, Jennifer Noble, Jamieson Eakin, James Woods are fantastic singers. I was impressed at the sheer breadth of styles they crossed through together. You could hear Nelson’s heart in a Christmas carol just as clearly as in a folk song. He’s silly, sweet, and full of love in a 1940s radio tune all the way through a New-Age meditation mantra. So if good songwriting is your thing, and lovesongs too, this is your Fringe match.
It’s just hard to follow that breadth thematically. I was all set for to listen to love songs and imagine the life from which they came, and then there were three songs about Joan of Arc. Which definitely fit the theme of life, love, and loss, but their placement in the mix seemed to come from nowhere. It’s hard to curate an impressively wide-ranging talent, but doing so is key. In this, it missed the mark. Somehow this journey ranged long, but did not hold together. Maybe that’s not what matters, but it’s what felt true.
50 Times Around the Sun – a cabaret journal by Kevin Nelson plays at the Al Green Theatre. (720 Spadina Ave, near Spadina and Bloor)
July 05 at 12:00 PM
July 06 at 07:00 PM
July 07 at 01:00 PM
July 09 at 11:00 PM
July 12 at 09:45 PM
July 13 at 04:00 PM
Show length: 60min.
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.