Animal Pharmacy (Doc Holiday Productions) 2014 SummerWorks Review

Animal_PharmacyFor as long as there have been products, there have been salesmen. And as long as there have been salesmen, some have been sleazy, weasely salesmen.

Currently playing as part of the 2014 SummerWorks Musical Works in Concert Series, Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show takes aim at the pharmaceutical industry in the form of an old-timey, comedy-satire musical.

Centering on the premise of a conman snaking his way to become CEO of the world’s largest pill producer, this play positions itself as a miracle drug of hilarity, the cure-all for the blahs.

(Reviewer’s note: I had mixed feelings about this production, so I decided to review its storytelling and musical elements separately.)

As a Theatrical Piece…

There’s really so much to like about this production. Its wonderful acting, over-the-top Vaudevillian charm and allure were more than enough to set the stage for an enjoyable night of theatre. Unfortunately, much of the spectacle and razzle-dazzle that captivated the audience during the prologue fizzled out by the second act of this five act, 75-minute play.

There were several parts of the middle acts that just seemed to drag the whole performance down. It was a disappointing contrast to the well-written, well-paced opening scene.

The dialogue was laboured and the events that unfolded gave little expositional value, making the entire middle portion feel like an uneventful storyline that had been loosely strung together between musical numbers. Although many words were being exchanged, not much was actually being said or accomplished.

The payoff for enduring all this was a sort of non-ending, in which the initial problematic premise was unsatisfactorily resolved. With many loose ends being left untied, the plotline definitely left much to be desired.

As a Concert…

Musically, I consider Animal Pharmacy to have been a resounding success. There were no weak links in the performance. Every number was performed spectacularly with the highest level of showmanship possible.

The actors all hit the right notes and gave memorable performances, harmonizing perfectly with each other. The numbers themselves were beautifully written, with on-point lyrics that were of a calibre that would rival any top musical.

Indeed, it was the strength of the musical performances that really saved this production.

I’ve always been a firm believer that theatre is what you make of it. And so, just like the choose your own adventure novels that many of us grew up with, how much you would have enjoyed Animal Pharmacy would inevitably depend on whether you judge the production based on its musical or theatrical merits.


  • Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show played at The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West) on Monday, August 11th
  • SummerWorks musical performance tickets are $20 at the door (cash only), and are also available online at, by phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, or in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth (located at 100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) from August 5th to the 17th, from 10 AM until 7 PM. (Advance tickets are $20 + applicable service fee.)
  • Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo courtesy of Clutch PR