Bat Boy: The Musical a bloody shame

Patrick Street’s production of Bat Boy: The Musical is in trouble from the first line of Act One, which is rendered in a condescendingly fake Southern drawl. As is the second line, and the third, and the fourth.

Alas, since the original Weekly World News story has Bat Boy being found in a cave in West Virginia, this show’s creators scuttled a potentially brilliant show by making the most unimaginative decision possible: stuff the show with cheap and easy laughs at the expense of redneck Southerners. And the result is an unholy monster of a production that claims to be about the tragedy of prejudice, yet comes off stinking of prejudice itself.

The writers give far, far too much stage time to the antics of this gaggle of obnoxious, one-dimensional hillbillies we didn’t pay to see. They’re stupid! They’re ignorant! They’re afraid of people who are different! And they’re so crass they even hold a town council meeting in the local slaughterhouse. None of this is inspired—it’s nothing more than ugly stereotyping.

Meanwhile, the veterinarian’s wife saves Bat Boy from her euthanasia-crazed husband by… wait for it… promising to have sex with him. Because, ha ha, she hasn’t had sex with hubby in years! Ah, stale mid-20th Century marital clichés—what would this show be without them?

A lot better, that’s what.

Thanks to the writers’ preoccupation with pitchfork-waving rednecks and frigid wives, Bat Boy isn’t even a proper character in his own show until 45 minutes into Act One, when he finally starts learning English. If only Bat Boy had been allowed to make meaningful contact with his discoverers in the first scene, he could have started talking right there in the cave and emerged from his underground lair as a character we could care about.

Buying the stage rights to the Bat Boy character was the most inspired decision this show’s creators made—because in their hands, this Bat Boy barely gets to second base. The book should be shredded and rewritten from scratch; instead of being a recycled witch-hunt story, this show would be so much more fun as a musical revue—an elderly Bat Boy sits in his rocking chair and is interviewed by a wide-eyed rookie journalist, recounting various adventures from his incredible life as reported in the Weekly World News. It would be funnier, more entertaining and truer to the original tabloid stories, without making us sit through scene after scene of intolerable hillbilly burlesque.

I’m not sure if this qualifies as a silver lining or not, but this production does a reasonably good job with the source material. Scott Perrie and Bree Greig shine as Bat Boy and his love interest Shelley, and thanks to them, and a handful of laugh-out-loud lines, this show is worth perhaps $20 of its $44 ticket price.

Its unusual subject matter may bring in the crowds, but those who take a bite of Bat Boy: The Musical will find this show isn’t nearly as bloody good as it ought to be.

At the Normal Rothstein Theatre (950 West 41st Avenue at Oak) until April 18. Tickets at TicketsTonight.com

Memoirs of a Single Gay White Male is for spitting, not swallowing

by Glen Callender

This show should be called Memoirs of a Painfully Stupid Single Gay White Male, for two reasons. First, that’s exactly what Brad, the protagonist of the story, is. And second, it’s the only demographic likely to be impressed by this well-meaning but misguided mess.

The first act, which charts Brad’s life from childhood through college, is a cutesy romp through a series of queer-kid cliches handled with impressive unoriginality, spiced with a few obligatory moments of nudity and simulated sex. Most of it doesn’t work, because we’ve all been there and done that, and it was probably a lot more interesting when it happened to us.

Things pick up for a while in the more engaging second act, where Brad actually has a few relatively original experiences, such as inadvertently having anonymous phone sex with one of his best friends. At times the banality gives way to charming moments and genuine laughs, mostly because lead actor Jamie Foster succeeds in making Brad generally likable in spite of his immaturity.

But any hope of redemption is ultimately crushed by an abominable after-school special denouement that reeks with the very desperation this show tries to assuage. I had to avert my eyes in sheer embarrassment when Brad, after haplessly bringing himself to a totally unconvincing state of self-acceptance, finally looks out at the audience and insists, “It’s okay to be single!”

