BWW Review: MADDIE'S KARAOKE BIRTHDAY PARTY at the Toronto Fringe Festival is a Party Not to be Missed!
If you are looking for an original musical to see at the Toronto Fringe Festival, look no further than MADDIE'S KARAOKE BIRTHDAY PARTY over at the Monarch Tavern. Written by Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde, and Directed by Byron Laviolette, this semi-immersive musical is clever and funny, and the performances are excellent. One might think based on the title that the performers would be singing popular karaoke songs, but in fact, everything is original music (either that, or I'm just really out of the loop on what music is popular with the kids these days!) Between the bountiful balloons, packed house, and pumping music, this really does feel like a party! The story also provides a touching display of the good the bad, the ugly...and the beautiful, of millennial friendships. This one shouldn't be missed!
MADDIE'S KARAOKE BIRTHDAY Party aka #MKBP takes place at the site of a would-be birthday party for Maddie (Kelly Holiff)...the problem is, no one knows where she is! The show must go on, however, and so Karaoke Jeff (an entertainingly dry Mark Andrada) starts calling party-goers up to say a little something about Maddie and do a karaoke number. One by one, some of Maddie's closest friends...or not-close-at-all acquaintances get up and perform a ditty. The musical numbers are certainly recognizable in style but they are all brand new, and they are really catchy! Each have clever lyrics with many Toronto-specific shout outs. The humour of each party-goer somehow managing to find a karaoke song with lyrics that say exactly what they are feeling (right down to Maddie's name being in the lyrics up on the screen) never gets old.
The monologues before each karaoke song allow for an immediate insight into each character as well as into their friendship with Maddie. Joseph Zita plays a friend from work, while Shane Hollon plays his date who does not actually know Maddie at all. Their characters are on their second Grindr date and the awkwardness of that fact is on full display. Tess Barao plays Maddie's college friend who is well, just a little bit 'basic'. The character's odd combination of quirkiness and edginess (with some liquid courage) is delightfully funny, and an unexpected verse in her song has the audience howling.
As Casey, Maddie's former-middle-school-best-friend-who-might-have-had-a-crush-on-her-and-was-an-accidental-invite-tonight, Erica Peck is great. I really found myself rooting for this friendship to be re-kindled! She also rocks the "overwrought power ballad"! As Maddie's roommate, and the official party organizer, Jeigh Madjus's Wynn is what everyone wants in their best friend. This guy is definitely a Hufflepuff! His singular desire to make sure Maddie has the best birthday ever, is immediately transformed into extreme concern when Maddie eventually arrives and is clearly struggling. Beneath his sweet exterior is a superstar though! His show-stopping number is pretty darn rad.
After hearing everyone's stories about Maddie, the audience has a bit of an idea of who this saintly figure must be. When she arrives, we get something completely different! Kelly Holiff's comic timing, willingness to improvise interactions with audience members, and powerful singing voice are a force to be reckoned with. She commands the entire room... literally...because, I mean, it is her birthday!
Despite the organized chaos of the show doubling as a party (with a bar and everything), the production quality is excellent. Both the sound and lighting are top notch, and are used to great effect during different numbers. The location is used well, and although there are times when it is tough to see everything that is going on, it is worth it for the unique party atmosphere. The combination of actors chatting up guests while in character, and the use of the screen on the back wall for selfies and videos, allow for there to always be a way to follow the story.
This show is so full of heart and energy and fun. There really is only one thing left to say...Okey Dokey! Let's Karaoke!
MADDIE'S KARAOKE BIRTHDAY PARTY is produced by Charcoal Sketch Productions and Goldenberg Productions in association with the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival. It is playing at the Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton St.) on the following dates: July 6 at 8:15 pm, July 7 at 7 pm, July 8 at 6:30 pm, July 9 at 6 pm, July 11 at 8 pm, July 12 at 8:45 pm, July 13 at 8:15 pm, July 14-15 at 7 pm, July 16 at 6 pm.