Josephine, A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play (Lil Theatre Company) 2018 Toronto Fringe Review

Tymisha Harris as Josephine Baker, photo provided by the company

Josephine Baker is the type of person stories are written about, movies are based on, and stage musicals draw loving crowds with. Created by Tymisha Harris, Michael Marinaccio, and Tod Kimbro, and performed by the ever talented Tymisha Harris, Josephine, A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play, playing at the Randolph Theatre as part of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival does exactly that.

Josephine Baker (June 3 1906 – April 12 1975) was a woman of many a glamourous hat — black American born French entertainer, activist, and spy for the French Resistance during the Second World War. In France they adored her, though maybe fetishized her. In America they couldn’t see past her dark skin. Relentlessly, she carved out a career for herself on stage and in film, letting her beauty, talent and sensuality speak volumes. Her talent bridged gaps between black and white and Josephine Baker became a pioneer for human rights, standing alongside Martin Luther King Jr., up to her peaceful death.

What can I say about Harris? To say she embodies and brings Josephine Baker to life is an understatement. She is gorgeous on that stage, she brings sass, passion, beauty, grace, vivacity and many more things to a character that is already full of these traits and more. I love how Harris, in even the slightest carefully planned shift of her shoulder and tonal shift in her voice, is able to portray a maturing Josephine in just one song, notably in her performance of “Blue Bird”.

But beyond her portrayal, Tymisha “Tush” Harris is an outstanding singer and dancer. Watching her song and dance interludes is worth the price of admission alone. Her feather fan dance, superb. Her banana belt dance complete with pasties and clear evidence of where she garnered her nickname, cheeky and delightful. Her deeply soulful rendition of “Times They Are a Changing” speaks to my inner self and pulls on heartstrings.

Watching a performance with Harris dazzling me for an hour while cooing and strutting her stuff to music carefully honed and perfected by Tod Kimbro is worth it. Learning more about the remarkable life of the late great Josephine Baker is even better.

Josephine, A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play is the kind of history lesson that anyone can get into. At the end of the show, Harris teased that they would love to bring the full version of the show to the Toronto stage. Knowing that there is more to this production leaves me excited as it will you. Go see this.

Details

  • Josephine, a Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play plays at the Randolph Theatre. (736 Bathurst St.)
  • Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
  • Content Warnings: Mature language; Unsuitable for minors; Sexual content; Audience participation; Nudity.
  • This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. We recommend checking in with the venue box office at least 15 minutes before showtime.
  • Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.

Performances

  • Wednesday July 4th, 10:30 pm
  • Saturday July 7th, 5:45 pm
  • Sunday July 8th, 3:00 pm
  • Tuesday July 10th, 8:45 pm
  • Wednesday July 11th, 7:00 pm
  • Friday July 13th, 12:00 pm
  • Saturday July 14th, 1:45 pm

Photo of Tymisha Harris provided by the company

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