Fringe review: The Apple Tree

Madelaine Knight in The Apple Tree, The Plain Janes at the Fringe. Photo by db photographics.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

The Apple Tree (Stage 12, Varscona Theatre)

Contrary to popular Fringe belief, God is not a Scottish drag queen. He’s a man in a natty white suit, who lets there be light and then immediately repairs briskly to the piano, and works his expert magic there.

That would be Ryan Sigurdson. And this obscure, modest little charmer of a musical comedy fable, revived for us by The Plain Janes, who are into musical resurrections, is lifted from the 1966 triptych by the Broadway heavy-hitters who created Fiddler on the Roof (Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick).

The story, The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, takes us to that business in the Garden. Adam wakes up to discover he is “the sole and single man…. Single? Hmmm.” Not for long. And Eve, shortly after making her debut, says “I want to talk about us.”

There’s a kind of lightly floating but hoary old-school romantic comedy about all this: opposites who disagree about everything and are therefore made for each other. It’s a vintage vaudevillian view of the battle of the sexes. And yes, you’ll hear “the world’s first joke” and several from the first 10.

While the first man is anxiously trying to name the creatures in the Garden and making only rudimentary progress, Eve is an instant expert, much to his irritation.“Put that pickerel down!” Soon she is decorating a hut, to make it a home.

What are the chances she’ll follow the rule about the apple?

In Dave Horak’s production, Graham Mothersill is Adam, puzzled and grouchy, a potentially lovable dope who needs taking in hand to discover the pleasures of the world. Madeleine Knight is adorable as Eve, sweetly relentless and bossy, with a smile that lets there be light all over again.

They’re both first-rate, resourceful musical theatre singers. And so is the Snake, who makes a striking appearance (and case for forbidden apple consumption) in the form of Jocelyn Ahlf. The tuneful, only slightly memorable songs are delivered with the kind of pizzaz and charm that makes them seen fresh not mouldy.

The touch is exactly right for the material. Magically, a tear will appear in your eye later on, and there’s an enchantment in that. 

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