Well, I be done seen ’bout ev’rything when I see Ron Pederson, from the audience, ask Liza Minnelli onstage to summon out her mother, the late great Judy Garland, to treat us all to a rousing rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Yet, that is the scene that greeted my eye on Tuesday evening at the Supermarket (a surprisingly large venue at 268 Augusta Street in Kensington Market) whilst watching a new comedy Variety Show entitled Geoff Hendry and Associates.
“Liza Minnelli” and “Judy Garland” were both there courtesy of Michael O’Hara’s hilarious, yet impressively detailed, impressions, one of the signature tricks that he has up his sleeve. The evening was hosted, as the title suggests, by Geoff Hendry who hails himself “the Jonathan Taylor Thomas” of Toronto Comedy, which perhaps alludes to his aura of wholesomeness and the fact that people keep wondering where the heck he’s disappeared to.
I see a lot of Improv in this city and I am quite familiar with many of the sketch comedy troupes who perform at the Comedy Bar and the Rivoli, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see a lot of the wealth of Stand-Up comics who pepper this community and Geoff Hendry and Associates provides a venue for a variety of these comics to perform their sets in succession. The energy on Tuesday night, partly because of the vibe of this particular audience, but also because the comics were all especially laid back in their approach, was oddly subdued. This, I think, contributed to some of the comics’ jokes landing awkwardly (or not at all), not because they weren’t clever or funny, but simply because of the strange energy in the room. Regardless, Nathan McIntosh had an especially strong set. His jokes are mostly based on topical issues, often ones that have been clinched from newspaper headlines, and as he mentioned, many are “not all that funny on their own, but let’s see what a guy in a cardigan can do with them!” The answer is, in McIntosh’s case, plenty. He is continually engaging with his audience about their observations about the world around them, and then offers his own witty perspective.
There was also a visit from Evelyn Reese, a caricature created from crossing Carol Channing and Dear Abby, who has the potential to become a tornado of hilarity, but I think that creator Susan Fischer could benefit from fleshing out the details and the specificity of her character. Evelyn Reese’s mannerisms accentuate the absurdity in her words but she still doesn’t have the depth required to make me really believe in her.
The star of the evening was doubtlessly Michael O’Hara who sings old tunes as though intent on catapulting the world back in time and into one of those scenes in a musical or old classic film where a debonair lad croons as our protagonists sip cocktails in a swanky supper club. O’Hara was born to be in a black and white film. He showed off his endearing, if slightly clownish, ole soft shoe with “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago in a performance that harkened straight back to the illustrious Jerry Orbach, and then hit us straight in the heart with Jerry Herman’s “Time Heals Everything” from Mack and Mabel. O’Hara was accompanied by Waylen Miki, the two-time Dora Award winning piano rock star, who should always play from the stage because his energy and walloping talent is incredibly mesmerizing. O’Hara also nicely showed off Jacques Brel’s lyrics in “Jackie”, sang a perfectly endearing rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady and blew the roof off the joint with his incredible belting power in “New York, New York.” Kapow.
I enjoy attending Variety Shows such as Geoff Hendry and Associates because it is a cost-effective and convenient way to become familiarized with an assortment of different performers whose talents and skills are varied, and often multifaceted. These shows are comedy grab-bags where you truly never know what conglomeration of treats awaits you, which adds a dose of risk and surprise to the evening. Stay open to anything while attending these sorts of shows; you may well see almost anything, maybe even an elephant fly.