Mooney on Theatre’s Hot Tickets for Fringe 2017

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Every year, Mooney on Theatre brings a team of more than 20 contributors to Fringe.  With a team this big and diverse, no matter what you’ve got to show us, we have someone who wants to see it — and we will! As always, Mooney on Theatre will post a longform review of every show in the festival (all 160!) by the end of opening weekend.

But for now, a little buzz: our Hot Tickets are the shows which excited, attracted, intrigued and interested our team more than any others. These are the pieces which turned our heads, tickled our brains, and caused stampedes at scheduling time. Presenting, in no particular order, Mooney on Theatre’s Hot Tickets for Toronto Fringe 2017!

Bendy Sign Tavern (Sex T-Rex)

We love Sex T-Rex. This hyperkinetic, hammy-but-clever narrative comedy group have served up so many of our favourite Fringe experiences: from the post-apocalyptic, totally tubular Wasteland, to razor-sharp perennial favourite Swordplay: A Play of Swords, to my own beloved Callaghan! , these artists have wowed us again and again.

This year, they’re bringing us Bendy Sign Tavern,  a full-length foray with puppets and a unique romcom structure.  We’re extremely eager to see how these physical comedians work with their new toolkit, and our editor Samantha Wu can’t imagine anywhere she’d rather be:

I’ll admit that I’m late to the Sex T-Rex party. Yes I’ve heard of them (have known about them for years!) always knew they were a riot to watch — but never exactly how much until last year when I accompanied our fellow editor Lin to Swordplay: A Play of Swords. I was sold!

When I learned that Sex T-Rex were offering their Bendy Sign Tavern show at this year’s Fringe Festival, I couldn’t resist. Every year, my Fringe experience has to include at least one site-specific adventure – and this being at The Paddock (where I can also order a beer!) is wonderful. On top of that, it’s a show about life behind the bar run by puppets?! Sign me up.

Bendy Sign Tavern plays at the Paddock (178 Bathurst St.) from July 5th through July 15th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

Confidential Musical Theatre Project

CMTP is one of our city’s best-kept theatrical secrets. The concept: a musical is cast, and scripts are distributed, but nobody knows who else is in the show until the warmup immediately before opening night. No group rehearsals, just get up there and sing! CMTP has previously staged brief revivals for gems like Bells Are RingingJekyll & Hyde, and Sunday in the Park with George. But whether or not you’re a fan of old, forgotten musicals, this is going to be a spectacle to behold — and you’ll never see the same show twice! Our Managing Editor, Wayne Leung, is counting down the days:

This show just sounds like a riot. You take a bunch of musical theatre artists and thrust them into a scenario that requires them to think on their feet. Will they come together and knock it out of the park on their first performance together or will they fall flat on their asses? The spontaneity and element of surprise should make for an electrifying event.

Confidential Musical Theatre Project plays the Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Ave.) from July 5th to July 16th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

Magical Mystery Detour (Gemma Wilcox)

Gemma Wilcox has been on fire lately, with smash hits in Victoria, Ottawa, and Winnipeg: “It is such an utter pleasure to see a performer of such virtuosity”, raves the CBC; “a superb show that reaches a dizzying standard”, says the Times-Colonist; “If Gemma Wilcox is not your Ottawa Fringe 2015 crush[,] my question to you is why the hell not?”, asks On Stage Ottawa.

And I’ve got good news! Magical Mystery Detour, her Toronto Fringe offering, has been racking up Best-of-Fest awards from coast to coast: we’re getting the absolute pick of the litter. This was one of the unexpected hits of our scheduling sessions, and contributor Stephen Lubin only just nabbed the assignment — lucky him! He knows he’s in for a good time:

One-person shows have made up some of my best Fringe experiences over the years, and Gemma Wilcox comes with such high praise that I knew I couldn’t pass this up.

