PEOPLE PARK, by John Mitchell and Brock Simpson, additional material by Lisa Lambert, directed by Mitchell, with Jonathan Crombie, Lisa Brooke, Doug Morency, Lambert, Mitchell, Simpson and Scott Anderson. Presented by Brock & John at St. Alban's Square (Howland and Barton). July 6-7 and July 13-14 at 6 pm, July 8 at 2 and 4 pm, July 9 at 4 pm, July 15 at noon and 4 pm, July 16 at 7 pm.
Anyone who's scratched his or her head over the earnest message-mongering of musicals like Hair, Godspell and Pippin should take a trip to People Park.
That's the new tribute/send-up by John Mitchell and Brock Simpson, better known as the musical comedy group Brock & John and as the co-creators/performers of musical parodies like Honest Ed: The Bargain Musical.
Originally written and performed at the Rivoli back in 1995, this show was inspired by a student production of Godspell in which Mitchell, Simpson and co-writer Lisa Lambert played street gang members.
"We were the most pathetic street gang in the history of street gangs," says Mitchell, part of the ensemble in last year's Fringe hit The Drowsy Chaperone, penned by Lambert.
"But the experience got us improvising a show based on those love-in musicals, where the characters tend to be passionate and sincere about what they believe in, which turns out to be pretty shallow."
The show, updated for the Fringe, gently hits on all the cliches of the genre, points out Mitchell.
There's a moralistic youth who runs away from his industrialist father and encounters a gang of other youths in a park. There's a quasi-religious theme as he becomes a Christ figure. There's some bad clowning. And since it's set in the Annex's St. Alban's Square, there are plenty of trees for performers to hug while they belt out their sunny tunes with titles like Abracadabra and Everything Good Gets Lost.
"The humour comes from rapidly changing gears," says Mitchell. "One minute there's euphoria, and then a character accuses someone of doing something bad and there's suddenly betrayal."
John Webster's retro costumes should also provide laughs. At one point Scott Anderson sports Indian garb to play a maharishi figure; at another, Jonathan Crombie dons an afro wig to sing a song called Jive Turkey.
"A few years ago, the pseudo-neo-hippie movement was in full swing," says Mitchell. "So we're commenting on that whole fad of kids buying overpriced Birkenstocks and listening to Lenny Kravitz and Edie Brickell."