Day 5 at DANspace

Tetrameter, Saints Alive Sings!, Burlesque Unzipped, Total Body Washout, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Oh, how I suffer for my art. I spent a most gloriously sunny and temperate Labour Day in the sauna-like confines of DANspace, reviewing not one or two, but FIVE Fringe offerings, Fortunately, the fact that there wasn’t a dog in the lot coupled with the opportunity to sit outside on Argyle Street and enjoy some wine between shows, made my sacrifice worthwhile.

I don’t dance. Or, more accurately, I can’t dance. But I can appreciate the grace and athleticism of those who do. In Tetrameter, dancer/choreographer Sarah Douglas has created a playful piece about a young, seemingly lonely girl, moving towards adulthood. The wistful tone of Tetrameter is underscored by the use of Michael Giacchino’s “Married Life”, the music used in the animated story Up. As the girl bids farewell to her familiar room and beloved but aloof goldfish, Tetrameter also calls to mind another Pixar classic, Toy Story 3. In the first vignette, the young girl’s dancing is tentative and uninspiring, but as she matures, so too does the choreography, ending with movements that are an original combination of quirkiness and grace.

I’ve been a fan of the Saints Alive! Theatre Society for a number of years. This Dartmouth-based youth mentoring group has put on some pretty impressive productions, and their Fringe show, Saints Alive Sings!, is a chance to revisit the some of the hits from those shows. There were a lot of new faces in the cast, but the same high standard of talent and energy. While not every note was pitch-perfect, there were some outstanding numbers including a hysterical rendition of “Those Canaan Days” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and the fun, high-energy “Biggest Blame Fool” from Seussical. Special mention goes to Rachelle Moreau who sang the lovely “Children of Eden.” Moreau has a look and a sound that makes me think we’ll be hearing much more from her.

Attention all wanna-be Fringe-show creators. Don’t miss Sharon Nowlen’s Burlesque Unzipped. This one-man show could serve as a primer for how to stage an entertaining and instructive Fringe piece. Nowlan manages to pack an hour full of multiple costume changes, witty banter, show-stopping physical entertainment and an interesting history lesson. While most people believe Burlesque is synonymous with striptease, Nowlan explains (in her witty, charming and creative way) that it is actually a woman-empowering form of entertainment using a combination of brains and body. The history lesson stretches from the early 19th century to present day, but I can’t stress enough that this is history brought to life in a vivid, memorable and ever-so-slightly titillating way.

In Total Body Washout, Adam Bayne plays James, a young man who has committed himself to the hospital psych ward. During his stay, he is treated by a reticent doctor and falls in love with poetically-gifted anorexic girl—both whom we meet through James’ musings into a tape recorder. Through the course of this one-act play, we get to know a little about James’ life both in the hospital and before his admission, as well as learning something about the events that brought him to the breaking point. Bayne gives a winning performance in this accessible and moving exploration of mental illness.

The house was packed for last night’s production of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and with good reason. This is just the kind of fun, campy entertainment one hopes to get to see at the Fringe. Originally, the show was written by the multi-talented Whedon brothers during the WGA writers’ strike of 2008, and distributed on the internet where it developed a cult following. The Fringe performance stars Chris Nyarady as an aspiring villain with a heart of gold, Robert Murphy as the smarmy, cleft-chinned “hero”, Captain Hammer, and Jen Bradley as the lovely do-gooder who’s desired by both men. Filled with super musical numbers and super terrific performances, this is one super show you don’t want to miss.

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