The Show Must Go On
August 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10, 2013
Jeff has wanted to be an actor ever since he was five years old. He wants fame and glory and the chance to make a difference in the world. What he gets is the opportunity to be part of a children’s touring troupe of actors set on having a perfect year by fulfilling all 186 of their cross Canada elementary school show dates.
Jeff, played by Jeff Leard who also wrote the show, is a composite of true stories amassed from real-life actors about their experiences touring children’s theatre and life on the road as a company. This show may be about children’s theatre but it is definitely not for kids. At times it’s bawdy, violent, gross, inappropriate and distinctly anti-kid. But just so there is no mistake, it is also smartly funny, beautifully written, cleverly directed and wonderfully performed with just enough smattering of touching emotional elements so as not to make this show a one trick pony.
Sure we get scenes where a kid, sitting on a gym floor, pees herself and soaks her classmates in the process. Yes there is the requisite child throw-up during performance moment. And just so the kids don’t have all the fun, there is even a lascivious teacher sex scene thrown in for good measure. There is even a drug-dealing homocidal maniac. In the wrong hands these elements could have been played crassly without caring about anything but the laughs they elicit. But Lear’s talent in this script is his ability to inject little tidbits of warmth into these situations to bring humanness to the sarcasm and dark humour.
But it’s the performance that really seals the deal. Staring out a tad too bombastic and over the top for my liking, Leard settles in to his multi character roles and gives us a physically dynamic and wonderfully funny performance. He is a strong actor who needs to trust that his audience doesn’t need all that bombast and at times William Shatner-esque delivery to find him compelling and comical. I liked him best when he dialed it down and gave us Jeff, the actor as opposed to JEFF THE ACTOR.
Even with this quibble, I found myself greatly amused and impressed with the whole construct of the performance. A smarmy show about children’s theatre that ends with a revelation and a soft emotional underbelly is a long trajectory to travel without seeming clichéd. Thanks to Leard’s deft creativity, we get there with great pleasure, happy for the ride.
For the Fringeaholics – Don’t be put off (as I was) by the marketing material for this show which makes the performance sound crass and farcical. Sure there are some over the top elements, but they all have a smart edge to them and at no time does the play run off the rails into zany town. SEE IT
For the light Fringers – Jeff Leard is a performer that demands your attention and deserves it. He is funny, smart, physically deft, and full of energy. And most importantly, he has crafted a funny, tight show that lets you behind the curtain of children’s performance in a way you won’t soon forget. SEE IT