michelle skelding, ian mullan & conor purdy
Sissydude: A Dandy Rock Musical is the newest offering from TRRRASH Productions, playing until Sunday at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax as part of the Queer Acts Festival. It is a campy, exuberant, wildly ambitious rock and roll romp from sublet Hell on Gottingen Street.
Ian Mullan plays Jamie, a flamboyant dame of grandiose extravagance who manages to lure two prospective subletters, Laurie and Frank, into his shithole apartment (where even the walls are falling down!), which also happens to house the Gates of Hell and the possessed spirits of its former inhabitants. The story unfolds mostly through a series of well written original rock tunes (Dale Boudreau, Adrian Bruhm, Jaymes Buckman, Virginia Insua, Neil Peacock, Laura Peek, Jason Vautour, Dan Walsh and Paul Gailiunas), accompanied by a hardcore harem of hot musicians at the back of the stage, which gives Sissydude a brazen edge and rollicking moments of rock star gusto.
There are a lot of great moments in Sissydude and it is incredible to watch Mullan’s dynamism in this role. What I find the most exciting about this production is its potential. This production still feels very much like an early draft still manoeuvring around itself and not quite sure what it wants to be and in which direction it wants to go. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact, there is no better way to help shape a show, especially a musical, than to give it an audience, and I really hope that this will be a project that TRRRASH continues to pursue and explore much more in the future. I think it has enormous potential to grow into something that could, for example, someday go to the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Rock musicals are particularly challenging, especially for small theatre companies and small theatres, mostly because of the disparity in styles between rock concerts and theatre productions. In all musicals the lyrics of the songs are massively important for conveying the emotional journeys of our characters and to carry the plot forward, yet in a lot of rock music the lyrics get lost under the intensity of the music. Practically, it was often difficult to hear the lyrics in Sissydude since the Bus Stop is so small and the band has to play so loud. The genre of musical that is chosen typically reflects the content of the show as well. I found myself wondering why Sissydude needed to be told as a rock musical, why the rock music was essential to these characters and this plot. I also would have liked to see some interaction between the characters and the band members, considering the choice to dress them as though they were part of the world of the apartment.
I love the concept of the Gate Keeper to Hell and the two subletters and I would love to see the characters of Frank and Laurie get a little more fleshed out and three dimensional, as their reactions to Jamie are integral to the direction this story can go. The sexual chemistry between the three of them at the moment is tepid at best and I was unclear whether the goal was for Jamie to seduce them both into a threesome and what effect that would have on Laurie and Frank’s character development. What is holding Laurie and Frank in the apartment and what is at stake for them if they leave?
This is the most ambitious TRRRASH production that I have seen and given the caliber of Ian Mullan’s past work, I think it is quite safe to expect a much tighter remount of this one in the future. I certainly hope so!
Sissydude: A Dandy Rock Musical plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) at the following times:
Saturday July 21st at 7:30pm
Sunday July 22nd at 3:00pm