Magical Mystery Detour plays the Tarragon Solo Room (30 Bridgman Ave.) from July 6th to July 15th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

True North Mixtape (Edge of Sky Theatre)

Remember Summerland? Apart from the sheer epicness of the experience — over a hundred performers! in a Fringe show! — the most memorable thing was how important it was to see young artists telling stories they’d helped to craft. Collaborators Suzy Wilde, Barbara Johnston and Anika Johnson returned to that same theme, working with a new cast on last season’s equally-beautiful The Fence, and producing a work which once again shook our world with its authenticity and frankness.

True North Mixtape is in the latter vein, a  collaboration between Suzy Wilde, the Wexford Gleeks and Teen Fringe which fuses sketches, songs, movement and poetry to explore what it means to be young and Canadian in the shadow of our 150th. Expect strong performances, real tears, belly laughs, and a once-in-a-lifetime show. Wayne Leung, our Managing Editor, wants to eat this one for breakfast, lunch and dinner:

This is the new show from the production company that brought us previous Fringe hits Summerland and The Fence; both of which I loved. You have a cast of fifty (yes, five-zero!) young cast members including National Showchoir Champions the Wexford Gleeks, performing a program of Canadian music. It’s bound to be epic.

True North Mixtape plays the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.) from July 6th through July 16th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

The Seat Next To The King (Minmar Gaslight)

Playwright Stephen Elliot Jackson has been around for a few years now, building a reputation for slow-burning, tense and political texts, with settings which often linger around the middle of the last century. His The Seat Next To the King, which won the Fringe Festival’s New Play Competition, is right in the middle of that Venn diagram, exploring racial, sexual and gender politics through the lens of an encounter in a public restroom at the height of the civil rights era.

Among our writers, it’s one of the most-discussed true plays on the boards this Fringe, and Jackie Mahoney grabbed the assignment as soon as she could:

When you’ve heard great things about the people working on a show as awesome sounding as The Seat Next to the King, it’s hard not to be excited to see it! The show deals with issues of race and sexuality, both of which are especially relevant to Toronto at the moment (but should be all the time) with Black Lives Matter’s recent powerful appearance at the Pride parade. Impactful theatre that still entertains is my favourite kind, and this show sounds like it should be just that.

The Seat Next To The King plays the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Ave.) from July 6th to July 16th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

13 Ways the World Ends
(Flash Dazzle Productions)

I’m not gonna lie to you: this one raised my eyebrows. Good Morning Apocalypse (the core of Flash Dazzle’s ensemble) are an out-of-town sketch troupe who seem to be off to a good start, but are also (sadly!) completely off our radar.

But. But! They’ve got a marvellous theme for a show, a sense of humour which flies out of their promotional materials, and a sold-out run at Sketchfest to build on. And, besides, sketch is a land where charisma, energy and goodwill are half the battle, all of which this group seems to have in spades. Our contributor Randy McDonald is looking forward to his first (and final?) encounter with 13 Ways the World Ends:

I’ve long been a fan of the fiction of the Cthulhu mythos created by the legendary H.P. Lovecraft, with its hints of terrifying mystery lurking just beyond the veil of the ordinary. 2017, frankly, has also been an unusually twitch-inducing year so far for me and other people, between politics and the state of the environment. The idea of a sketch comedy show combining this two subjects is genius. I can’t wait to laugh, and to find out how I’ll be made to laugh in the first place!

13 Ways the World Ends plays the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Ave.) from July 5th to July 15th.  Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

MoonlightMoonlight After Midnight (Concrete Drops Theatre)

Touring from their headquarters in Brooklyn, Concrete Drops have been working the Fringe circuit for years — and in that time they’ve racked up an incredible number of rapturous reviews.

