This weekend at Aeolian Hall, treat yourself to a well-acted high-energy medley of some of the greatest Rock songs to have graced the Theatre. Featuring songs from hit musicals old and new from "Grease", "Hair", "We Will Rock you", "Once" and "Hamilton" (to name a few), this nonstop action show will have you shoo-bop-bopping and head-banging until the much anticipated finale, "Time Warp". Under the expert musical direction of Western Alum Stephen Ingram, MTP's local, volunteer cast pulled together a relatively cohesive performance peppered with some truly remarkable numbers showcasing London's own talent. With Ingram leading on the piano, the band members did a phenomenal job of carrying the show through a wild romp through the ages, At times the guitar would drown out the bass, or the instruments masked the chorus' harmonies, but there were enough fabulous moments of a cappella harmony to showcase Ingram's success in conducting the cast. Bridging together all of the musical numbers--ranging as wildly in genre as the cast varied in age and musical experience--was a challenge; some song transitions were more effective than others. While this show, designed as a musical medley, was wonderfully entertaining, transitioning directly from song to the next without dialogue or announcement did at times create a borderline talent-show or coffee-house atmosphere.
This performance had extremely minimalist staging, with a four piece band taking up the downstage half of the stage, and only a few mobile, anticlimactic colourful lights to form a concert atmosphere. There were also standing microphones on stage, which might have been well-suited to some of the 1950's songs--with groups of three angled towards a single standing mic--but the stationary nature of the mic stands seemed to force some performers too far backstage and even restrict the performers' freedom of movement, which may have affected their breathing and performance. Despite the somewhat stiff setup created by the mic stands, costume director Kate Deman and choreographer Kerry Hishon managed to fill up the space and create movement with full-bodied skirts, explosive makeup and intriguing dance steps, most of which were synchronized, The performers' haphazard dancing in "Aquarius" was especially interesting and felt like a deliberate evocation of the psychedelic feel of the flower-power age.
The cast had a wide range of vocal abilities and talents. Some of the performances were on the weaker side vocally, but a number of soloists demonstrated true vocal talent such as Alicia D'Ariano in her full-bodied yet humour-tinged rendition of "I won't say I'm in Love" from "Hercules" as well as Sarah Abbott with her powerhouse lead in "Don't Stop Believing". Mike Clancy captivated the audience with his melodic, Phil Collins-esque singing during his solo, "One Song Glory" from "Rent", to which he accompanied himself with an acoustic guitar. Clancy also shone in his role in a trio from "Next to Normal", which he sang with the extraordinarily talented Megan Moorehouse and competent tenor Braven Warren. Though Diegra Kambamba in her rendition of "My Strongest Suit" did not hit her stride until the end, she picked up where she left off in her next featured solo, "21 Guns", and blew the audience away, Matt Butler also floored the audience with his humorous enactment of "You'll be Back" from "Hamilton", expertly keeping his tone, facial expressions and body language in character. The most arresting performance, by far, however, was the opener, "Aquarius" from "Hair", thanks to diva Tatyana Austrie's chords of gold. This number was worth the ticket price alone.
Most performers with less star-power voices made up for it by playing up the acting charisma, such as Becky Blake with her nonstop, energetic dancing and engaging the audience during "Out Tonight" from "Rent", and Matt Green with his revelationary and explosive performance in "Time Warp". The romantic duet, or mashup, of "Only Us" from "Dear Evan Hansen" and "Falling Slowly" from "Once" may not have been the most harmonious arrangement, but Vivien Adler and Jacob Collier still warmed the audience with their convincing portrayal of young love and Collier's exquisite vocal moments that sparkled with true talent. Henry Truong also played up the charisma in his subtle portrayal of building tensions--and blood pressures--in the comedic duet "Therapy" from "Tick Tick Boom". Truong's duet counterpart, Becca Zadorsky, also a talented actress, flashed some impressive operatic notes in her harmonies in "21 Guns".
Overall, despite some anti-climactic stage design, and some off-key moments--some of the choral harmonies in "21 Guns" and the soloist's vocal trills in "When Your Mind's Made Up" come to mind--this energetic show is worth a ticket for those feel good, clap-along moments and a few brilliant, diamond studs.
Tickets are on sale online for November 9 at 8pm and November 10 at 7pm, but you can also pick one up next door to the theatre at 795 Dundas Street. The last showing is November 10th; you won't want to miss it!