Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review: (Toronto) The Show Must Go On (Fringe)

The Show Must Go On...But only if it has a point
by Dave Ross

One-man shows are exceptionally difficult to pull off. It takes a great deal of talent, energy, and thought to talk about oneself, then craft a story, polish it, and really make it stick with the audience. Jeff Leard has clearly put a lot of effort into this show (and how could he not, he IS the show), but it falls flat on a couple of fronts. 

Leard is clearly a talented actor. His energy levels and performances are nuanced, his comedic timing is excellent, and the show is well structured. He endeavours to tell the story of his summer working in a touring children’s theatre company, criss-crossing Canada, performing the same 25 minute show hundreds of times in the span of a few short months, all while living out of a suitcase. And while the story is chock-full of hilarious incidents, the story is stuck, filled with jokes that are too-often theatre specific, speaking only to individuals who have been in similar situations. It makes the show drag, which is unfortunate. The weakest aspect of the story that is most glaring is the near-total lack of catharsis for Jeff. Every other show of this nature I’ve seen has involved some sort of catharsis for the actor, making the story relatable to the audience. Instead, Jeff comes across as an arrogant theatre brat who is better than the work he’s doing, and experiences catharsis only in the last five minutes of the show—far too late to have any meaning. He tries to end the show on a note of humility, but after an hour of shtick about how much he hates children’s theatre, it’s hard to believe the change that does take place. Leard is a talented performer who has been developing his work through Fringe festivals in other cities, and it feels like he is on his way to something good, but he just hasn’t gotten there yet.  

The Show Must Go on is at the Toronto Fringe

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