Alas, after putting us through two acts of this clueless moron stumbling through a series of excruciatingly obvious life lessons, Memoirs of a Single Gay White Male doesn’t have the self-esteem to run down the curtain without shamelessly begging us to swallow its (highly debatable!) message. How hungry must one’s inner child be to tolerate this kind of spoon-feeding?

So, assuming you’re gay and single, are you dumb enough to enjoy this production? Just answer this simple question:

Are you well into adulthood, yet still shout “ewww!” and make a yuck-face when you hear the word “vagina”?

If your answer is yes, then congratulations, Memoirs of a Single Gay White Male is right on your level. And I think we’ve also solved the riddle of why you’re still single: you’re an insufferably shallow and stupid person. Too bad this show panders to your childishness instead of telling you it’s time to grow the fuck up.

At Performance Works (1218 Cartwright Street on Granville Island) until April 11. Tickets at TicketsTonight.ca

Tremors Festival proves difficult to fault

by Glen Callender

Hold onto your arm rests, theatre-goers, because the Tremors Festival is shaking the Cultch like a screaming Italian woman in the jaws of an epileptic Tyrannosaurus Rex. In a totally good way.

The fest kicked off Tuesday with Why Not Theatre’s I’m So Close…, an ambitious hour that poses one of the Big Questions: “How did we get here?”

So Close...
“Here” variously refers to everything from our co-ordinates in the cosmos to the states of our relationships, but it is the latter meaning that dominates the narrative, as we follow the seriocomic story of a workaholic electrical engineer whose busy travel schedule places increasing strain on his marriage.

The three cast members are all excellent physical performers, and frequently use the device of speeding up repetitive actions to create impressively frenetic scenes depicting the bustle of the business world and the gradual decay of a marriage impoverished by too much time apart.

But this is also a thoroughly digital show, as multimedia elements are employed to excellent effect; the performers dart in and out from behind a large translucent screen that glows with elegant video projections illustrating how digital technology mediates their characters’ lives. Yet in spite of this high-tech backdrop, the image that appears most often on the screen predates digital technology by thousands of years—the eternally embracing pair of neolithic skeletons recently unearthed in Italy—a haunting counterpoint to the increasing separation and isolation of the living husband and wife on the stage.
eternal_embrace
A thoughtful and frequently delightful exploration of how technology designed to connect us can paradoxically push us further apart, I’m So Close… is marred only by a somewhat awkward opening monologue, which offers a facile introduction to the Big Bang and particle physics, and over-extends the question “How did we get here?” by tritely asking members of the audience what modes of transport they used to travel to the theatre. I suppose the temptation to interpret the question in every possible sense was irresistible, but I found it a mildly patronizing start to an otherwise beautiful piece of theatre.

If you’re looking for a hilariously ugly piece of theatre, on the other hand, get thee to Theatre Melee’s Cozy Catastrophe. In a derelict urban basement, four not-very-smart strangers and a rotting ham uneasily co-exist as the outside world comes to a violent demise in some kind of fiendish Godzilla-Cloverfield-zombie apocalypse. Expanded from a 15-minute playlet at Hive 2 (2008), Cozy Catastrophe now clocks in at 75 minutes—65 minutes of which is comedy gold.
Cozy Catastrophe
The show’s wide-open, killing-time-in-an-empty-room format gives the ensemble carte blanche to cut loose and play—and they work it to the hilt, alternating bursts of slapstick violence with moments of calm where the characters lapse into poignant monologues that invariably culminate in stupid and irrelevant conclusions.

It’s great, gross, gory fun, and as impressed as I am with the show in its current form, I am excited by the thought that Cozy Catastrophe has yet to reach its outer limits, and will surely mutate again into something even bigger and better. Having grown from a short piece to a solid one-act, Cozy Catastrophe now begs to be developed into an ultra-low budget sci-fi film—I say we lock this anarchic crew in a basement with a camcorder, no food and no water, and not let them out until it’s in the can.

I’m So Close… closes April 10; Cozy Catastrophe closes April 17. Full Tremors Festival details here.

Where’s Charley? is a giddy delight

by Glen Callender

Studio 58’s production of Where’s Charley? opened on World Theatre Day, that sacred time when the thoughts of all good people turn to those two Ancient Greek masks—one laughing, one crying—that symbolize the faces actors make when they read their reviews.

