August 29 to September 1, 2012
Loose Moose Theatre
It was just a year ago that I saw Renee Amber take the stage in Calgary for her first go as Mimi in Rebecca Northan’s award-winning, interactive hit comedy, Blind Date. (See my review at https://applause-meter.com/2011/08/31/blind-date-review/) Several years before that in Toronto, I had the pleasure of seeing Northan herself perform the role in one the first productions of the show. So when the press release announcing yet another staging of Blind Date hit my Inbox, I could really see no reason to review it again. I knew the show well, thought it was good cute fun and I had nothing new to say about it.
That is until I saw the line about the Gentleman Clown twist. In a departure from the show’s usual female leading lady format, the first four performances of this three-week limited engagement features Northan’s brother Jamie as Stuart, the lovelorn clown, inviting a woman to the stage to be his date. And unlike Mimi who tries to mold her audience gentleman into her perfect date, the Gentleman Clown is meant to be putty in the hands of his female audience date as she takes the reins to make him the man she’s always wanted.
Yeah, I was curious. So yup, I’m reviewing once again.
The show begins with Rebecca Northan and Renee Amber taking the stage as Stuart’s sisters (donning the show’s trademark red clown noses) explaining to the audience that they are here visiting Canada on a mission to find their sweet brother a lady friend. The two have chatted up the audience before the show and, as in all Blind Date performances; have found an audience member they would like to participate in the show. This is always an interesting moment in Blind Date, who have they chosen and will they say yes when identified? Kathryn was the name of the woman chosen for Jamie’s inaugural performance. She said yes and so on with the show.
Despite the gender swap, this version of Blind Date pretty much follows the tried and tested format. Clown and date drink in a bar as they get to know each other, they dance, drive in a car, end up at the clown’s apartment, get into some smooching and then via audience choice either continue the date or fast forward to 5 years from now to see where the couple ended up. There’s a reason this show just won Best Revue at the recent Canadian Comedy Awards, it works every time no matter who the audience member is due to both the wonderful improvisation possibilities of the set up and the talent of the actor.
In this case, Jamie Northan is no exception. He is adorably delightful as Stuart, with just the right touch of wit and sensitivity needed to make the show funny without overly exploiting his female volunteer. Whereas the female clown can be aggressive, bawdy and over the top for her laughs, the male role needs to be a bit more subtle in his humour and Jamie manages to walk a perfect line between sarcasm and deprecation putting Kathryn at ease and allowing her to finally relax and play along with the situation. The audience laughs with and at him and while it certainly isn’t as outrageous a comedy as when Mimi takes the stage, with Jamie in the lead, this Blind Date is surprisingly funny in unexpected ways.
In addition to Jamie’s talent in the role, there are a few new additions to the show assisting the male lead scenario. Without giving too much away, I will send applause out to the traffic cop scene as a hysterically clever way of making the female volunteer more comfortable and the use of puppets in the more intimate moments for great comedic and pragmatic effect. Not only are these smart additions to the performance, but they by far got the biggest laughs of the night.
Blind Date – the Gentleman Clown version isn’t exactly a new or necessarily better show than the original rendition. But between Jamie’s excellent performance and the injection of some different ideas, I can happily say I was glad to have made this my third and last time seeing the show.
For the guys and gals – It’s a blind date where you get to laugh at and with both genders equally. Good, somewhat racy fun all around. SEE IT
For the occasional theatre goer – Jamie’s version is wonderful and well worth attending. But if you haven’t seen this show yet, Rebecca Northan herself is performing Sept 12 – 15 and you may want to wait to see the woman who started it all. SEE ONE VERSION OF IT
For the theater junkie – You’ve probably seen this show already and no, you don’t need to rush out to see it again. But watching Jamie take a crack at the role is rewarding and the new elements are impressive. MAYBE SEE IT