ALL HAMS ON DECK words and music by Brock Simpson, John Mitchell and Lisa Lambert. Presented by Basement Productions at the Factory Mainspace. August 5 at 6:30 pm, August 7 at 2 pm, August 8 at 9:30 pm, August 11 at 8 pm, August 13 at 11 pm, August 14 at 5 pm. Rating: NNNNN
John Mitchell is one ham who doesn't want to be cured.
As an actor and writer, he's taken part in hilarious retrofitted musicals like Honest Ed: The Bargain Musical, People Park and The Drowsy Chaperone. Now he and writing colleagues Brock Simpson and Lisa Lambert are hoping their latest show, All Hams On Deck , floats.
It's partly an affectionate tribute to sailor musicals like On The Town, where the sailors have 24 hours of shore leave to - what else? - find true love. The twist here is that the sailors have 24 minutes.
"We thought it would hilarious if we could have them find love, lose love, get it back, and throw in a corny ballet sequence," says Mitchell.
All Hams On Deck is really a show-within-a-show. The sailor musical, called Short Leave, is put on by a group of musical comics on the Laugh Boat. The boat's title should prove true. The hoofers on this particular deck include some of the best talents in the country, like Second City vets Doug Morency , Janet Van De Graaff , Jack Mosshammer , Jenny Parsons , Tracy Dawson and Jennifer Whalen . If this ship went down, T.O. would be a lot less funny.
Times have changed, so we read more into those seemingly innocent musicals than did the original audiences. For instance, the sailor thing.
"We touch upon the homoeroticism in them," says Mitchell. "Did Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra really love each other? We'll comment on that. On the other hand, we stayed away from something like the racism in Show Boat. We want people to feel nostalgia without being too uncomfortable."
In an age when musicals are more about events, musicians and even Disney movies, why are Mitchell and crew obsessed with the past?
"I guess we're all a bit out of time," he admits. "There really was a golden era of musicals. When you watch them today, you're aware that some things are quaint, but we try to take all that and filter it through our modern sensibilities.
"If we did the show straight, it would be really corny. We give it context and a level of satire that makes it current. We're walking that very fine line between affectionate tribute and send-up."
SUMMERWORKS a theatre festival of 43 shows, readings and workshops at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst), Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson) and bring-your-own venues. August 4 to 14. $10, festival pass $50. Complete listings, page 83. 416-410-1048, www.summerworks.ca.
See fest reviews and updates at www.nowtoronto.com/summerworks