By Melissa Farmer
So let’s get a few things straight. This will be a very personal and biased response to Spent. There will be no money puns, none at all, to be found in the next150 words. If I don’t know you, if you know nothing about “that Lehman guy”, if you hate everything all the time, I still think you should go and see this show. Here’s why:
Spent is relatable and smart. Set within the framework of a BBC news broadcast, we meet not only a pair of Bay street traders who have lost their jobs, but also the media who are reporting on the catalytic economic collapse. As the two downtrodden buffoons leap from a building in an effort to make it all go away, we are right there with them (and, we have been here before) pre-fall, mid-plummet, post-collapse. We giggle at a twitching Richard Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers who has managed to keep his pockets full; we giddily abhor the greedy devils and their maniacal gluttonous Hell and we recognize that guy we’ve all seen on the news who just wants to know how he’s going to afford his next burger. In its swift seventy minutes, we meet a bunch of absurd characters (all skilfully played by Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza) who offer different ways in to the bigger question: to a collective who can put a price on everything, how much is an individual worth? It’s inventive, energetic, clever, fun theatre.
My cheeks hurt from smiling for seventy minutes straight. From Jain’s entrance with a “Hire Me” sign and a shaky, hopeful smile, I was sold. As Bay street traders, these two out-of-luck sad sacks are just trying to make tomorrow better than today. As the sundry other characters they play, Ravi and Adam emerge as masters of their craft. Their rapid-fire precision is incredible. On this stage, they are having fun and they are working really really hard. They are sweaty and spitty and you will still want to shake their hand, pat them on the back and give them a spitty, sweaty hug. It’s such a gift to be able to watch someone do something that he’s really really good at doing. It’s something I want to do more often.
Go see Spent. It has a short run, so hurry. Theatre like this is a rare commodity.
SPENT is on now until at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane). For tickets call:
416-866-8666 or click here.
One of the best things about Mirvish's production of THE WIZARD OF OZ are the kids in the audience. Not only are they having the most fun in the joint (aside from maybe the Scarecrow), but very quickly I was reminded how jaded and elitest I"ve become.
Just as I rolled my eyes at the too-bright, Starlight Express rainbow that dominates the stage in Oz, I heard a girl behind me gasp "Mommy! It's so pretty!", and then when Glinda the Good Witch desceded from the sky immediately after, she was equally as thrilled, (cue gasp #2), "Mommy! She's got the biggest dress ever!"
And she was right.
The rainbow WAS pretty and Glinda DID have, basically, the biggest dress ever. When I looked at the stage again, after hearing the girl's heartfelt and judgement-free appreciation, everything on it seemed a bit brighter.
Things that were bright on either side of the rainbow, regardless of how jaded you've become, were the uniformly sharp ensemble who were crisp and precise and made every dance number killer. Jamie McKnight who plays the Scarecrow made me smile at his silliness despite my adult elitistness and Cedric Smith simply sparkles as Professor Marvel and The Wizard. I didn't watch the CBC TV show "Over the Rainbow" so I didn't know the hype surrounding Danielle Wade, but I thought she had a super voice and held her own on stage.
After hearing the young girl's gasps of glee I was reminded of my first experience with the musical CATS in which I totally and absolutely thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I'm sure there were heaps of adults who thought Andrew Lloyd Webber was just as cheesy then as I think he is now, but my exposure to CATS was one of the key ignitors of my love of theatre and I'll always think fondly of the show becuase of that.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's "new production" of THE WIZARD OF OZ won't be the best musical you've ever seen, but it will be for someone in the audience, and since families don't seem to share in the theatrical experience that often anymore, it still makes for a worthy experience.
THE WIZARD OF OZ is on now at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St.). For tix call: 416-872-1212 or click here.
What does it take to create a big, shiny commercial musical success?
1. Energetic cast full of attractive people: check.
2. Huge, pumping dance numbers that noticeably elevate the auditorium's energy level: check.
3. Bang-on dancers that perform so tightly it's like they knew each other in previous lives: check.
4. Witty lyrics that are topical and relevant in both delivery and subject matter: check.
5. Decent acting that doesn't seem too "musical-y" and give you a sweet tooth - check (mostly).
6. Dynamite set that is pretty, versatile and well engineered: check (It's simple but it usually worked. *Note: projections are not included in this statement.)
7. Voices that can belt your face to the back of the auditorium: check x2.
BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL won't provoke your inner Einstein, but it does fulfill all of the above criteria, and it will leave you shaking your hips and gasping at the gravity-defying cheerleading antics.
(Cut to me saying repeatedly: "Is that SAFE?!")
It's big, it's fluffy and, yes y'all, it's fun.
Let me be clear: I don't go to the theatre for the sheer entertainment value; most of the time I want to leave the theatre analyzing the crap out of my emotional reaction to what I've just seen - particularly if it's a negative reaction - and I sometimes resent not fully using my brain in the theatre.
But BRING IT ON celebrates the carelessness and selfishness of youth, and all of the vacuous and awkward self-actualization that comes along with it. And I am OK with that.
It initiated the "If I only knew then, what I know now" psyche about high school, which made me nostalgic for a time where I wasn't so determined to be so morally high-minded and could better appreciate silliness for silly's sake.
The moral of its story isn't thought-provoking. In fact, it's a moral that should reside in everyone's common sense from the age of eight, so it's nothing new. But at least it does have a moral; one that is presented in the most current and trendy way imaginable - with hip hop, low-grade cusswords, teen angst and some killer dance moves.
Superficiality aside, the cast of BRING IT ON, seriously brought it out, and for the low price of $25, you need to bring every teen you know. Particularly those that don't see theatre often; it's a chance for them to see themselves and their peers on stage, and, for a couple of hours, perhaps not be made to feel badly about their lack of online privacy, their incessant tweeting and their preference for reality TV. They'll love it.
As for the rest of the Mirvish subscribers? Weeeeeellllll, this one's just not for them.
BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL is now playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St.) until June 3.
For tix, call: 416-872-1212 or click here.