Having loved (and cried during) The Nance on Broadway, I felt somewhat prepared to love (and cry over) The Pansy Craze: A New Musical, showing at the Randolph Theatre as part of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival. The shows both throw the Gay Wayback Machine back to a liminal time in queerness, exploring a shimmering moment in history when gender-independence was briefly allowable in public before law-enforcement clamped its unforgiving jaws back down. I did love The Pansy Craze: A New Musical, and I did cry, and I am keen indeed to see how this show progresses.
What you see is what you get with Adam Schwartz, who references his lack of a filter and propensity for truth-telling repeatedly in his stand-up fringe show, Aspergers: More Tales of a Social Misfit. Playing the Annex Theatre as part of this years Toronto Fringe Festival, Schwartz’s short set is a set-up-and-knock-down series of jokes about how his Aspergers affects his life, what he’s learned and, of course, his mother.
When I chose this show to review, it was called Meg Makes Mistakes, and I wish this charming short solo about love and relationships and, well, errors in judgement had retained its original title. Instead it’s in the Toronto Fringe Festival program as Meg MacKay: Freelance Witch and is playing at the in Tarragon Theatre’s small but mighty Solo Room. It’s maybe about three-quarters of the way to being a finished piece, but somehow that’s part of the pleasure in it.
I arrived to AWKWARD HUG at Theatre Passe Muraille, looking forward to my first Fringe show of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival season, and curious, curious, curious. I have seen a long list of “my weird relative, let me tell you about them!” shows, and generally I find them aggravating and one dimensional. Every once in a while, though, someone comes to the work with a thoughtfulness that redeems the concept for a minute. AWKWARD HUG was (mostly) one of those shows.
Harry Potter parody show arrives to make magic on the Toronto stage
First things first: my eight-year-old loved this show SO MUCH and giggled like a fiend the entire time. If your child under the age of about 14 is a big fan of Harry Potter, just accept with good cheer that you ought to be going to see Potted Potter at the CAA Theatre, and the show will be good-natured silly fun. The concept–all 7 books in 7 minutes–goes past a Cole’s Notes and squarely into a sort of theatrical shorthand, so if you’ve never read the books you’re mostly just watching two dudes do some skilled slapstick and improv. Then again, no one ever suffered for that.
Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre presents Raven Spirit Dance’s play Salmon Girl
You think you understand kids, and then they surprise you – or at least they surprised me at Salmon Girl, presented at Young People’s Theatre and created by the folks at Raven Spirit Dance. While there were some mis-steps in the production, it has solid bones and there were parts of the show where my young companions, two enthusiastic second-graders, were literally motionless with interest and attention.
Mirvish Productions brings the much beloved classic musical Annie back to the Toronto stage
I arrived to Annie at the Ed Mirvish Theatre on a sunny Sunday afternoon with my eight-year-old companion, joining a chattering throng of excited patrons for the fresh-from-London revival of an old favorite that I saw on Broadway as a young child more than 30 years ago. I vividly recall my excitement at the time, how exciting and fresh the show felt, and I hoped our visit would be equally enjoyable for my small charge. I’m happy to say it was; this production of Annie was a playful pleasure.
Young People’s Theatre presents Selfie, nuanced and thoughtful – great for teens, in Toronto
I arrived at Young People’s Theatre to see Selfie as an adult who works with a ton of teenagers and young adults (and has one of my own), skeptical in the extreme about work by adults about social media that’s aimed at teenagers. In general, I find it exhaustingly reductionist and at least five years behind schedule. Selfie, however, felt fresh and nuanced and appropriately difficult.
Tanya Tagaq and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory deliver awe-inspiring performance, on stage in Toronto
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.