Reviews - Fringe 2019

One Last Toast to the Schafer Street Queen

By Brian Morton
Published July 25, 2019


At first glance, this brand new musical, set in a bar Red Creek, Alberta, a formerly prosperous mining town, seems to be living in much the same territory as Diamond in The Rough, which is also playing at the Player's Guild Studio Theatre on Queen Street South.

When the lights come up we see a bar, some stools and a band that is playing music to the regular customers. Some songs are sung, and then something odd happens, which I won't reveal here, as I do not want to spoil your experience if you see the show.

Suffice to say that very quickly, the play veers off into the same territory that Keanu Reeves explored in "The Matrix", and things become quite "meta-theatrical", to swipe a term from pop-culture.

Like the characters in Luigi Pirandello's 1921 stage play, "Six Characters in Search of An Author", we begin to question the very scenes that we have previously seen, and in the repetition of them over and over again, we start to wonder what is the mystical thread that holds it all together.

I have read enough of the works of American pulp fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft to wonder at a possible solution, but in the end, I think it is up to each viewer of the play to piece it together themselves, based upon whatever sense that they can glean from the text.

To the good, the songs in this original musical are well sung and carefully arranged, with most of the cast doing double duty as musicians, playing piano, bass, drums and electric guitar. There were perhaps some minor issues with the sound balance, as without microphones, the band a few times drowned out the lyrics.

My biggest problem with the play was just my own lack of suspension of disbelief at the ending. The script itself veers off ninety degrees from where I thought it was going, and perhaps got even a tiny bit silly in the end. Your experience may vary, as the internet expression goes. But I think a reexamination of the internal logic of the play might be in order.

Still, there is a good and strong cast here who certainly know how to sing and created live music. Most of the actors are from the Brampton area, and on the whole I think their efforts in the show deserve to be commended.

Hopefully, in a future draft of this quirky, original musical by Jordan May, some of these issues can be addressed. But then that is one of the joys of the Hamilton Fringe: for the artists involved in it, the chance to get to do your own thing, and produce your own show, free from the interference of others.

Brian Morton is a director and playwright, and was the recipient of the 2013 Hamilton Arts Award for Theatre. In 1988, after two years training in Montreal at the National Theatre School of Canada, Morton was the founder and first artistic director of Theatre Terra Nova, which operated out of a 100 seat theatre on Dundurn Street. Three years after that, he was a partner with Guy Sprung in the Evelyn Group, which reopened the historic 750 seat Tivoli Theatre, as a venue for live performance with a production of Douglas Rodger’s play “How Could You, Mrs Dick?”, which dramatized the story of Hamilton’s notorious Evelyn Dick. With Theatre Erebus, he produced the UK premieres of four Canadian plays for the 1990 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. His stage adaptation of Sylvia Fraser’s “My Father’s House”, has had five productions, since it debuted in in 1992, at the Dundas Centre for the Arts. Morton’s “New Talent” was the highest grossing show in the 2008 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and in 2010, it toured to the London and Toronto Fringe Festivals. Brian’s original musical, “Under the Apple Tree”, about a shooting that happened backstage, at the Lyric theatre on Mary street in November 1921, debuted in the 2018 Hamilton Fringe Festival, and was presented at the 300-seat Zoetic Theatre; it got a second run at the Pearl Company, this past November. Brian was also the producer of the 2012 Hamilton Fringe Festival. He is currently a drama critic, and arts journalist for "VIEW Magazine", and has also published articles in the “Hamilton Spectator” and the “McMaster Silhouette”.

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