On the Edge of Toronto Musical Theatre: Edges Cast Are Broadway Caliber

Sometimes four chairs, five deliciously talented artists and a piano are all you need to be genuinely blown away. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s song cycle musical Edges produced by Acting UpStage Theatre Company proves that you can keep your barricade, cage those cats, forget the chandelier, and throw away the cane and tap shoes- you don’t need any of them to create a powerful, beautiful musical theatre experience.
 
New York’s Pasek and Paul are the winners of the 2007 Jonathan Larson Award, which honors the achievement by composers, lyricists and librettists. At twenty-one, Benj and Justin became the youngest recipients in the history of the foundation and were awarded a 20,000 dollar cash prize, the highest amount ever given to a team. Their musical Edges speaks poetically and poignantly to the experience of trying to connect to our inner selves and each other in a digital world rooted in superficialities. Their song “Coasting” stands as a brilliant epitome of my generation’s experience in the world we have inherited.
 
Cast members Gabi Epstein and Sara Farb produced a sold-out reading of the show last year with the same cast and creative team. The remount, produced by Mitchell Marcus, not only has the same exuberant, youthful, optimistic energy as the original, but also has a fantastic venue, the addition of three new songs, a lighting and sound design, and clearer direction by Evan Tsitsias.
 
Tsitsias doesn’t attempt to force a narrative on Pasek and Paul’s song cycle, but adds subtle moments to each transition, which encourages the audience to draw their own parallels between songs, to flesh out the relationships, and an array of possible stories without pinning anything down definitively.
The music is infused with all the passion and talent of musical director Reza Jacobs, an energy that can be felt, and seen onstage in a magical way. The addition of drums (played by Jamie Drake) adds a distinctive edge to Pasek and Paul’s score.
 
The cast is simply, utterly unbelievable. They have to be seen to be believed. My words cannot do them justice. Eric Craig is hysterical, mostly in his uber-masculinity while singing “Pretty Sweet Day” and his somewhat spastic, trying-but-failing-to-keep-control-of-his-repressed-emotions rendition of “In Short”. He is equally as touching and sincere in the beautiful “Part of a Painting.” Gabi Epstein is heart wrenching while singing “Perfect,” her voice continually soars throughout, her eyes shine and she stands with every inch of the stage presence endowed to such classic musical theatre icons as Judy Garland and Ethel Merman. Jordan Bell’s voice is gorgeous, especially during “Boy With Dreams” and his beautifully nuanced and earnest performance of “I Once Knew,” will break your heart. I’m at a bit of a loss to put Sara Farb into words. I’m sure fifteen years ago New Yorkers were treated to a similar performance by a young Idina Menzel. Farb’s voice is gigantic, powerful, beautiful and extremely soulful. We will be watching her Tony Award acceptance speech in no time, I am certain of it. All four of the actors wear their souls on the sleeves throughout Edges and they sing every lyric with such openness and honesty that it is clear they believe everything they are saying.
 
If you have a sister, are addicted to Facebook, admire your mother, have ever gotten drunk, have ever been scared to grow up, of change, or doubted whether you were good enough or worth it, Edges is a show you can’t afford to miss.
 
Edges plays from October 20th, 2008 to November 10th on Sundays at 7pm and Mondays at 8pm at Revival Bar, 783 College Street (at Shaw). For more information visit their website http://www.edgestoronto.com/ and be their friend on the Facebook.

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