catherine bruhier, denise oucharek, nicole robert, marissa mcintyre
janna polzin, graham coffeng, nadine roden
I usually dislike parodied reconfigurations of fairytales but Joe White and the Seven Divorcees, a new musical comedy written by Brock Simpson and John Mitchell, which plays at the Bathurst Street Theatre as part of the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival, is a refreshingly delightful entertaining little romp that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Based, of course, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this show follows Joe White, the son of an egotistical king who is disappointed that Joe is not callous and brawny as he is, as he seeks refuge at a cottage where seven divorcees are in the midst of a retreat where they are mining for the truth of their inner selves. John Mitchell’s book is a tightly woven tale and although the story mirrors the fairytale, the corresponding details are both creative and clever. It is appropriate that the creators have described this show as a “musical comedy,” as its style harkens back to the classic American musical comedies that filled Broadway throughout its Golden Age. Mitchell has a great sense of comic pacing and some of his lines are truly inspired and hilarious.
Brock Simpson’s songs infuse the show with dynamic energy and pure musical theatre bliss. His lyrics have perfect rhymes and emerge organically from the action in the script, while advancing the plot, developing character and each one has its own unique style, which reflects the personality of the character singing the song. Simpson also makes great use of poetic imagery as seen in the line, “the owl’s in cahoots.” Anyone who claims that Canadians cannot write conventional musical theatre comedy (and absurdly, there are those who hold this opinion as truth), has obviously never been treated to the musical theatre stylings of Brock Simpson.
The cast that has been assembled for this show is an incredible one. Curtis Sullivan is pompous and machismo as the King to incredible cartoon extremes with delicious homoerotic undertones. Graham Coffeng is sweet and endearing as Joe White, while Janna Polzin, as his true love, is appropriately named Charming. Her singing voice sounds particularly lovely in this role as well, and her character, a rescuer with a Messiah Complex, is an interesting dynamic to toss into the fray. Jeanie Calleja provides much of the comedy as Dopey, and Nadine Roden and Marissa McIntyre also give particularly strong performances as Sleepy and Sneezy respectively. Of all the divorcees, however, it is Denise Oucharek as Doc who holds the audience in the palm of her hand. Her lovely singing voice resonates beautifully and her strength of character makes every line she says especially compelling.
Joe White and the Seven Divorcees is a fresh and fun musical theatre comedy that appeals directly to the funny bone without completely decimating the integrity of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The cast is uniformly excellent and I am already eager to see what the next musical to come from Brock Simpson and John Mitchell will be!
Joe White and the Seven Divorcees plays at the Bathurst Street Theatre (736 Bathurst Street) Sat, July 10 7:30 PM and Sunday July 11th at 9:15pm.
all tickets $10 at the door or book in advance by calling the fringe hotline at 416.966.1062 or go online at http://www.fringetoronto.com/.