Derrick Chua’s Toronto Fringe 2011 Recommendations!!

The person who usually sees the most shows at the Toronto Fringe Festival is not a member of the media, a performer or a zealous theatre fan from the festival’s enthusiastic public; it is Derrick Chua, the President of the Fringe’s Board of Directors. Despite our best efforts last summer to give him a run for his money, Derrick still managed to see more Fringe shows than both me and theatre-going superstar Steve Fisher from Torontoist. Chua is HARDCORE. Over the past three years I have come to deeply respect Derrick’s expansive knowledge of the theatre in Ontario, his passion and commitment to continuously helping to foster and encourage the artists of this province, his admirable ability to be everywhere and see everything at all times during the season, as though he does not require sleep, and most importantly for this post, I have come to trust Derrick’s assessment and endorsement of both shows and artists. He rarely steers me wrong, and so, it gives me great pleasure to share with you Derrick’s recommendations of which shows you should not miss during the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, which kicks off on July 6.

THE MUSICALS

Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, this family friendly musical is by Peter Fenton and Scott White (who has co-written some of the best Fringe musicals past, including Top Gun! The Musical, Nursery School Musical and Bosco & Jones), with a cast including veteran musical theatre performers Paula Wolfson, Michael MacLennan, Jody Osmond, Dale Miller, Laura Caswell, Jeff Schissler and Lucas Meeuse, with a terrific ensemble of recent grads including Alison Dawn Campbell, Linnea Currie-Roberts, Kaitland Gray, Lauren Maykut, Tara Lisowski, and Tyler Whitaker.A new musical drama that explores the fear, complications and realities of living with HIV/AIDS in our society today. The narrative revolves around Michael – a gay man who comes to realize the pain of “dis-ease” and is forced to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to gain a much deeper understanding of self and the complex world around him.  Written and composed by Christopher Wilson, direction and choreography by Donna Marie Baratta, musical direction by Dan Rutzen, featuring Ryan Kelly, Dale Miller, Lizzie Kurtz, Vince Staltari, Mary Kelly and Christian Bellsmith.


Shotgun Wedding (p. 68).  You are invited to the 1993 debutante ball of Veronica Mendoza. Guests are asked to wear their favourite clothes of the era to celebrate the chaos that will ensue. Be prepared to sing along with cast members as they tell the story of one disastrous 18th birthday party in 1990s Mississauga, set to the tune of your favourite 90s hit songs.  By Len Cervantes, directed by Catherine Hernandez, original music by Kierscey Rand.  Featuring Belinda Corpuz, Richie Guzman, Tony Ofori, Arlene Paculan, Mickey Rodriguez & Jeff Yung.


Mickey and Judy (p. 19).  Talented musical performer Michael Hughes’ pseudo-memoir, chronicling his childhood obsession with musicals and journey from psychiatric ward to Off-Broadway. Chock-full of comical anecdotes from his youth, dramatic readings from his actual doctor’s charts, and a musical score that borrows from Broadway classics and the Judy Garland songbook, this show is about falling in love and following your dreams. Musical Direction by Chris Tsujiuchi.


Cellar Hotel (p. 20) and Misprint, 1st Issue (p. 47).  Two new large-cast musicals with some terrific young performers in both.  Cellar Hotel is a new rock musical adaptation of Faust, created by Tony Rein, Terence Vince and Alan Nash, and stars Mischa Aravena, Stacey Gawrylash, Ashley Gibson, Ryan Galloway, Ruth Goodwin, Michelle Cabral, Brad Marks, Kayla Whelan, Karen Scobie, Nikki Hogan, Avra Fainer, Meghan Barron, Dave Miller, Yehuda Fisher, Vikki Velenosi, Sydney Dunitz, Adrian Baldauf, Lauren Richard, A.J Edmonds, Christian Jeffries and Jordie Currie.  Misprint, 1st Issue takes place in a 1962 comic book, is written by Lauren Toffan and Yan Li, and stars Alan Kliffer, Arthur Wright, Brendan Shoreman, Esther Vallins, Eric Miinch, Erynn Brook, Fran Stecyk, Hayley Toane, Jenna Warriner, Josh Murray, Kevin Forestell, Kristen Sehn, Lauren Toffan and Megan Poole.



THE PLAYS


Kim’s Convenience (p. 20).  Fringe New Play Contest Winner.  By Ins Choi.  With one of the strongest casts of any show in Toronto, Fringe or not: Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Esther Jun, Jean Yoon, Ins Choi and Andre Sills, this hilarious poignant play tells the story of Korean family in Toronto struggling with the future of their convenience store amidst the echoes of their bitter past.  A definite must-see.


