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Fringe Reviews: Musicals, improv and satire, oh my!

Keep fringing Edmonton! There's so much more to take in, all week long.

Changing Channels

Woodcroft Community Hall

13915 115 Ave NW

3 stars

Edmonton Musical Theatre and local playwright Timothy Anderson have collaborated for a second year to present a senior-oriented production (with funding from the fed's New Horizons for Seniors Program) but, in truth, there's less heart and less of a senior focus to this year's offering. Still, the dozen or so cast members (most of the 50-plus set) of Changing Channels provides the audience a pleasant visit to t.v. shows of old (Green Acres, Golden Girls, The Kominsky Method, etc) with a bit of dialogue and a whole lot of song to fill a 75-minute set.

Music Director Brad Heintzman (with son Samuel on trumpet) provides a lovely piano accompaniment to the pieces, strung together in unrelated vignettes from famous t.v. shows. For example, I Dreamed a Dream performed by Blanche from Golden Girls (Susanne Hube), or They Call the Wind Mariah, belted out by Bradley Bishop (Oliver) in a Green Acres skit. St. Albert's Barb Hubbard and Jaime Johansson also offer up fine vocals between the chatter as Grace and Frankie. Overall, the best bits come in the Golden Girls skits; more of that would've been in order.

If the idea was to present a message about seniors defying stereotypes, remaining seen and relevant, this production doesn't really address that. But if it's a revue you're after; a few songs with skits, performed by a dedicated cast, then this does the trick.

--Lucy Haines


Titanical The Musical

Garneau Theatre

8712 109 St NW

5 out of 5 stars

We all know the story of Titanic (the movie)--Jack and Rose, unsinkable ship, etc--but guaranteed you've never seen it presented this way. Madcap, goofy, silly in all the right ways; Titanical the Musical is a totally wacky sendup of one of the most romantic and iconic of screen love stories. Take 'My Heart Will Go On' and amp it up (and send it sideways) with dance battles (goodness, can Jeff Halaby dance!) and songs by Adele, NSYNC, Lizzo and more. It's too funny.

Initially rockin' the Spotlight Cabaret, this Fringe remount is truly fringing at its best--screwball comedy bits and non-stop song and dance--all done with some serious talent at the helm. Written and performed by Gemini-nominated sketch comedy duo Aimee Beaudoin and Jeff Halaby, (who are both freakin' hilarious), the show also features the impressive vocals of Jamie Hudson and Tyler Pinsent and is directed by Trevor Schmidt (choreography by Sarah Dowling).

From the steerage passenger who keeps having and losing a baby a minute, to misadventures with a sea monster, to the damn door that, YES! was surely big enough to hold two people....this show is a side-spitting winner. Don't miss it.

--Lucy Haines


King of the Hill

Grindstone Comedy Theatre

10019 81 Ave. NW

3.5 stars  

There's improv-a-plenty at this year's Fringe, so you can throw a dart and take in whatever fits in the schedule--it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. Improv is not easy, but when skilled veterans do it, it's a less cringey affair. All the offerings from Grindstone, by the way, run the gammut, with things like the 11 o-clock number improvised musical at the top of the heap. (And down the street, fans continue to line up for Gordon's Big Bald Head or Die-Nasty at the Varscona, fringe mainstays that never disappoint).

I caught the 'King of the Hill' battle at Grindstone opening weekend--three pairs of improvisers given similar parameters (act out a first date, an emotional journey, etc) with the audience judging who knocked it out of the park. Some bits worked, others didn't, but it's all fun. A variety of players come in for shows throughout the fringe, so, remember, Forrest: Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get!

--Lucy Haines