Be Kind, Rewind is the latest collaboration between perennial Toronto Fringe Festival favourites Edge of the Sky and the musical writing duo Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde (Summerland, One Small Step). Their new show is a coming-of-age musical centred on a misfit teen’s attempt to re-invent herself while working at a video rental store/bait shop in a Northern Ontario cottage town in the summer of 1995.
Back in 1995, I was also a misfit tween and budding cinephile, so the concept for this show seems squarely aimed at my sensibilities.
Be Kind, Rewind is a new musical and this Toronto Fringe production is not a finished product but rather a staged reading of a work in development. While the production features a large ensemble of talented young performers acting out scenes and occasionally breaking out into song-and-dance production numbers, there are minimal sets/props, and a pair of narrators on either side of the stage read stage directions out loud.
The execution isn’t as sleek, sure-footed or high-energy as I’ve seen in previous years’ Edge of the Sky productions, but that’s understandable considering this is new material; they’re in the process of developing something and trying it out in front of an audience so it simply isn’t as polished yet.
I thought the choice to cast four different actors in the role of the main character Deirdre was interesting but a bit too high-concept to work. Each actor brings something unique to the role but there’s no compelling reason to have four alter-egos rather than one character and one actor who can carry the show on their own, and it almost feels as if they’re auditioning four different actors for the role.
As for the show itself, it’s oozing with so much potential, but I don’t think it entirely works as a musical yet. I think the book needs further development; it’s still a bit clunky, not all of the humour lands (Deirdre’s oddball cousins read as awkward rather than funny), and the show still needs to find its tone. There’s also so much untapped potential to revel in the ‘90s nostalgia that would add some levity to the show.
I also think additional songs need to be written to fill out the main emotional arc of the show and to drive the plot forward. Deirdre is missing a compelling song to really endear her to the audience early on. Right now there are moments and scenes that feel like they ought to be musicalized but aren’t, and other musical moments feel like filler; using radio commercials as excuses for the show’s big production numbers feels a bit too facile.
However, I think the finale number, The Girl, The Lake, and The Video Store, hits exactly the sweet, sentimental tone that it needs to work. The heart of the show is there, the rest of the show leading up to it just needs to catch up.
Be Kind, Rewind just has so much potential and based on what I saw tonight I’m very much looking forward to seeing this show develop in its future iterations.
This review is based on the July 3 preview performance of the production.
- Be Kind, Rewind 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: Parental Guidance Advised
- This venue is partially accessible
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday, July 3rd, 8:15pm (Preview)
- Friday, July 5th, 2:00pm
- Saturday, July 6th, 9:45pm
- Tuesday, July 9th, 2:45pm
- Thursday, July 11th, 4:30pm
- Friday, July 12th, 6:15pm
- Sunday, July 14th, 7:00pm
Show poster for Be Kind, Rewind designed by Eric Andrews