Review: Gobsmacked! (Mirvish)

Gobsmacked! is a family-fun a cappella-style musical on stage at the CAA Theatre in Toronto

Even before Glee re-introduced a cappella fever to the viewing public, the art form displayed in the new Mirvish offering Gobsmacked! has had a brilliant history. A cappella groups like Pentatonix now tour and perform, delighting audiences with their range of mouth noises. Gobsmacked! offers a rich sound, centered around obvious star beatboxer Ball-Zee, though overall I found it rather uneven as the various soloists took their turns.

To begin with the positive, Ball-Zee (aka Patrick Hirst) was an absolute marvel. I have seen beatboxing before, and it’s easy to be impressed with anyone who can make a bunch of interesting mouth noises but he’s an outstanding talent (in the field of making interesting mouth noises). Our cast also included Emilie Louise Israel and Marcus Collins, both of whom wowed with classic honey-and-pepper rock/soul voices and great stage presence. Ed Scott, a skinny kid in braces with a remarkable vocal range and a robust bass note took the backseat in the lot of the arrangements but I could hear him texturing and coloring the music right along (and his spotlight turn in Prince’s “Kiss” was really delightful).

I was rather less clear about why some of the other cast members were included. Joanne Evans had some hot runs and a few good moments, but seemed ill-used — she’s strong and interesting in the lower registers and I would have liked hearing her sing some of the classic rock-boy wooing numbers instead of Nick Hayes, whom I found fairly uninspiring in all regards. The same, regrettably, was true of Monica Sik-Holm, who didn’t seem to make musical sense in this cast.

Besides finding the quality of performance uneven, chief complaint I had was the peculiar imposition of a plot — or “plot” — onto the collection of songs. It seemed like it would have been fine to just let them banter and chat instead of making them communicate like The Sims, but perhaps that’s a nod to an expected non-English-speaking audience? I get the concept, but it felt to me like someone was trying REALLY hard to eke some kind of narrative out of a collection of mostly pop songs and not finding great success.

At the end of the day, though, the numbers starring Collins, Israel, or Scott were musically quite good, and my 8-year-old theatre companion found absolutely all of it riveting, especially the hopping about and fiddling with furniture, so what do I know? Let’s call Gobsmacked! fine family fare for a spring break outing.

Details:

  • Gobsmacked! is playing until March 25, 2018 at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto.
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m., with Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. just added
  • Tickets are $39 – $92. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.
  • Tickets are available in person at any Mirvish theatre box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at Mirvish.com.

Photo of Toronto cast by S. Bear Bergman

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