I have no idea where the crying mask was that night, but Where’s Charley? certainly wears the laughing mask with an aplomb that Aristophanes himself would have admired. Yes, I assure you that if Aristophanes were alive today, aside from being approximately 2455 years old, he would have guffawed heartily at the giddy musical spectacle of a pratfall-prone young man running about in a full-length Victorian dress, affecting a ludicrous British falsetto and hopelessly entangling himself in an-ever-more complex web of comic intrigue.

Benjamin Elliott stars as the titular Charley, a young Oxford man who is forced to impersonate his aunt—for the usual farcical reasons—and delivers a tour de force performance in a challenging quick-change role that requires him to continuously fall down, get back up, pull faces and wield his matronly hand-fan with the deftness of a comic cardsharp.

These cross-dressing antics are ably supported by a beaming, fresh-faced young cast whose obvious love of theatre makes this show impossible to dislike. The sets and costumes are bright and cheerful, the direction solid and the live music consistently on the mark. And the sly updates to this classic musical, such as the tasteful homoerotic innuendos among the ensemble, nicely bring the 1940s book forward into the 21st century.

All in all, Where’s Charley? is a top-notch student production and one of the best comedies of the season.

Now, this wouldn’t be a respectable review if I didn’t point out one or two niggling flaws, so it is with the most cursory nod to critical detachment that I note one or two of the slapstick sequences didn’t quite gel, and shaky spotlights were sometimes an unwelcome distraction.

And that’s all the token negativity towards Where’s Charlie? I can muster. If I must be negative, I’d rather direct my negativity toward you. Yes, you. Because the statistical probability is that you, dear reader, committed the grave sin of not going to the theatre on World Theatre Day.

And if so, Studio 58 will help you correct that dreadful karmic oversight, because Where’s Charley?’s iron grip on that laughing Greek mask will effectively extend World Theatre Day all the way out to the final curtain on April 18. Don’t miss it.

At Studio 58 (100 West 49th Avenue) until April 18. Tickets at TicketsTonight.com.

HIVE 3 vibrates like a cell in your mental crotch-pocket

By Glen Callender

HIVE 3, the latest edition of Vancouver’s notorious biannual alt-theatre extravaganza, is a midget Fringe festival stuffed into a dodgy pressure cooker that could explode at any moment. In a totally good way.

This time around, 14 local theatre companies have transformed the Centre for Digital Media into a cacophonous colony of intimate performance cells, each containing a strange and delicious morsel of over-the-top experimental theatre. Some productions are viewed in relative safety from behind an alleged fourth wall; others are interactive adventures where you are part of the show.

Further complicating matters, you can’t simply line up to get into most of these shows. Instead, you must earn your seat by tracking down a person or item in the crowded concourse area—a teddy bear, a photograph, a prescription, and a key, among other things, are your tickets to certain performances.

Some of these items are easy to find. Others are frustratingly elusive. Sometimes you choose a show. Sometimes a show chooses you. And thanks to a network of cameras and microphones concealed in the common areas, you may end up performing in at least one of the shows without your knowledge.

Intrigued? Of course you are.

Performances are short and snappy at 15 minutes max, but with 14 shows running continuously on independent schedules, it’s impossible to see everything in one night. But don’t sweat what you don’t see—the place is buzzing and there’s plenty of honey to go around.

In the end I managed to see five of the 14 shows—but I won’t attempt to influence your trajectory by reviewing any of them. With one exception.

Whatever you do, try not to miss a clever little truffle called Frisk. When you see people wearing large headphones wandering around the common area, look approachable. If you are approached (which is by no means guaranteed) you’re in for an amusingly invasive interactive experience. See it with a complete stranger. You probably will.

Make a beeline to HIVE 3. Be there when the doors open at 7 p.m. to maximize your show-going potential. And have fun, my beloved little theatre drones.

