lana carillo, janna polzin, ryan kelly & michael de rose
I’m Right Here is a new song cycle written by Brett McCaig and Anthony Bastianon that plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival through July 12, 2015. It explores the ways in which we have begun using our phones and the various social medias located therein to nearly completely replace in-person connections, keeping us floating through our lives, oblivious to those standing right beside us.
I’m Right Here has a terrific cast of performers bringing these songs to dramatic life. Janna Polzin is especially captivating in an intense song called “Jane” that reflects on how our lives are a series of starts and stops, and that often whether we succeed or not depends entirely on whether we have the courage to try again. Ryan Kelly brings the story to life of a methodical, cubicle-dwelling man who has pop-up ads for different lives to choose continually seducing him, threatening to pull him away from his responsibilities. Together with Lana Carillo and Michael De Rose, the four voices blend beautifully and they are all equal parts adorable in what is a sweet and joyful musical.
Bastianon’s music, especially the New Year’s melody, which is the show’s through-line, is catchy and jaunty, a repeated urging for each of the four to remain faithful to their resolutions. Steven Gallagher plays a lot with the tension between being present and being preoccupied in his direction, pulling characters away from their phones to either connect with the audience or each other, while allowing others to fade into their screens in the background.
Ever since Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote their “Facebook Song” in Edges in 2005 it’s become a common visual in musical theatre- an array of young people entering the stage with their faces buried in their phones. One area that Bastianon and McCaig may want to explore with the development of I’m Right Here, is asking how social media, and its role in our lives, has changed since 2010 or 2012. At the moment this song cycle makes reference to many trends within the last five years, but doesn’t seem to be anchored definitively in 2015, and in a world where news becomes obsolete as soon as its tweeted out, this vague five year window can make a new musical feel more dated (and less immediate) than it needs to be.
In all I’m Right Here is a beautifully performed and directed collection of songs that capture the essence of communication in the Digital Age, but doesn’t yet offer up a strong, unique insight or commentary about it.
FRINGE TWISI RATING:
I’m Right Here plays at the Tarragon Theatre Mainspace (30 Bridgman Avenue) as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival at the following times: