So now that I am personally finished with this year’s UNDERCURRENTS festival (but there’s still plenty of time left to catch the remaining 4 awesome shows, so no excuses from YOU lot!), I suppose there’s not a lot left for me to do this week. I’ll be able to kick back a spell, read some comix, and watch old episodes of MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE with Winston the Cat. I suppose I’d been needing a break after…
…aaaand, nope, it’s right back into the theatre for me, because it’s February. And February is, for whatever glorious reason, fucking PACKED with shows (wait ’til you see March..!). So, fresh off of two straight days at the GCTC, it was off to Ottawa U and lovable old Academic Hall for a little something from the student musical society Broadway off Broadway, namely their spankin’ new production of [title of show]. Which is perfect, because I missed that show at the Victoria Fringe last year, so now I can make up for it! Nice one, U of O.
An actual, honest-to-gosh Broadway musical (if that matters to you…personally, I’ve never even been there), TITLE is a musical from Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, who are also the main characters in the play, which is about Jeff and Hunter writing a musical called [title of show]. Yeah, it gets pretty meta. I’ll warn you up front. But regardless, the onstage Jeff and Hunter, here brought to life by Morgan Briault and Noel Guscott, enlist their actor buddies Heidi (Hilary Peck) and Susan (Meagan LaGrandeur) to fill out their dream show. Along they way, they jam in a silly fun 90 minutes of tunes, ranging from the jazzed-up drudgery of ‘Filling out the Form‘ to inspired lunacy like ‘Monkeys and Playbills’. Most of the songs were pretty damn fun, and the onstage gang got them some pipes, even if the audio tech did hit a few wonky spots on opening night (when does that NOT happen, really?). Along with scene-stealing musical accompanist Nick Amott, the TITLE gang belted that shit out with lungpower to spare…special kudos to Hilary Peck for hitting a spectacular note in ‘A Way Back to Then’ that damn near blew the roof off the joint. NICE one…I is impressed.
Sometimes I hear people complain that, in musical theatre, the acting tends to suffer. But to be honest, I was pleased as punch with the performances all ’round. Morgan Briault was spot-on as the drily hilarious Jeff, and played nicely off his booming co-star Noel Guscott, who proved he can masturbate onstage with the best of them. Hilary Peck was a hoot (oh yes…I called her a ‘hoot’) as professional understudy Heidi, and Meaghan LaGrandeur was flat-out fucking hysterical as the batshit-insane Susan, often grabbing laughs with nothing more than a well-placed roll of the eyes (okay, she got lots of killer lines as well…you’ll never look at a 2-litre Pepsi the same way again).
But as funny as the show was, it actually turned out to be, at least for me, oddly inspirational as well. A particular fav’rit tune (and my post-title, ‘Die Vampire Die’), struck some very few honest chords with me, as did many other moments in the production. And while theatre about theatre is getting a little worn (if the Lab results from AND THEN IT HAPPENS were any indication), there’s more than enough heart in this hi-octane musical to forgive a little self-indulgence on the creators’ part. Props to first-time director Cody Zulinski, fresh off a killer stint in THE PRETENTIOUS YOUNG LADIES last year that rocked my world. And yay for Broadway Off-Broadway, who as I understand it were making their first ever full-production staged debut with this show (correct me if I’m wrong, I often am). At any rate, I hope it won’t be the last. TITLE OF SHOW is a dandy good time, and if you’re done with Undercurrents and need a little more funtimes at the theatre (for a can’t miss price), head out to the Ottawa U. campus tomorrow or Saturday night, and tell’em the Visitor sent ya. Peace, love and soul, folks,
The Visitor (and Winston)