High School High (Toasted Theatre Company) is a solo musical performance featuring Alli Harris, currently playing at Factory Theatre Studio as part of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival. High School High is a series of musical vignettes relayed through different characters, among which are the freshman and her mother, the overachieving bake sale fundraising student, the too-cool school DJ, the class runt, a number of eccentric teachers, and a ghost.
Harris enters with an acoustic guitar and a headset microphone and creates the world of high school through song. Set pieces consist of a white board covered in end-of-school-year salutations and a music stand. Harris walks behind the whiteboard for some character transitions, while other transitions are done on the spot. I enjoyed watching both.
Harris is funny and charming as each character. The show provides a very earnest perspective on high school life with many of its hallmarks, such as first love, secret relationships, rumours, unfinished homework, and squandered spare periods. This is a light-hearted show, so much of the darker side of high school is not included.
Harris is also able to craft a setting through her musical storytelling. I could almost see the school’s bathroom, cafeteria and parking lot. I could almost smell the musky aroma of teen angst lingering in the hallways.
Harris has a beautiful and versatile voice. The lyrics of her songs take the audience in directions one never sees coming. However, Harris also keeps the audience grounded through the unexpected because she adheres to a fairly strict rhyme and meter scheme. I commend and appreciate that skill.
There is some audience participation, but it is gentle and totally voluntary. Harris breaks the fourth wall at two points, and both occasions served to advance the scene.
High School High moves at a good pace and offers an excellent cross-section of characters. Harris is naturally funny and authentic, which makes her immensely watchable. The show offers an excellent reprieve from some of the Fringe’s heavier fare, and is great for anyone who finds joy in whimsy.
- High School High plays at the Factory Theatre Studio. (125 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 (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; sexual content; audience participation; not recommended for children.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 8:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 10:45 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 2:45 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 6:15 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 4:30 pm
- Friday July 12th, 2:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 6:15 pm
Photo of by Alli Harris by Shawn MacDonell