It was good to see a decent crowd on opening night at the Neptune's Studio Theatre for Rain on the Parade, Villains Theatre's latest musical offering. Villains has tended to focus its bright and shining light on old works, but with a squinty stink-eye. Nothing touched by Villains' Dan Bray and Colleen MacIsaac, disappoints. And nor did this.
The play is written and produced by backstage wizard Evan Brown, so it wasn't surprising that much of this play-within-a-play takes place behind the scenes at the recently cremated Chronus Theatre. Apparently its last play was cursed when some of the audience self-ignited "like a row of matchsticks" and thus Chronus, like the phoenix, tries to rise from the ashes to a new glory. But what play should the ill-fated Chronus troupe perform, when their space is haunted by ghosts of past and future? Why, a play about fire, of course!
Colleen MacIsaac opens as Zimon, the cleaner, sweeping the Chronus stage clear of ashes. Colleen is also the Narrator, who seems frequently surprised by what their own disembodied narrator voice says to us. Colleen shares the stage with a solitary lightbulb and a pathetic plywood tree - but this is no ordinary pathetic plywood tree - it is a gateway to the past. Cue more video disembodiment!
But just as the troupe is being coaxed by the producer into accepting the new play, the producer dies. And the curse lives! (And it speaks in Shakespearean English!)
You'll soon be humming along to such memorable hits as 'Spontaneous Human Combustion', 'Sifting Through The Ashes', 'Euthanasia Rollercoaster' and the wonderful 'Brechtian-ish'.
Dan Bray does a doubly outstanding job as Ellsworth, the lead actor, and as Gorman Roach the dead playwright. The Go family are three more actors. Daughter, Verily Go (Katherine Norris) and Mother, Tilly Go (Laura Caswell) were also outstanding. Primrose Rex is ably played by Jacob Hemphill. He plays the son of the deceased and disembodied playwright, Hieronymus Rex (played by Pasha Ebrahimi). Chronus toxic girlboss, Miss Bliss is played to over-effect by Moneesha Bakshi. In fact everyone over-acts to perfection except Verily's brother, Edison Go. We're left wondering whether the usually excellent Sam "I don't do drywall" Vigneault is capable of over-acting.
Despite the fires, grief, death and destruction, this was a musical - and a fine one at that. Not surprisingly when you give Garry Williams the baton and quill. You'll soon be humming along to such memorable hits as 'Spontaneous Human Combustion', 'Sifting Through The Ashes', 'Euthanasia Rollercoaster' and the wonderful 'Brechtian-ish'.
The set was simple but effective - especially so in the frugal use of bare lightbulbs. And the entire studio was made use of for exits and entrances: "exit stage bereft" indeed.
The costumes were fabulous, Elizabethan neck-ruffs and all: indescribable - literally - they did not match anything in particular, but Oliver Dorsais-Fleming's inventions were perfectly a propos.
Rain On The Parade is on until June 25th. It is yet another one of Villains Theatre's perplexing yet unmissable productions.
Rain On The Parade runs at the Neptune Studio Theatre, June 21st-June25th, with free childcare available for all performances. There will also be a streamed performance on June 24th with captions. Tickets are available online on the Neptune Theatre website or at the Villans Theatre website.