By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Everything’s Coming Up Chickens: A Revue (Stage 12, Varscona Theatre)
This highly entertaining revue is what happens when you let a company of musical theatre experts roam through their specialty repertoire (the odd, the neglected, the obscure, the mistreated gems) with a theme in mind. Everything’s Coming Up Chickens is an homage to the showbiz life from the inside out, the backstage view, the actor’s life with its soul-destroying auditions and rejections, impossible audiences, the friction of creating a musical together.
The Janes’ first-ever revue at the Fringe in their eight-summer history at the festival — assembled by director Kate Ryan and musical director Janice Flower (a superb pianist/arranger, onstage at the keyboard) — is a fizzy musical comedy affair.
What fun for us that a top-notch cast of four — every size and shape and voice — apply their theatrical wits, musical chops, and comic timing to creating a playful, self-referential context for numbers we’ve probably never heard from musicals we mostly didn’t know about (I speak for myself here and, OK, some “we” do, but viewed through a different lens).
C’mon, jaded Fringe person, you can’t just arrive at a theatre expecting to hear Through A Keyhole from the 1933 Moss Hart/ Noel Coward revue As Thousands Cheer. You just have to feel really happy when you do.
The opening number is borrowed for the occasion from Fiddler’s Tevye and his famous exhortation, amusingly adjusted by the revue Forbidden Broadway (a tradition of its own). Ambition! And as Garett Ross explains wryly, there’s been an outbreak right here in River City and it’s called the Fringe: “250,000 actors trying their best not to end up back in their parents’ basement.”
And the show, as per the title, is bookended by another ode to ambition, this one from the ne plus ultra of stage mothers in Gypsy, with a kooky poultry coda.
There are vaudeville scenes, like Jesus (Jarrett Krissa) at a big audition (he’s been on tour, 40 days in the wilderness). It wraps around Good Connections (J.C. is the son of the producer), a number from Scrambled Feet (presented in the day by the Janes’ predecessor Leave It To Jane).
Ross, who has a haunted look about him that’s ideal for rueful comedy, shines as the disaffected half of a musical writing team in a number Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along. Kendra Connor’s crystalline soprano lends itself to the challenges of vintage in all its operetta glory. She nails Noel Coward’s soaring I’ll Follow My Secret Heart.
That hard life in the theatre is something for which eye-watering desire, against the odds-against facteur, is de rigueur: Karina Cox’s knockout version of Best in the World (from the Jerry Herman musical A Day In Hollywood A Night In The Ukraine beautifully captrues the chin-up desperation and hope of it all.
A smart, funny, heartfelt valentine to troupers, on every stage large and small.