Alinka Angelova is gunning for Broadway with MUTE: The Musical! playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival. If anyone had a million bucks to put behind it, we’d have a commercial hit.
Because, teens. I can count at least three musicals about high school that spun off into mega-selling movies, so it’s a genre that works. There’s a guy, a girl, a romance; dorky sidekicks and a clatch of bad girls; a misfit to be transformed; a talent show, a formal dance; and a hot topic that’s only gaining steam in pop culture: bullying. The all-singing, all-dancing, anti-bullying theater show! Can’t you see it in lights?
I’m serious. With a solid libretto and excellent composition, this show is worth a look, especially if you’re a Theater for Young Audiences or commercial musical producer with some cash to really get this piece playing at full volume. Because as it stands right now, it’s a first-draft, low-budget piece with minimal everything (except heart and potential). Fringe…what can you do?
The show makes smart points about the way low self-esteem attracts bullies, and how everyone knows the bully in the room, whether anyone will step up to say so. Its climactic anthem “This Is Who I Am” will have the freaks and misfits belting proudly. And it’s sweet, all around. The writing needs tightening for sure, and not just because of the pitfalls of sing-talking. It felt about 20 minutes too long, and too often pat or cliché – and yet, given what people will consume as entertainment, it’s better than average. It just needs work/support.
The singing was excellent across the multiethnic cast. The ensemble’s 15-part harmony was as unbelievable as the representation of a performing arts high school without gay people! But the acting and dancing became a mixed bag. A couple of triple-threat performers deserve mention: Kierans Jordan is a hammy young Sinatra; the Amy Poehler-esq Holly Wyder shone even without a solo; and Rochelle Robinson brought the right intensity not only to the scene but to the entire stage every time.
I understood the choice to make everyone sing unplugged in order to jack up Bryna Weiss’s star-quality voice using a mic in the last scene, but the acoustics in the theater and the recorded music’s levels rendered the singers frustratingly quiet. The choreography needed the air sucked out of it and more pop, with the exception of the “Choose Me” song, which showcased everybody’s best energy.
I truly want someone to snap this great show up, throw money at easily-fixed issues, and send this piece out to do the good it so clearly wishes to do. If there’s a show deserving of an upgrade, here it is.
Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St)
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 07 at 08:15 PM
July 08 at 01:00 PM
July 11 at 05:15 PM
July 12 at 11:00 PM
Show length: 90min.
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.