At the Centre for Digital Media (577 Great Northern Way) until March 20. Tickets @ http://www.vancouvertix.com/

An Interview with the Team Canada DJs

by Johnny K

Aaron Waisglass (aka Grandtheft) and D.R. One (aka Raph Kerwin), collectively known as Team Canada DJs, have been on one hell of a journey since combining forces back in 2004. Their quick cuts and genre-blending mash-ups have taken them to Asia, Europe and even to Paris Hilton’s birthday party, and this sounds like just be the beginning. Booked solid for the majority of the 2010 Winter Olympics on the medal stage in Whistler, Aaron recently took a little time out of his hectic schedule to talk about what the two have been up to lately.

UQ: So, first up, how did you guys come up with the name “Team Canada DJs”?

GT: Well, we came up with it 6 or 7 years ago. We’re big hockey fans and, also, we’re English Montrealers and nationalists. You know, we’re real pro-Canada dudes… it has had to do with the hockey and we kinda dreamed at the time when we were local DJs to have a whole plan to blow up in Canada and then be TEAM CANADA. When we went to the States and no DJs of our time were really doing that, it kinda worked.

UQ: How did the two of you cross paths?

GT: How did we start off? Well I started off as a musician as a kid and I started DJing when I was about 17. Raph started off as a scratch DJ when he was really young and then became a battle DJ. We both kinda met in the middle by DJing at clubs and met in Montreal through the hip-hop scene. We both had a similar style of club DJing that was energetic, quick mixing – kinda NY hip-hop style but we’d be playing all kinds of music.

UQ: Going back even further, what kind of music did you grow up listening to?

GT: Everything – both of us listened to everything but DR1’s like a hip-hop encyclopedia. I listened to hip-hop for sure but I listened to dance music and rock. I played in punk bands when I was younger as well and I was still making rap beats. I’ve always been into every kind of music and both of us appreciate every kind of music so what we do hinges on that.

UQ: I can totally relate. I think a lot of people these days are getting into a whole bunch of different genres as opposed to before where everyone’s kind of stuck on one thing.

GT: Yeah, I think that’s kinda the par for the course now but when we started doing it around 2003, 2004, it was really an unpopular thing to do. You’d go to the club and you’d hear either house music or rap or RnB or you’d go to a rock bar but there was no way of hearing everything at a club, you know? It was either like Sean Paul and Beyonce or house music or techno. There’s a huge division there and we were going into mainstream RnB hiphop clubs and playing Nirvana and house music with rap. That was really a crazy thing to do then but now it’s a very standard thing to do. It’s a mainstream thing almost in a way.

UQ: Big time. It’s great that you guys were there at the beginning for that. Why do you think diversity and genre-blending is so appealing to people these days in general?

GT: I think that while we were doing it here, DJ AM and Hollertronix were doing it in the states as well and this whole style blew up. As I said, it was really some original shit back 6 years ago but it’s a natural thing and people liked it right away. We started playing really big mainstream clubs and people were taking a real chance on us because we were known as these crazy guys who played all kinds of music, so you really didn’t know what we were going to do. But we always played songs people knew and there’s an accessibility there – the whole style hinges on doing stuff that people recognize.

UQ: Got it. Was music something you always thought you’d be doing for a living?

GT: I always wanted to do music, and both of us have university degrees and both of us came out giving this a full shot and were struggling for years to make it. I think it’s worked out really way better than either of us ever expected. So is this something we’ve always wanted? Yeah but I mean to be out here playing the Olympics and doing some of the things we’ve done and seeing the places in the world we’ve seen… Man I always say, even to my folks, if it ended tomorrow I wouldn’t have a single regret. I would not say I wouldn’t be bummed but I really wouldn’t even be bummed. We’re so blessed, man, and the places this has taken us, we’re well aware as well as appreciate a lot of it. So I hope to be doing it for a long time. We own a club now, we have a management company and a crew called the A-Team and I started a little record label as well so we got our feet in a whole bunch of stuff but it’s tough to say, man. This is a very tough industry so will we always be doing it I don’t know but we’re definitely happy to be doing it right now.

UQ: Okay, last question: any final words of wisdom for other DJs and artists who are trying to get ahead in this business?

