I’ll be honest: I love a Fringe musical. They’re stripped down little items, and I find the raw edges of them somehow very appealing. BFFs, a new two-hander musical at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival from Greg McLeod and David Poon is charming in its concept, though I found it somewhat uneven in the delivery.
BFFs introduces us to Amanda and Devin, roommates and best friends from McGill who now lead reasonable grown-up lives in Toronto. They’re having a friend-weekend in Montreal, reminiscing about old times and spitballing plans for the future. When Devin (Mike Wisniowski) somehow hits on the idea that they should go to Disney World, Amanda (Kimberly Dolan) goes through all five stages of grief in about 25 minutes as she considers this proposal in relation to her life.
The two are easy with each other, and they banter fondly with some snappy, if not incredibly original, gay-boy-and-straight-girl dialogue. They’ve got solid comic timing and good-enough choreography. And then the songs happen.
Part of the issue seemed to be technical; Dolan’s (distracting and questionably necessary) headset mic was angled far from her mouth so she sounded like she was singing in a cupboard. But I struggled the entire show with feeling like their voices didn’t match — Wisniowsky is a straight-up Music Man style tenor, and Dolan is a crooning country-and-western starlet (whose music was regularly a little too high for her?), but there’s no characterization to reflect or make use of this. Together on stage, it feels…disjointed. The songs also did not follow the golden-rule of musical theatre: the song should advance the plot. The exception was “Manipulation,” which seemed to have been written in Dolan’s vocal sweet spot (helpful) and which cheered me considerably.
But in the end, though I found BFFs certainly watchable and intermittently cute, it didn’t thrill me with the feeling of seeing something with a big future. If you attended a university production and got this, you wouldn’t feel mad at it — and by Fringe musical standards it’s pleasing enough — but I definitely didn’t leave humming.
- BFFs plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- 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.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Accessible seating is in the very front row.
- 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.
- Friday July 5th, 6:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 10:30 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 8:45 pm
- Monday July 8th, 4:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 1:30 pm
photo of Mike Wisniowski and Kimberly Dolan by David Poon