Known for ethereal and subtly twisted tales which leave audiences enraptured, baffled and contemplative, their Toronto Fringe show (Moonlight After Midnight) is every bit as experimental as we’d hope. This is a mystery we can’t wait to sink our teeth into — and one we expect to keep chewing for weeks afterwards. Our contributor Stephen Lubin has high hopes:

This show caught my interest with its pretty title, but the buzz around it is what really held my attention. I’m a sucker for romances and am really excited for this one.

Moonlight After Midnight plays the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Ave.) from July 7th to July 15th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

32 Short Sketches About Bees
(Clear Glass Productions)

Bees! Bs! Bea and her Bosom Buddy! Who knew this brave bee business would be such a boffo topic for a sketch show?

We’re impressed with just about everything about this sweet little number: they’ve got an outstanding Fringe pedigree (you may recognize several members of Dame Judy Dench, joined by collaborators from across our city’s comedy scene), a real nose for the funny, and one of the catchiest concepts I’ve seen in years. Correspondent Emily Dix shares this enthusiasm:

While 32 Short Sketches About Bees is not being put on by Dame Judy Dench, it does feature several of their key players; Claire Farmer, Shannon Lahaie, Chris Leveille and Jessica Grecco – I saw these guys perform last year and they were HILARIOUS. I had been especially impressed by Paul Bates’ directing, something that I don’t think can often be said of a sketch comedy show. So when I heard they were together again, I knew I had to see it. Plus, who isn’t intrigued by the thought of 32 sketches in 55 minutes? When it’s put on by a team this solid, I know it’s going to be epic.

32 Short Sketches About Bees plays the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79 St. George St.) from July 6th to July 16th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

D&D Yoga (Downward D20)

Oh, sure, we’ve seen themed Fringe yoga before (and live D&D, for that matter), but this is some next-level stuff: not just participatory yoga, but a whole hour-long yoga adventure with character sheets, 20-sided dice, and a dungeonmaster who toys with their players. This collaboration of genres was already making us salivate, and learning that it comes with all the bells and whistles of a D&D sesh has only amped it up more. Samantha Wu, one of our editors, is preparing spells as we speak:

The title says it all. D&D (Dungeons and Dragons, for the uninitiated) and yoga. Simple, but you don’t need much more to pique my attention. And yes I have rolled a few D20s and have downward dogged in my past. It also wouldn’t be the first time that I have started my Fringe experience with a yoga class worked into a show and I’m excited for the chance to continue the tradition. The added bonus of tabletop role play can only make it better. Of course, you don’t need to have played D&D or have yoga training to take part and have fun at this show. As far as I can see, that’s a win.

D&D Yoga plays at Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd.) from July 5th to July 15th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

Rough MagicRough Magic
(Theatre Arcturus)

We were astounded at Theatre Arcturus’ Weird: The Witches of Macbeth, an occult-inspired acrobatic exploration of some of Shakespeare’s most famous language and characters. Naturally, as soon as we heard they were doing it again, people’s ears perked right up.

This year’s Rough Magic is set in the world of The Tempest, where two characters — Caliban and Ariel — form a bond that changes and challenges them both. Expect top-flight aerialism, new perspectives on old texts, and plenty of did-you-just-see-that, hold-your-breath-and-clutch-your-pearls spectacle. Our Editor Lindsay Young is keyed up and ready to take it all in:

After enjoying this company’s last Fringe offering (Weird: the Witches of Macbeth), I was pretty comfortable snagging this show straight away. Last year’s show featured beautiful Shakespearean language, dramatic staging, and tremendous feats of athleticism. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s based on The Tempest, one of the most visual and magical of Shakespeare’s plays (and a personal favourite of mine). There’s no other Fringe show that offers aerial acrobatics, either. All in all, Rough Magic seems like one of the most physically demanding and unique shows in the Fringe program this year and I’m excited to see it.

Rough Magic plays the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St) from July 5th to July 15th. Showtimes vary, see website for details. Ticketing information at bottom of article.

Ticketing Information

individual tickets to all mainstage and site-specific productions are $12, and can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, 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.

Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.