GT: Well, I always say the same thing: you gotta work hard and be smart in the business but I also think that the key, key, key thing that always helped us was just being original. Don’t try to look at us or anyone else and do what they’re doing and use that as a model for success because you got to do your own thing and you got to do something different. Do something really creative when you’re making music or doing your shows because, otherwise, who cares if you’re doing the same thing as someone else?

Introducing Times Neue Roman

posted by UQ Events

Live From “The End”, the band’s Kensington Market studio in Toronto – Times Neue Roman brings rock with a general tone and attitude of teenage immortality. Comprised of an award winning poet, Arowbe Arowbe Arowbe (Robert Bolton) and composer, Alexander The, TNR’s peerless sound has been turning heads and snapping necks.

Since debuting in 2008, Times Neue Roman have been rousing crowds at basement jams, rooftops, auto-garages, house parties, pubs, glitzy clubs, NXNE, Juno Fest and the back of a U-Haul truck. They flaunt a live show complete with wild theatrics, reckless moshing, tribal percussion and live visuals.

Even while breaking every rule of song writing and conventional structure, TNR’s popular potential is confirmed by recent placements of their single “Roq Roq” on the EA Sports video game, Fight Night: Round 4 and other songs on TV series like CSI: Las Vegas, A&E’s The Cleaner, MTV Presents: Summer Sessions and 11th Hour.

Times Neue Roman are no strangers to the dance floor either, as confirmed by the recent January 16th release of Zombies; a remix package including heavy-hitters like Barletta’s refix of “To Die” and DJ Jedi’s anthemic remix of “Hi, This Is My New Song”.

It is thus, with great anticipation, we announce their newest single “Best Est. 2019” on February 23rd, which is sure to place TNR among the exciting wave of Canadian artists emerging in this new decade.

CHECK OUT THEIR VIDEO BELOW: Times Neue Roman :: Best Est. 2019

2010 is slated to be a big year so keep your eyes and ears peeled for Times Neue Roman, March 11th at the Musebox showcase for Canadian Music Week and March 26th at Ronny’s in Chicago.

Nevermore: The end of the attitude that musicals are crap!

by Johnny K

As the actors of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe dove into the first song of the night, the hushed – yet surprised nonetheless – words “oh no! This is going to be a musical?!” fell out from between my lips. Put bluntly, musicals have just never been my cup of tea. Filled with bad over-acting, endless dancing and hokey tunes that I’d never listen to in any other context, musicals have usually felt somewhat forced and contrived to me. Call me a realist but honestly, when tragedy strikes, who the hell actually sings and dances about it? Nevertheless, since the lighting, costumes, and general ambience had already captured my interest, I figured I should at least give it a chance.

… and thank Poe I did.

Scott Shpeley in Nevermore —The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. Photo by Sean McLennan.

What followed over the course of the next two hours was a phantasmagorical foray into the twisted macabre that, apparently, was Edgar Allen Poe’s life. With tragedy on top of cruelness on top of heartbreak on top of misfortune, it’s no wonder his works were as demented as they were. Here, however, it is his real life story (or at least a very exaggerated re-write of it) that is played out for all of us to see, with Poe himself depicted as the kind of madman that he otherwise usually wrote about.

Part musical, part narration, it is obvious that the writing of Nevermore takes its cue from the style and writing of Poe himself – with many direct quotes from the actual works thrown in for good measure. The entire drama unfolds on an extremely basic stage with eight sliding screen doors and a minimalist approach to props and set design; ironically, this made it one of the most captivating visual experiences I’ve seen in a theatre. Through the intricate use of lighting and shadows, all attention becomes focused on the actors, dressed in abstract Gothic clothing that may as well have come directly from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Enormous, wire-framed hoop skirts, knee-high leather boots, angular hats preposterously stretched out in opposing directions – the synergy of all these, along with the haunting music, myriad of sound effects and our very own imaginations – served to create a degree of atmosphere that no static set would ever come close to matching.

The cast of Nevermore —The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. Photo by Sean McLennan.

