This past weekend Mooney on Theatre sent its dedicated team of 30 writers and editors to cover all 160 shows in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival! With the sheer number of shows available at the festival, picking the ones you want to see can be a daunting task.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of shows and you’re looking for a place to start, we’ve asked our staff to tell us about their favourite shows they’ve seen at this year’s festival. We hope our staff picks can help you navigate the Fringe.
If you’ve seen something you think is amazing that you think others should go see please let us know by leaving a comment.
Mooney on Theatre Staff Picks – 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival
Catherine Jan wants you to bring your little one to Night at Castle Impendingdoom. Big and small people alike will enjoy the silly jokes, the audio experience, and the tips on battling vampires.
Jennifer Enchin recommends WILD/WALLED. It was like contemporary dance on steroids. The cast of dancers were connected to each other in an almost spiritual way, resulting in a performance that demanded the attention of the audience. The choreography was incredibly interesting. One of the most unique dance pieces I’ve ever seen. Check it out, I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Wayne Leung really thinks you should see True North Mix Tape, a big, bold, beautiful and uplifting show featuring a diverse cast of fifty performers including two-time National Showchoir champions The Wexford Gleeks and an ensemble from the Teen Fringe, performing an eclectic program of Canadian songs. The cast delivers the big production numbers with such infectious energy you’ll want to dance in the aisles along with them.
Mike Anderson recommends Traffic Jams. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the more thinks about it, the better it gets. Intricate and thoughtful, this serious comedy about development and maturity (as an adult, as an artist, as a human being) keeps popping up — and reminding him of friends and loved ones who’d benefit from an afternoon on the traffic island with Thalie. Maybe that group includes you?
Randy McDonald loves Not Enough. This inventive, often funny, sometimes sad, and always watchable show featuring Megan Phillips proves that a solo experience at a meditation retreat can be the stuff of excellent drama. The show is a character study like few others, one where we learn about a person not from others but from her unflinchingly honest internal dialogue. Theatre-goers who attend will be not just entertained but enlightened, learning more about the ways in which we do work and can evolve. This is theatre that can change your life.
Samantha Wu can’t say enough about Bendy Sign Tavern. It may not be as adventure-driven as some of the other offerings from Sex T-Rex but it’s still hilarious nonetheless. You’re at a bar, there are puppets, and the sharp comedy leads to gut-busting laughs around every corner. The characters are a delight and you’ll be sure to have a riot of a great time.
Holly Wyder cannot stop laughing thinking about the glorious and weird concept for a sketch show that is 32 Short Sketches About Bees. Part of a promise to the audience, the energy never dies because they only have 60 minutes to do as the title suggests. Although her my favourite sketch was about Lizards… which still counted.
Lin Young super recommends Kara Sevda, which is a play she left thinking, “I really liked that.” As the hours went by and she was still thinking about it, she realized, “No, I think I loved that?” It’s the kind of play that takes hours to settle, extending its grip on your emotions well beyond the theatre. It’s a complex and moving exploration of empathy and connection at the end of the world.
Avneet Sharma only has good things to say about Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains. He recognizes that it may not be for everyone, but it will be relished by those who love to watch flawed, realistic characters interact. It is a candid piece with fully-formed characters and palpable chemistry between its leads. The script does wonders zigzagging between honest humour and high emotion, leaving him excited for what Rose Napoli has to offer next. This is the Fringe comedy-drama to look out for.
Ilana Lucas realizes most of the shows she has really enjoyed are already near-sellouts, so she wants to recommend the more hidden gem that is Cat Kidd’s Hyena Subpoena. It’s a show that delivers electric spoken-word poetry and evocative projections about the animals inside of us. Kidd is a masterful performer, and she spins wonders with words; go in prepared to listen with your whole mind and heart.
Dustin George had such an emotional rollercoaster with Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun and he still can’t get it out of his head. This one-woman clown show about doing a Fringe show may sound cliché, but it is the exact opposite. Janelle Hanna captivates the audience with her clown, Bad Baby. Her jokes are fresh and hilarious. And once you think you understand her shtick, she tears on your heartstrings and leaves you crying in your seat. Oh! There is also a big surprise… but you’ll have to see it to find out what it is!
Emily Dix recommends Fastcar: Man of Action for those who like wacky comedy and want to see something different. Ridiculous and fun, Amo Gulinello is a real pro. Bonus – there’s almost no talking in this piece, so its accessible to anyone, regardless of language.
Chris Klippenstein is still reeling from Recall, a sci-fi dystopian thriller grounded in the lives of complex, nuanced characters. She admires this tense, wonderfully written drama all the more because it respects the intelligence of the audience. “Recall” isn’t as splashy as other Fringe offerings this year, but it’s the show that has stayed with Chris more than any other.
Sam Mooney thinks that everyone should see “Am I Pretty Now?” A Musical Romp Through Plastic Surgery! even if the idea of a musical about plastic surgery sounds weird. The show is funny, irreverent, honest, and touching. It’s the most polished show that she has seen (maybe ever) at Fringe and Stephanie Ferrera gives the best performance that Sam has seen at Fringe this year.
Stephen Lubin is telling everyone that they absolutely MUST see Gemma Wilcox’s Magical Mystery Detour. It’s a fantastic one-woman show that will take you on a fantastical roller coaster of feelings.
Keira Grant absolutely loved In Sundry Languages and really wants you to see it! The show was the perfect multimedia mix of funny, smart, sassy, thought-provoking and poignant. The vignettes of the show flow seamlessly, and every single one is on point. Keira laughed out loud, nodded emphatically, and was absolutely enchanted by the vignette involving the audience member. Keira hopes you make it out for this stunning creative experiment.
Alanna Hopper laughed and cried her entire way through the seamless piece of theatre that is MEANT; a funny but heartfelt musical with an original score. The show follows a young couple as they come to realise that The Fates have made a huge mistake in planning their lives, now they must decide their futures for themselves.
Isabella O’Brien was taken for a wild ride by Delirium and she wants you to get taken too. Martin Dockery’s storytelling is a peacock on full display in this heart-expanding tale of love, loss and the wonder of life. Dockery’s an electric eel on stage and delivers gut punches, serious laughter, and sweet, sweet embraces. This is beautifully human story told incredibly well. Go forth and see!
Katharine dos Santos just cant stop thinking about Operation SUNshine. To her, it epitomizes the core of Fringe: theatre that draws you in and surprises you, especially if its about a theme you might not otherwise be interested in. It’s a heartstopping one-woman show that ingeniously turns hard topics into the funniest and most poignant hour and a half. No matter who you are, you’ll lose yourself completely in McKinley’s storytelling. You might not know whether to laugh or cry at times, but this is a personal, honest, and socially relevant piece of theatre that is indisputably brilliant.
Jackie Mahoney thinks you should should get out to see The Seat Next to the King ASAP. It’s such a unique, vital story that’s passionately performed and beautifully mounted. It doesn’t shy away from addressing topics that other plays usually avoid. You can tell just from watching it was a labour of love for everyone involved and it’s so important to support works such as this. Do it! Go see it! Right now!
Allison Gerson is telling everyone not to miss the fun at Maddie’s Karaoke BIrthday Party. The Monarch Tavern is the setting for a real birthday complete with balloons, party hats and original songs that capture the angst of turning twenty-five. Only one thing is missing–the birthday girl. This show is a hoot and features some very strong singing and performances. So order a drink and join in the party.
Photo credit: Wayne Leung