Fringe review: Statistics adds up to a promising musical

Statistics Toronto Fringe 2022
Rehearsal photo of Rachel Mundy by Elijah Goldstein

STATISTICS by Shreya Jha (Ladyville Productions/Toronto Fringe Festival). At Ada Slaight Hall (585 Dundas East). July 11 at 4:15 pm, July 14 at 5 pm, July 16 at 2:45 pm, July 17 at 8:30 pm. See listing. Rating: NNN


If Shreya Jha’s Statistics were an assignment, it would receive top marks for ambition.

The composer, lyricist, playwright and medical student has created a musical that contrasts the lives of two female scientists.

In 1951 England, chemist and crystallographer Rosalind Franklin (Rachel Mundy) is tirelessly working on experiments that will, eventually, lead to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Some 75 years later, pre-med student Rose (Maddie Sekulin) is attempting to finish her medical school application and trying to articulate what Franklin’s life and work means to her.

The first third of the musical is filled with some awkward exposition, and at times Jha hammers home the misogyny of the earlier era a little too bluntly, particularly in the broad depiction of James Watson (Oliver Daniel) and Francis Crick (Nam Nguyen), who along with Franklin’s colleague, Maurice Wilkins (Michael Manning), would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, leaving her own contributions unrecognized for years.

But a number in which two teams of researchers are working towards a big breakthrough is dramatically and musically exciting, and there’s real poignancy in how Franklin’s illness and pure commitment to science affects Rose’s approach to her own young career.

Mundy, Sekulin and Colette Richardson – as Rose’s university friend Angie – deliver warm, sincere performances. And although the songs themselves are uneven, the five-person orchestra, under music director Michael Henley-Dunbar, performs them with gusto.

@glennsumi

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