The Mystery of Krumhorn Castle – Kiss the Giraffe – Venue #1
I have been hot and cold on Joseph Aragon musicals over the years. Some of them are brilliant productions produced to perfection and featuring stellar casts, others have really let me down and been merely ok. I’m happy to say that he knocked this one out of the park, both in terms of creating a fun, family friendly story with catchy hummable tunes and in casting a group of actors who can project on a large stage, sing ensemble parts with power and flair (see my review of Chess for the counterpoint here.) This show is basically a 14 year old’s idea of a great monster/horror movie with kung fu orphans, weird monsters, a mad scientist and a portal to another world. As mentioned the singing is great, the choreography has the cast using the entire stage and clever multi use set dressing keeps everything looking great on a budget. Kudos to everyone involved.
Big Stupid Improv Show – Venue #21
The BSIS is always a fun time but definitely varies in style and tone based on the cast for any particular show. Since the cast is also entirely dependent on who happens to be free/wants to perform your mileage may vary. On this occasion we got both guys from Crumbs (Steve from Crumbs runs the thing,) a parking lots guy, a guy named Mike who I feel I should know but can’t remember, Caity Curtis from Steven’s scripted play and Toby and Robyn from Outside Joke. As usual they played director’s cut long form improv and produced a great show for us.
Hot Thespian Action:Back in Black – GSAC
After taking a summer off (boo) and losing a member to her solo career (double boo) HTA is back with a completely new show. Near as I can tell there were absolutely zero sequel sketches in this one which was nice to see. These folks remain the gold standard of Winnipeg sketchcom, here’s hoping Jacquie comes back once in a while for a show though.
D&D Improv 8 finale – GSAC
The annual bloodbath episode. The story is concluded, the special effects are used up (though I feel like the blood bottles were underused or simply not used when they should have been this year), most everyone dies and the cast takes their final bows. Toby Hughes’ quizmaster death was the highlight for me when (as he succumbed to the mind flayer) he goaded his killer into eating his brains only to reveal in his death monologue that the flayer would have to speak in rhyming verse from then on. Unfortunately that was somewhat early on in the show and I personally think Toby is one of their best stage fighters. Still a great time though with an energetic audience that the cast obviously adores. The finale is going to keep selling out earlier and earlier each year. Good news for fans though, they’ll be doing a fall show again this year as part of an Outside Joke season of yuks performance.
Overheard in line: “I just saw the most amazing show… 10 guitars.” TEN? I guess Chase Padgett really needs to step up his game for next fringe.
Highlight: Has to be the D&D finale for its total wild and crazy bloodbath nature but this was a great day.
For the last day of fringe I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d get out or not. The last day is always so sad as the crews start ripping everything down the instant the last show starts. Combined with that was the fact that there were no best of fests this year, often the last day is where I make an effort to see one best of fest show that I’ve missed earlier in the week and between the line/show I’m usually done after that one show. With the super pass this year though I wasn’t going to pass up a few more free shows. In the end I decided the best way to mitigate the sadness was to skip old market square and finally catch some things at MTYP @ the forks. I really hope the artists out at the Forks make enough to make their outlays worthwhile. When Gemma Wilcox is only half full it makes me somewhat curious re: attendance numbers at these venues. I don’t know why but the Forks seems so remote from the rest of the fest even though PTE/U of W aren’t that much closer and GSAC is farther but it definitely is the case for myself and others I spoke to.
Magical Mystery Detour – Gemma Wilcox – Venue #21
Gemma Wilcox is a serious fringe star and this show represents the final chapter in the trilogy of her one woman shows (though they are all stand-alone as well.) While I personally didn’t like this one quite as much as her previous offerings, her energetic portrayal of a myriad of characters still won me over.
Barely Living – Shelby Bond (& friends) – Venue #21
Shelby genuinely seems like a great guy. Everyone I know who is friends with him seems to reiterate this. I always really enjoyed him in his Sound and Fury days (along with Vinnie,) I really enjoyed his solo show and his One Man Back to the Future. This show, while it had its moments, was not of the same class. The acting was far from even (prep underdone perhaps?) the writing could probably have used another pass (a few of the jokes were far far too obvious) and the addition of a makeup artist to transform an audience member into the undead girl of Shelby’s dreams was fun but really not enough of a gimmick to make the rest work flawlessly. Still fun and worth a freebie but I hope he comes back with something better next year.
Big Stupid Improv Show – Venue #21
Since I was over here anyway I decided to pack in another BSIS in hopes that a bunch of performers might come out to say goodbye to the festival. Seems like they were over doing karaoke instead as we had only 5 people. Steve and Caity again of course joined by Fraz Wiest, Mike from the previous show and someone else I’m completely spacing on. While I liked the stories this time round I think they probably should have either gone with three directors and longer cuts or used a completely different structure as (at least in my mind) five people is too few for directors cut as everyone pretty much has to be in every scene all the time. There’s no quick creativity recharge breaks in the wings.
Sadly that marks the end of probably my favourite fringe ever. Even though I didn’t get to see as many shows with friends as I would have liked, I did get to see a new record number (46, of which some reviews are missing up here) and a quality level that was simply amazing. I know that my lack of stinkers was partially due to scheduling pretty much everything and never having a window where I’ve been turned away from a sellout and choose something at random; Yet it still seems remarkable that I haven’t seen anything this year that I would ‘un-see’ if given the opportunity.
Fringe is, by far, my favourite time of year in this city. The exchange is so alive with people nearly every hour of the day. I can skip out of work and take in a show on my lunch hour and get back to my desk with something from a food truck. I can more or less live down here for the entire festival. And now? It’s back to the real world I suppose. Back to paying attention to the terrible Bombers, back to home reno work, back to actually eating a bit healthier instead of enjoying yet another taco or pizza or butter chicken in the beer tent. Yet at the same time I take inspiration from this time of year. Once the house is shaped up a bit I may finally get around to taking that improv class to get my theatre chops back. I may even start writing that thing I always wanted to write (yes vague but whatever! Secret!)
To the staff and volunteers, thank you. To CBC Manitoba for the super pass, super thank you. But above all to the writers and performers: Thank you for the entertainment, the energy, the eye opening inspiration. You make everything come alive, in the words of this year’s slogan. We are ALL fringefamily here!
See you in 2016!