Excuse Me, Would You Like to Buy A Bar (p. 28).  Winner of the Tarragon Theatre 2010 Under 20 Playwriting Competition with an earlier shorter version in the 2011 Paprika Festival, this “Dark Chocolate Comedy” explores the theme of perfection in art, education, families, and relationships in ways that are both comically surreal and intimately familiar. By Wesley Colford, with Hannah Anderson, Wesley Colford, Kate Etienne, Vaughn Harris, Celine Michaud, Kent Nolan and Rachel Tokayer.


Tyumen, Then (p. 51).  July 4th, 1941: Trapped in the boxcar of a motionless train, somewhere between Moscow and Siberia, two confined soldiers guard the rousing corpse of Vladimir Lenin.  This group of award-winning theatre artists present a ruthless, seriously unhinged satire about technology, war and the quest for survival. By Adam Underwood, directed by: Andrea Donaldson, starring Adam Lazarus, Kevin MacDonald & Lyon Smith.


Swoon! (p. 61).  Swoon!, a brash, highly theatrical and wondrous look at people, desire and the absolute moments of our lives. Featuring new work from some of the city’s most exciting theatre-makers, including Jessica Moss, Jordan Tannahill, Ryan Griffith, Haley McGee, Chris Mitchell, Paul Robinson, Jason Maghanoy and Alisa Palmer, Swoon! features a vibrant and exciting cast of some of Toronto’s best young actors, including: Nicki Gallo, Darrel Gamotin, Jajube Mandiela, Chris Mitchell, Sochi Fried, Andrew Church, Aimee Roy, Paul Robinson, Jessica Moss, Adrienne Kress. Direction by Jason Maghanoy. Musical direction by Colleen Dauncey.  (Amanda Edit: UM. I am Swooning Already!!)


War of the Clowns (p. 66).  By Mark Brownell, directed by Sue Miner.  Outside the ancient Swiss city of Berne two starving performers struggle to survive medieval poverty and modern politics. This 17th Century period piece is a stylistic blend of Dario Fo and Alfred Jarry. Though set in the distant past the message is a familiar and contemporary one: “Let’s kill all the artists!” Cast: Hume Baugh, David Fraser, Mark Ingram, James Kirchner, Richard Lee, Leora Morris, Greg Samek.



THE COMEDIES


The Soaps – The Live Improvised Soap Opera (p. 22).  The stage is set, with a tale to be told from behind the scenes at the Shawford Theatre Festival, where egos will clash, stars will be born and backs will get stabbed…. literally.  With a cast of Canada’s finest comedic performers including Jim Annan, Matt Baram, Paul Bates, Lisa Brooke, Aurora Browne, Christy Bruce, Chris Gibbs, Albert Howell, Lisa Merchant, Scott Montgomery, Ron Pederson and Naomi Snieckus.


She Said What Happened (p. 22).  Nominated for Best Sketch Troupe at the Canadian Comedy Awards, She Said What presents this broken-down cabaret and invite you to lose yourself in laughter with the help of song, dance, characters from all walks of life and a live band.


Uncalled For presents Hypnogogic Logic (p. 23).  Perennial Fringe faves Uncalled For take us on a trippy sketch comedy ride through a world that lies between waking and sleeping.


The LOVE Octagon (p. 52).  Notorious crowd pleasers and brilliant performers Chris Craddock and Ron Pederson join forces in this improvisational exploration of all you need: LOVE. Meet four couples. They all have a secret. They’re all sleeping with each other. It’s La Ronde with Sexy corners!



THE SOLO SHOWS


Cancer Can’t Dance Like This (p. 12).  In 2008, Dan Stolfi won the Toronto Fringe lottery, but was unable to do his show as he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and subsequently underwent two years of chemo. He got lucky again, in more ways than one, subsequently creating and performing this hilarious and heart-warming show about his battle with cancer.


Chaotica (p. 16).  Christel Bartelse’s hilarious show has already been nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award and been a hit in Edmonton, Ottawa, Saskatoon, London, etc, so should be a sure hit in Toronto.


Brian Froud’s One Man Celebrity Disaster Relief Charity Benefit Awareness Telethon… Show (p. 40).  When a meteor the size of Hamilton lands on Hamilton, celebrities swoop in to help raise funds for the unlucky city.  Celebrities may include Al Pacino, Bill Cosby and Christopher Walken, and will all be played by Brian Froud.


Sex, Religion and Other Hang-Ups (p. 57).  James Gangl’s first solo show, and Chris Gibbs’ directorial debut.  Both have been hilarious in other contexts, so look forward to this piece tackling Gangl’s first time recognizing patterns surrounding his sexuality, his staunch Catholic belief system, and the obstacles that come in the pursuit of a f*!k-able best friend. 


Virginia Aldridge, BSc (p. 65).  Elise Newman follows up from last year’s hit Raven For A Lark with this comic tale of adventure about Virginia, a self-proclaimed biologist/adventurer, who drops everything and flies to West Africa, determined to follow in the footsteps of her childhood hero, but will she ever find the courage to step outside her hotel room?  Starring Janelle Hanna.


