From the heart of the trade show, and the optimistic recent theatre school graduate who has found himself on the way to infomercial superstardom comes a new Canadian musical called Act Now!
Act Now! is a fun little show that combines musical theatre and murder to expose the seedy underbelly of the fiercely competitive world of sales and the pursuit for the perfect pitch. Larry is an aspiring actor who finds himself working for Tony selling the newest must-have kitchen appliance, the Dyson Slicer, a knife that can cut anything to perfection, except for human skin. He learns the art of pitching from trade show veteran, Ed, and product promotion diva Dolly, and falls in love with a shopaholic named Layla. Yet, the shamwows REALLY hit the showroom floor when Tony becomes greedy and seeks to eliminate the competition and create the ultimate, absolutely irresistible, most powerfully persuasive sales pitch ever coined.
The result is a bit like a dinner theatre show with original music, but there is a degree of brazen campiness that the show’s creators, Daniel Abrahamson, Daniel Cummings and Rachel Brittain, embrace with such joy and dynamism that makes for a wildly entertaining jaunt into the theatre. Brittain’s book is packed with clever, current and genuinely funny punch lines and her romantic leads, Larry and Layla, are nerdy and awkward in the most endearing of ways. She has also written perhaps the most convoluted and creative murder in the history of fiction. Abrahamson’s music is catchy and energetic, and Cummings’ lyrics have some really inspired moments, although I think they will benefit from being tightened up in a second workshop of the piece. The best song is “The Perfect Pitch” sung by Tony, as the lyrics are perfectly compact and the examples of hard sells that Tony lists, including selling Stephen Harper on the arts, the Nazis on the Jews and Jews on ham and cheese sandwiches are inspired and hilarious.
Act Now!’s cast is uniformly fantastic. Greg Campbell is meek and delightful as Ed, Jackie English is sassy with signature Jackie English spunk as Dolly, Jess Abramovitch shows off her gorgeous singing voice as Layla and Kevin Dennis is delicious as the villainous Tony, sleazy and absurd in all the right places. Campbell and English are also fantastically cold and soulless as the corporate suits who seek to bring Tony and Larry onto their televised infomercial network. Adam Brazier has directed this piece and certainly has milked the laughs out of every moment and ensured that the pacing is both punchy and swift.
Reminiscent of Little Shop of Horrors at the trade show, I know that the talented team of Abrahamson, Cummings and Brittain will continue to develop this show and I very much look forward to seeing the next incarnation.
For now, you can catch the show at the Bread and Circus Theatre (299 Augusta Avenue) Sunday, July 11th at 6:45pm. 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/.