The last two days saw the opening & closing of the Toronto Premiere of 35mm: A Musical Exhibition, a show for which I was the associate producer. Despite the very short run time, a lot of time & energy went into the show, on everyone’s part, and so while the build-up may have been less than I usually feel for one of my shows, the post-show crash, the feelings of “oh my god, what do I do now??? I need a new project!!!” are still there.
The play was a one-act musical by NYC composer Ryan Scott Oliver, and this production was directed by Melissa-Jane “MJ” Shaw, with music direction by Chris Tsujiuchi. Adrian Marchuk both produced and performed in the piece, and my Theatre 20 colleague Brian Goldenberg was the consulting producer.
The show doesn’t exactly have a plot…everything is loosely tied together with the words “Hold. Still. Focus.”, and there is an over-arching theme of relationships, love & loss, and the concept of photos and their place in modern day society. There was virtually no set, and very minimal props. The show relied on some simple but effective lighting changes, and the brilliant vocals by the cast of talented performers.
It’s always nice to see a show of this calibre, as there are no weak links; the band was spot-on, and while there were songs that I liked more than others, each singer had their chance to shine with a number of their own.
Jeigh Madjus wowed us with his incredible rock vocals in the opening number, and showed us a softer side with the beautiful ballad, “Cut You A Piece” late in the show. Michael Esposito II similarly shone in 2 completely different numbers; the quirky & creepy “Caralee” and the touching “The Seraph”, showcasing an impressive range of vocal styles & emotion. Adrian Marchuk was equally loveable in the darkly comic, melodramatic “Good Lady” (where he rocked a cloak & crown) as he was in one of my personal favourites, “Make Me Happy”, a feel-good, upbeat duet with Kelly Holiff. Holiff’s show-stopping number, however, has got to be “Leave Luanne”, a chilling country-style number about an abused & eventually murdered woman, that goes from a fairly typical song of hurt & heartache into an eerie ghost story. Backed up by the full cast, Holiff’s gut-wrenching emotion in this number gave me shivers, and when the entire cast began stomping to the beat & belting out the words you couldn’t help but feel shaken. Finally, Marisa Mcintyre beautifully displayed the light & dark sides of teenage love, angst and obsession. In “Monday” she plays a bubbly girl obsessed with a boy who nearly ignores her, telling her that she is “cute but juvenile”; the bright, poppy energy had me grinning and wanting to sing along. On the darker side, Mcintyre wraps up the show with the twisted number, “The Ballad of Sara Berry”, about a wannabe prom queen who kills off her competition. Funny, edgy, and perfectly performed this was another one of my favourites.
It’s too bad it was such a short run; I’ve been listening to the original cast recording, and I can honestly say, without bias, that this group performed it better. Here’s hoping my path will cross with all of theirs again sometime soon. For now, it’s time to move on to the next show!