UP-AND-COMERS / SECOND EFFORTS


Remember, Maggy? (p. 19).  Following on his success directing Talk Thirty To Me, Matt Murray returns with this piece co-written with his mother, Carol-Anne Murray, which follows two sisters in their 40’s and the journey of their complex but often hilarious relationship as they fight to stay connected through the progression of their mother’s Alzheimer’s. With Rosemary Doyle, Denise Oucharek, Joan Gregson and Alanis Peart.


Ambiguous (p. 24).  Gabriel is a writer trying to pen the perfect story, and Wigworm is an ear-wig that wants some lunch. Together they collaborate on what qualities make up perfection. But their creation, Kyle, turns out to be gay. Did God make him this way? Aaron Rothermund’s show weaves its tale through magical shadow puppetry, dazzling cabaret performances, dance and song, with a talented young cast incl. Adam Barrett, Geoff Stevens, Greg Willmot, Timothy Eckmier, Emily Jefferies, Lea Russell, Jessica McGann and Tashieka McTaggart.


Finally: An Epic Cycle (p. 44).  After directing last year’s SummerWorks hit Theory, Joanne Williams returns to the director chair with Sarah Cody’s comedy about the unthinkable: Leafs making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, bike messengers and the loss of tickets to the big game.  With Cassie Muise, Luke Marty, Sarah Cody, Derek Perks and Michael Rode.


Beast (p. 62).  The talented Vanessa Smythe is back at Fringe for a second year in a row with her second new play, this one a touching off-kilter comedy about a girl, her ex and their dead friend’s goldfish.  Starring Vanessa Smythe, Matthew Gouveia and “Beast” as the Goldfish.


Hushabye (p. 64).  Sarah Miller-Garvin / Blood Orange Theatre returns after their past Fringe hit Pokeroot and Mistletoe, with this piece from Anna Standish about nightdreams and daymares.  Mary, a troubled university student, starts a relationship with her university mathematics professor while she searches her dreams for an old friend and answers to formulas in her life that just don’t add up. Starring Ron Kelly, Jenn Fraser and Darwin Lyons.



HARD TO CATEGORIZE / MULTI-INTER-MIXED-DISCIPLINARY


Infinitum (p. 26).  This new interdisciplinary show employs such styles as aerial silks, contemporary dance, acrobatics, contortion, butoh, poetry and tap, to explore the themes and meaning of Infinity and Repetition. Conceived and directed by Melissa Major, choreographed by Faye Rauw, featuring new music from the Electric String Orchestra Dr. Draw, with Emma Bartolomucci, Kateyln Parish, Katelyn McCulloch, Sarah Kuzio, Stephanie Seaton and Krystina Chabursky.


Saved (p. 64).  Jack Grinhaus directs this multimedia retelling of Edward Bond’s classic, a disturbingly violent and shockingly funny look at lower class British youth desensitized to sex and violence. With Tina Fance, Bryan Demore, Jamie Maczko, Andrew Loder, Josh Dolphin, Alex Carter, Shaina Silver-Baird, John Illingworth and Brenda Somers.


Dungeons and Dragons, (not) The Musical (p. 66).  From the always inventive Praxis Theatre, this performance event will see drama nerds and D&D geeks go head to head, while live sound artists create a unique soundscape for each tournament.  Three performance only, up to six hours per performance, maximum 20 in attendance at any one time, but you can come and go as you like, and have a coffee & treats since it’s performed at Snakes & Lattes Café.


Awake (p. 66).  Expect Theatre previously created the Fringe hit Romeo/Juliet Remixed, and now this multi-media experience that incorporates spoken word, dancehall, hip-hop, docu-theatre and gospel music, and is inspired by the infamous 2006 shooting of Amon Beckles, when his killer entered a Jamestown church during a funeral service, found him, and shot him six times in the chest. With Richard Stewart, Quancetia Hamilton, Beryl Bain, Muoi Nene, Peyson Rock, Lauren Brotman, David Shelly, Tazz Blaze (Dancer), Raffaele Brereton (Dancer), URV (Singer/Rapper).


The Godot Cycle (p. 67).  Two performances of Beckett’s classic, starting at 6 pm on each of the two Fridays of the Fringe, the first for 30 hours and the second for 54 hours.  The two main performers, David Christo and Eric Craig, will literally be waiting for Godot for up to 54 hours, without breaks, intermissions or stoppage of any kind, while guest performers play the other parts in shifts.  Audience members can come and go as they please throughout the cycle, which will be played in the parking garage below the Honest Ed’s parking lot where the Fringe Beer Tent is located. 


It sure is going to be a swell time! I hope you are super stoked, Toronto!!


For more information and to see the rest of the 140+ productions happening July 6-17th please scout out this website http://www.fringetoronto.com.

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