10) EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL
And so, we begin the wacky musical adaptation of the Evil Dead trilogy and let’s just say there was a reason it sold out every night.
While the songs aren’t the catchiest, they serve the plot well and do parody the musical genre. Stephen Allred is excellent as Ash, blending both the characters heroism and idiocy. While limited in its budget, the musical still manages to deliver some neat special effects, especially with the talking furniture. It also pokes fun at the plot holes of the film. There also hilarious gags, including one character who can never get a word in edgewise, even when turned into a deadite or a dead who can’t stop using puns.
If you want some extra fun, sit in the splash zone.
9) THE BEST OF THE BOMBS: AN EXPLORATION OF BROADWAY’S BIGGEST FLOPS
There can be redeeming qualities even in the worst materials. The Best of the Bombs showcases the redeeming qualities of musicals that have flopped commercially (and in most cases, critically) on Broadway. While audience dined on the Sawmill’s buffet, actors Dustin Berube, Andrea Graham, Kevin Mason, Julio Mateo, Kayla Papaianni and Meghan Schritt performed the best songs from these failed musicals. We get some great performances, including Lovesick from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and This Isn’t The End from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Before each number, the actors deliver a brief introduction explaining the reasons for each musical’s failure, whether it’s an overblown budget (Spider-Man), bad timing (The Visit) or terrible ideas (Carrie: The Musical). They even read us a few scathing reviews. The funniest were the ones for Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson, which unintentionally parallels Trump’s Presidency.
8) FRUIT FLIES LIKE A BANANA
We got triple threat from this trio of performers. Hilary Abigana, C. Neil Parsons and Greg Jukes blend music, theatre and dance with Fruit Flies like a Banana, a cavalcade of brief musical performances. Every performance is a joy to watch (everyone of them being their favourite. To add to the fun, the musical numbers are arranged via cards the audience gets to pick.
With each performance, the plays blend musical performance with performance art by performing acrobatic feats and comedy skits while performing musical instruments. In one number, one plays the xylophone while another keeps bumping into it. In another, they perform the Superman Theme while lifting one member. They use every kind of instruments from trombone to a kids piano, and they use them in creative ways. You’ve never heard Mozart until you’ve heard it done with boomwackers.
7) BREAKNECK JULIUS CAESAR
Every year, Tim Mooney meets the challenge of retelling a Shakespearean show within an hour. Last year, he retold the story of Hamlet. This year, he portrays every character in the Tragedy of Julius Caesar. As a bonus, he discusses some Roman and Egyptian history to add context.
Tim Mooney flows through the story with energetic grace as he races the ticking clock. He switches from character to character with ease without sacrificing quality of performance.
6) HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL
It’s kind of funny for an musical based on the anti-high school movie to perform in a high school. So, Heathers: The Musical plays in Strathcona High School and it’s a dark, entertaining look at the vicious hierarchy of the student body.
Based on the movie of the same name, this musical centres around Veronica (Emilie Rogers), a brilliant social misfit who gets herself excepted into Heathers (Abbey Schwartz, Teresa Williams and Olivia Rose Leaf), the most powerful clique of her high school. But she’s unable to that the ruthless manipulation and heartless bullying of leader Heather Chandler (Abbey Schwartz). Enter JD (James Kwak), a rebellious new kid who sweeps Veronica off her feet. Chaos ensues, with murders, suicides and explosions to go around.
The play isn’t quite as dark as the movies and sometimes the play is awkward in how it forces in the film’s most famous lines. Despite these, the musical still captures the film’s unflinching look at high school cruelty. Heathers reveals how high school cliques worships shallow materialism, with anyone who doesn’t fit that ideology is cruelly regarded. Both the film and the musical also portray how seductive high school cliques. This is especially true in the moment when the Heathers seduce Veronica through their song “Candy Store”. But like Fight Club, Heathers turns around and shows the ugly side of the very nihilism that rejects what Heathers stands for when Veronica comes to realize how dangerous JD truly is.
5) GORDON’S BIG BALD HEAD and HAROLD OF GALACTUS
It was a challenge to chose which improv show to choose from since there were a great many. So, for this one, I’m going with the shows starring the dynamic trio of Mark Meer (Commander Shepard from Mass Effect), Chris Craddock (playwright of another Fringe hit Bash’d)and Jacob Banigan (Caution: May Contain Nuts). With merely an audience suggestion to fall back on, these three conjure up a series of side splitting stories.
