One of the most vibrant aspects of the 2010 SummerWorks Festival is its commitment to not only championing and fostering Independent theatre, but also bringing together independent artists from around Toronto and across the country, with the advent of Fiasco Playhouse as well as the music series, the SummerWalks series, MusicWorks, the musical theatre series produced by Derrick Chua, George Masswohl and Tracy Michailidis, and the Playground.
Here are some thoughts on my non-theatrical experiences at SummerWorks so far.
I always try to make it a priority to catch Allie Hughes’ performances because she is not only a fiercely talented singer, but she also has an electric rock star quality to her performance which really demands to be seen and experienced. At Fiasco Playhouse, she donned her signature bride’s veil, and treated the audience to six of her original tunes, including “Elevator,” which is on her first album, which she recorded when she was at Sheridan College for Musical Theatre. I own this album and strongly recommend it and “Elevator” is my favourite of the ten tracks. The next five she sang are all newer songs, and presumably they will be on her upcoming album which is slated to be released in Fall 2010. She also sang an impromptu rendition of a song from band member Bram Gielen’s new Musicworks show Biggish Kids (which plays August 10th at 10pm at the Lower Ossington Theatre Mainspace).
What makes Allie Hughes so unique is that she uses a gorgeous, but astonishingly piercing high soprano voice in many of her otherwise strong indie rock tunes, which helps to capture the emotion that is driving the music. Every song has within it all the wild passion of opera; it’s just channelled into a completely different avenue, but evokes similar feelings and a sense of awe in the audience. Among the new songs she sang I especially liked “Headmaster” and the sing-along favourite “Not the Stars,” which you can fall in love with here. Hughes’ joyfully quirky, euphorically free flying voice captures a sense of triumph and graciousness that is always captivating and endearing.
I became obsessed with Maylee Todd’s song “Hooked” this Spring and it quickly became “the song of the summer” for me. She is such an original songstress- her songs evoke a wide range of musical genres and emotional sensibilities, while always remaining poetic, intricately woven, exuberantly creative and gorgeously executed. You should all make sure to pick up a copy of her debut album Choose Your Own Adventure, which is on sale at the Fiasco Playhouse merchandise counter for the remarkable price of only $10.00. Nab one while they’re still there! Get hooked on Maylee this summer, you’ll be glad you did.
Last evening I was astonished by the dancing brilliance of Company Blonde, a troupe of blonde girls, who, when dressed in their array of stylized costumes are reminiscent of five postmodern Sally Brown marionettes. These five incredible dancers mix modern dance with theatre and comedy to share a story, and often a social commentary, with their audience. Their dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was utterly hysterical and so fraught with attitude and energy. I strongly urge you to visit their website and to check these ladies out if the opportunity presents itself to you.
Late last night I had the great fortune of attending the rock concert of the Elastocitizens, Toronto’s own Funk Rock Sex Band. These guys really know how to throw a party. The band is made up of many members of Toronto’s theatre community and they write their own original tunes, play all their own instruments, which include a killer saxophone, and most hilariously of all, the girls in the band, adorned with real Las Vegas feather headdresses, perform Motown, girl group- inspired choreography as well as singing backup. Lead singer, Steve McCarthy, looks like he has been lowered onto the stage on a disco ball directly from 1977, and he, like the girls, exudes sexuality and an absurd amount of disco-flavoured charisma, which makes it difficult for you to tear your eyes away from him. Everyone onstage is pulsating with an infectious energy which ensures that the audience spends their entire set dancing vigorously and bouncing and rocking out to the beat.
The Elastocitizens strike an interesting balance between being innocently joyful in their performance, which is a genuine offering from all ten of the band mates to the audience, and an attempt to create an ambiance of happiness and fun, while still being intrinsically ironic. Because so many of these musicians and singers are seasoned theatre performers, they are able to give their music an edge of irony and pastiche as well, which is utterly delightful but never distracts you from simply enjoying yourself and having a good time. The Elastocitizens are: Joanne Boland, Monica Dottor, Gordon Hyland, Mack Longpre, Caroline Maraghi, Steve McCarthy, Brandon McGibbon, Jason O’Brien, Melissa Jane Shaw and Brian Walters. They have CDs available and keep your eyes peeled to their website for more information about upcoming gigs. Check out this funky, sexy shit, you’ll only be young once in your life.
Come on, Toronto- Get Inspired- Get to Summerworks.