Tag Archives: fringe2011

A proto-musical at the Fringe

If you’ve watched the TV show Slings and Arrows, remember the musical “East Hastings” that Richard got swept up in, in the third season? It was a perfect parody of shows like “Rent”, but the bits we heard were such a good imitation of the modern Broadway musical that the tunes were catchy and the lyrics rhymed elegantly and it sounded like something I might actually go see if it existed.

Twenty-Five – I just finished watching this song cycle at the Fringe. I enjoyed it. “Song cycle” apparently means that it doesn’t have plot moving it along or narrative between the songs, just a set of songs loosely connected on a theme. I kept thinking how easily it could be expanded into that kind of successful Broadway show, with a bit of storyline and some costumes and probably a few more performers and songs … but on the other hand, it was really cool to be sitting in the second row in a tiny venue, catching the performers’ eyes at the parts I loved, and then buying the original cast recording for “five or ten bucks, whatever”.

I don’t have the vocabulary to say why the songs were such great examples of the kinds of songs in the idiom of the modern Broadway musical, and I don’t know enough about different lyricists/composers to say whose work they reminded me of. The absolutely perfect rhyme and meter of the lyrics, slightly prioritised over poetry and sense? The kind of predictable harmony? The way that the accompaniment and rhythm were less noticeable than the singers? The choruses and repetitions, and the title tune reprised a couple of times in different ways?

My favourite songs were actually the two that varied most from this genre, the one that sounded like a Scottish lament and the rap with beatbox about being caught up in G-20-related protests. The songwriter/accompanist Joel Crichton and the performers Darren Paul (baritone), Richard Lee (tenor), and Joelle Prefontaine (alto) are all young and seem to be local, so I will watch for them in other shows in the future. The singers all have good trained voices and a nice mix of losing themselves in the story while singing but being aware of the venue before and afterwards.

I’d say this is my second favourite show so far.

A calm Fringe Sunday

Yesterday morning I  went to the Chapters store where I had arranged to meet up with a friend from Montreal.  She ended up being quite late, being dependent on relatives for rides, but we texted back and forth. Basically, we just went to the beer tent at the Fringe and hung out in the shade knitting and talking all afternoon. It was really nice and relaxed, and made me laugh at myself a bit for how reluctant I’d been to be social and disrupt my weekend.

Then I went to see one play, and then came home and went to bed.

ONEymoon – at the library, sold out. Light, funny, fictional, one-actor show. The actor is good at the Fringe-promotion thing – she added me on twitter just because I’d mentioned something about #yegfringe. She talked in Dutch for some of it (pretending to talk to her relatives at the wedding), and she had a couple of audience members come up to read speeches she gave them – one was in Dutch and the guy said “Can I do this in Spanish instead?” and the other guy started to add in extra stuff, which was actually pretty funny. Bob our retired computer guy was there (I remember seeing him at Fringe shows in other years).

Twitterverse tells me that American comic actor Zach Galifianakis attended a show I was at. I don’t think anyone’s seen Nathan Fillion though.

Fringe 2011: an easy day with five plays

Today I saw five plays at the Fringe. I also did some tidying and dishes and laundry this morning, went to the market, and between plays dropped off the shopping at home and lay down for a rest. As long as I park my bike on the perimeter instead of trying to walk it through the crowds to the main parking, this is easy.

Food notes for today: Nomad’s Kitchen is still good, the naan from the other place is precooked and nowhere near as good as the fresh naan from New Asian Village, and the wood-fired veggie pizza is really good.

Afternoon Delights and Emergency Exits – I’ve seen this modern dance company before, and I enjoyed them again, especially in the longer funny piece about flight attendants. They had the stylized gestures down pat.

The Big Smoke – This one-person narrative was my favourite show of the Fringe so far. It was poignant and very realistic. I won’t put any other spoilers until the run is over.

My Name is Jonas – comedy sketches loosely based on Weezer’s Blue Album, done by members of local improv company RapidFire Theatre. The funniest was the Jane Austen-esque dialogue that was full of sexual terms like cockblocking and wingman.

N.O.N.C.E – Another one-person narrative, this one written by the performer and mostly autobiographical. He’s an English performance poet, telling the stories of his time spent teaching poetry in a prison. I’ve recently read two books by people who taught creative writing in California prisons, and this guy was more interesting than either. It was more thought-provoking than I expected.

Bye Bye Bombay – A cast of one, but filling out the overwhelming impressions of a visit to India with video, music, puppets, dancing, a sari, and other props. The character was also dealing with the death of the mother she hadn’t gotten along with, and I was glad to see that theme done in an understated way.

Now that I understand how it works so I’m not embarrassed, I really like the way the Fringe artists advertise for their shows by talking to people. When done right, it feels intimate and sincere. Almost always it makes me more inclined to want to see the show (although I think the guy whose brother sings like Roy Orbison is annoying, reciting the same patter without making eye contact or maybe without knowing the right way to interrupt people comfortably). Also, after the applause the actors often recommend other shows and invite actors in the audiences to shout-out for their own. The N.O.N.C.E. guy talked to me yesterday. The When Harry Met Harry guy talked to our queue tonight and I told people I’d enjoyed his show. And there are several more on my wish list after encounters and recommendations.

I’ve always started out my show-shopping by trying to avoid one-person shows, because I used to feel like it was more interesting to watch the interactions in a larger cast. But I think I should change this rule, because I’ve seen so many good one-actor shows here and not just this year.

First night at Fringe 2011

I went to the Fringe theatre festival when I’d lived here less than a week, and I first discovered Big Rock Traditional Ale (my current everyday favourite) at the beer tent that first Fringe.  Anyway, this year for the first time I managed to get one of the Frequent Fringer 10-show passes (they don’t sell very many). I’m going to use most of it this weekend because I have some weekend-night commitments and because next weekend I need to take it easy before the Sunday-morning half-marathon race.

When Harry Met Harry – a one-actor show about a man of fussy routines. A little bit of audience contribution. Australian actor, great facial expressions, funny.

9 Months to Mars – this was a comedy, but to me the best parts were the not-ridiculous parts, the credible characters and possible story. Plus, anything about space travel just has me from there. I really wish Defining Gravity hadn’t been cancelled after one season; even though it wasn’t perfect, it was a story.

I have four tickets to shows today, so far.