With Gordon’s Big Bald Head, these three does their own version of a different fringe show using only the synopsis as a program synopsis as a blueprint. With their version of Disenchanted, they have Snow White telling the Brothers Grimm how she meets other princesses with an evil stepmother. From there, these guys take shots at Disney, create a conspiracy theory of the evil stepmother and introduce a version of Rapunzel with here growing out of her… nether regions.
With Harold of Galactus, the crew takes a suggestion of a superhero name and weaves a superhero tale. Here’s where they really shine. I still remember one show of last year. With my suggestion of Tiger Spirit, they created a tale of a hero channeling the spirit of tigers to try and stop vigilante known as the Solution. From this show, they mock secret identities, superhero “no-killing” policies and Frosted Flakes. You are guaranteed to enjoy either show.
4) THE LIFE HENRI
There seems to be a common theme of one person shows about historical figures. Last years had such shows about Led Zeppelin (Zeppelin is my favorite cover band) and Nickolas Tesla (Tesla Ex Machina). This year, Award winning artist Adam Bailey brings us to Paris to discuss artist Henri Rousseau.
It takes a stellar performer to keep the audience hooked for an hour and Bailey reels the audience in with his high energy and a series of still images. He brings us into the history of Rousseau, from his work at a funeral parlor for artistry to the moment he finally earned respect as an artist. During Rousseau’s early years as an artist, Bailey skewers the man’s early works, pointing out his lack of dimension and terrible human designs. Through these low points, Bailey paints a complex picture of the man as a pompous wannabe.
And yet, through his struggles, we come to sympathize with him. This leads to a powerful scene where he party crashes as party sarcastically celebrating him. Hearing Bailey describe how this oblivious, poverty stricken old man sat on a mock throne while scalding candles melted on his content face is haunting in its beauty.
3) CHASE PADGETT: 5 STARS
Comedian/Guitarist Chase Padgett blew me away with last years production of Nashville Hurricane. Now, he brings his comedic timing and mad guitar skills in this one man show. From an awesome guitar solo at the beginning of the show, he keeps the audience hooked with his charismatic showmanship. His songs are as hilarious as they are catching, especially in an song about ADHD, which keeps jumping to other songs. He also speaks of his previous fringe shows and bears his soul speaking of a recent breakup. Hopefully, he gets more attention across North America.
2) THE BALLAD OF FRANK ALLEN
A shrunken janitor finds himself living in a slacker’s beard. With a premise like this, how could you not want to see it? Albeit, this could fail so easily in the wrong hands. Not on Shane Adamczak’s watch. Bringing his play all the way from Australia, this writer/director teams with local actor Al Lafrance to bring us this side splitting, surreal comedy.
The titular janitor (Adamczak) is mopping a laboratory when a machine shrinks him to the size of an ant. Then he somehow finds himself in the beard of Al (La France), a directionless store clerk. Only able to be heard when Al’s drunk, Frank helps Al get up the courage to ask out the attractive baker and get his shit together. Meanwhile, the folks at the lab are trying to find Frank.
I’ll be the first to say, the play felt more at home at the Telus Phone Museum, where it could take more advantage of the space and darkness. It’s still a blast to watch. Adamczak is somehow able to convince you heâ€™s trapped in a beard through his mannerisms. Both he and Lafrance bounce off each other beautifully, leading to many funny moments. But I think the most iconic moment is when Al gets drunk and puts a spin on the “I’m With Stupid,” in the process creating a T-shirt everyone will secretly want.
1) EDGAR ALLEN
On his first day at boarding school, 11-year-old Edgar Allen (Katie Hartman) enters determined to rise to the top of the popular kid hierarchy. But he finds his goals undermined by another kid (Nick Ryan), who steals Edgar Allen thunder at every turn. To make matters worst, this kid shares the same name as Edgar Allen. What is this future literary legend to do? Befriend this guy or bring him down?
Coming all the way from Brooklyn, Hartman and Ryan draw from short stories of a certain macabre horror writer to write and star in this twisted tale of childhood. As their relationship circles between friendship and rivalry, the play keeps its audience hooked with its unpredictable storyline. These two match the quality of their writing with their performances, each presenting unique character. In sharp contrast to the brooding tortured artist Edgar Allen Poe, Hartman portrays him as an overly enthusiastic Hermione wannabee. Ryan portrays his version as a serious, yet oblivious over achiever with a raspy voice. These two plays off each other with comedic grace.
At first, the play doesn’t seem to share the horror legend’s trademark macabre tone. In time, Poet’s style oozes into the play, especially with the simple set design and blue lighting.
 Who also starred in his own one-man show I Think I’m Dead. It’s a compelling yet amusing autobiographical look at Lafrance’s 15-year struggle with insomnia.