Downtown Jay, by Birdbrain Productions, is playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival as part of FringeKids. The story follows a blue jay in a rural area who is teased by mockingbirds about his elaborately decorated nest. He decides to leave home and travels with some migrating Canada Geese to Toronto.
Adjusting into downtown living means meeting and dealing with aggressive raccoons, squirrels and, of course, other birds. The costumes are simple enough not to break any fledgling young company’s bank, but devised with imagination. For example, the Canada Geese are two performers who each have their faces presented as geese, but also each hand, so they can put their inner arms down and their outer arms up to create a six-goose V formation.
It’s a musical with songs set to familiar tunes, but the singing is rather uneven. Similarly, the dancing could have used a few more rehearsals to get everyone in sync.
My kid didn’t seem to notice though: he thought everything was great and he liked the raccoons the best. I agree with him, in that my favourite scene was a wonderfully vivacious number about the wealth of diverse food from all over the world on offer in Toronto, led by the racoons. As much as I think that song was particularly well-written and sung, I also appreciate the sentiment, though I usually experience tasty meals through restaurants and grocery stores, not green bins.
My biggest issue with the show is the language the mockingbirds use to torment Jay at the outset. There was repeated use of the word “crazy”, which is ableist, and I am trying not to expose my kid to that word as a viable insult, or even an adjective.
I can’t recommend this show on that fact alone, but if that doesn’t bother you, and your children aren’t especially discerning of prowess in vocal performance or synchronized movement, this show is worth the $12 of entertainment for your smaller humans.
- Downtown Jay plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl)
- Tickets for FringeKids shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $12.
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance, and can be bought online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- The George Ignatieff Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, and has wide aisles for easy mid-show exits.
- Don’t miss the FringeKids club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday June 30th, 01:00 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 02:15 pm
- Monday July 4th, 04:15 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 11:30 am
- Friday July 8th, 01:15 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 04:30 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 11:30 am
Photo provided by the company