As for the actors, every single one of them brings something fresh, exciting and often just plain odd to this stylized, technically gifted production. With Scott Shpeley in the gloomy title role effectively looking very much like a deer caught in headlights, we get the feeling that Poe is just as much a shocked observer as we are of the disturbing “dream within a dream” that is his life. The other talented cast members, with their own often hilariously exaggerated movements, powerful singing voices, and personal brands of eccentricity, also keep the audience sucked in. As there is very little direct dialogue between the characters here, we follow along through the songs and, especially, through the larger-than-life choreographed miming that is always filling the stage. The effect is such that at times it feels as though we are watching marionettes, rather than actual people, twisting and swinging on stage. Add to all this the songs of Jonathon Christenson – who, by the way, also happens to take credits for writer and director – often building into intense climaxes as choruses of harmonies seamlessly blend together with the action on stage, and you’ve got one hell of a warped, weird and, ultimately, wonderful production.

Perhaps I just might give musicals another chance…

Arts Club’s Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is playing at the Granville Island Stage until February 6th.

Arts Club’s Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily shines

by Bob Pember

The Arts Club’s Stanley theatre has started the new year off with the premiere of Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily written by Canadian playwright and author Joanna McClelland Glass. Starring theatre veterans Nicola Cavendish and Fiona Reid, the play focuses on the binary lives of two women in their mid sixties taking different approaches to their problems with growing old and settling down.  With expertly-delivered astute monologues, the play is remarkably accessible to people in all stages of life.

While the play stars both Cavendish and Reid, the two are never on stage together. Act One has Cavendish giving her portrayal of Peggy, the daily housekeeper to Mrs. Dexter, a once wealthy woman who has now forced to sell her house after her husband left her for her best friend and confidant.  Peggy grew up in a poor part of town in Newfoundland, and relays the bumps in her life—having four children (three of which survived infancy) with an unfaithful man who left once the children were born. Cavendish crafts this simple woman with ease on stage and keeps the audience engaged and laughing while going about her daily chores in the kitchen set.

Nicola Cavendish in Mrs. Dexter & Her Daily. Photo by David Cooper.

Fiona Reid’s character reads a little more complex than her busybody counterpart from the first act. When the audience first sees Mrs. Dexter, she has already sent Peggy home early out of minor frustrations and has decided that three o’clock in the afternoon is good enough time to start on the rye and ginger. Having been humiliated in the neighbourhood by her philandering husband, Mrs. Dexter has confined herself to night robes and alcohol while she waits for “the madding crowd” to come and buy her house. Though her story is tragic and her future seems bleak, she still manages to put the audience in hysterics at times—she continues calling her old friend ‘the rodent’ while mixing her drinks about four parts rye to one splash of ginger ale and swearing at her lazy children over the phone. While Cavendish was superb, Reid shone in her character and found a way to make an ex-upper class senior woman funny, captivating and emotionally moving.

Fiona Reid in Mrs. Dexter & Her Daily. Photo by David Cooper.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily to anyone wanting a unique and rewarding theatre experience. Not only do the actors deliver professional and sensitive performances, but the format of the two extended monologues creates a fresh feel in the theatre and is executed well through the accomplished script.

Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily runs until February 7th at the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre.

Equity Partnership Opportunity at UQ Events

Dear Supporters and Fellow Techies:

It is with great enthusiasm that we make the announcement to consider applications for an equity partner in UQ Events’ ongoing business operations. We would like to form a long-lasting business relationship with an seasoned internet marketer and monetization expert. This individual should be well versed in the following tasks:

– Increasing organic search engine traffic.

– Leveraging a variety of social media platforms.

– Increasing UQ Events’ online presence.

– Developing new (or expanding upon existing) methods of monetization.

In exchange for this individual’s full-time efforts, we will offer to this person an ownership stake in UQ Events. This offer is purposefully brief as we will expand on this opportunity during our discussions with desirable candidates.

Please email   info [at] uqevents [dot] com   with a short description of what you can offer to us in exchange for a share in our company. This opportunity is open only to North American residents.

Sincerely,

UQ Events