Ethereal Fantazy Productions‘ Next Thing You Know is a coming-of-age musical playing at the Randolph Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. It is a classic story following four New York artists lost in their mid-to-late-twenties, facing the realization that the life they thought they once wanted is now not as desirable as the life they thought they’d never choose to live. In other words, becoming an adult.
It is a show that can resonate with everyone on some level. For those of us who are facing or recently endured that uncertain age, it can be hard to watch at times. This is really hammered home when straight-talking Lisa, played by Johanna Reinberg, sings to her best friend Waverly (Olivia Ulrich) that “you can’t be everything that you want.”
That is not to say it is a heavy story – quite the opposite. It is uncomplicated and relatable and at times was very funny. Watching the characters partner-swap during a night of heavy drinking, only to wake up the next morning to sing a very hungover quartet in each others’ beds, provoked knowing laughs from many of us in the audience!
Each performer has their own individual strengths. Olivia Ulrich as Waverly has the perfect, sweet resonant voice for this style of contemporary musical theatre. Liam Naughten is very charming as her distracted playwright boyfriend, and Nick Xidos as Luke and Johanna Reinberg bring comedic moments in their supporting roles. It is as an ensemble that the performers have the most confidence and success, and show they’ve mostly mastered the close, intricate harmonies of Joshua Salzman’s music.
The score is very upbeat, heartfelt and catchy. I will say that some songs felt weak and shoe-horned in. For example, Luke’s “Morning After Omelet” is nothing more than him singing how he customizes omelets for the women he beds with groan-inducing rhymes (paprika for Anika). As a contemporary musical, though, it definitely holds its own.
There were moments where more instrumental music was necessary to keep the pace and momentum going, especially with a runtime of ninety minutes. There was a noticeable dip in energy in the brief silence between the previous scene/song ending and the next song’s beginning, which meant the actors had to work that much harder to bring the momentum back to where it was. Just having a tiny sting of instrumental music would help with the flow.
Next Thing You Know is an intimate musical in subject and staging and would be better suited to a smaller venue. It requires a lot of energy to fill the large auditorium of the Randolph Theatre and it the show could have been played bigger and more dynamically. Having said that, the heart and reality of the show hits home. With the show’s honesty and resonance, the cast draw you in with their musicality and charm. Everyone will relate on some level, and you will leave the auditorium humming those mid-twenties-reality tunes!
- Next Thing You Know plays at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst St)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets 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.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a ramp at the building’s northwest corner. Please arrive early and ask to speak with the House Manager.
- Thursday June 30th, 08:45 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 04:00 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 10:30 pm
- Tuesday July 5th, 01:00 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 05:15 pm
- Friday July 8th, 12:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 04:00 pm
Photo (L-R) Johanna Reinberg, Liam Naughten, Olivia Ulrich, and Nick Xidos by Jordan Jenkinson Photography