THIS COULD BE LOVE by Brock Simpson, directed by John Mitchell. Presented by Harry Gadsby Theatricals at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick). Opens tonight (Thursday, February 13) and runs to March 1, Monday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 7 and 10 pm, matinee Wednesday 2:30 pm. $15-$30. 416-343-0011. Rating: NNNNN
Quick: how many Canadian musicals can you name? Thought so. The phrase is practically an oxymoron.But if Brock Simpson has his way, that should all change. He's part of one of the city's hardest-working, and least appreciated, groups -- musical theatre artists.
"We're not really a community. We're more like a ghetto, a support club," says Simpson, who's collaborated with fellow musical theatre types Lisa Lambert, Don McKellar, John Mitchell and a slew of others on musicals such as Honest Ed: The Bargain Musical and People Park.
Simpson's new romantic comedy, This Could Be Love, opens tonight at the Poor Alex. For Simpson, this could be a breakthrough.
The show follows two singles (Jonathan Wilson and Krista Sutton) who've been stood up by their dates, commiserate and then agree to -- what the fuck -- fall in love.
Despite the old-fashioned Shop Around The Corner feel of the work, Simpson points out a subtle socio-political undercurrent. Both characters are alienated, distanced from themselves by soul-destroying jobs: he works for a jingle corporation; she's an undercover shopper at a mega-store.
"Although it's not in the forefront, there's an anti-corporate or anti-globalist idea," says Simpson. "I didn't want to write something devoid of content, even though musicals lend themselves to lightness, lyricism and romance. Gilbert and Sullivan and the Gershwins always dealt with issues. You can do it without assaulting, or insulting, people."
Writing a show for two performers is a savvy production move. If it's a hit it could be mounted anywhere cheaply. But it also presents lots of artistic challenges.
"When you have 12 characters and an expansive narrative, you can take all these detours," laughs Simpson, who toyed with the idea of adding a third performer, maybe even the piano player, to take on multiple roles.
"With a big show you can write a song for this character, that ensemble, and before you know it the thing's done. With two people there's nowhere to hide. You can't cut away to anyone."
While Simpson usually writes his shows' music and lyrics, he's also done the book for this show, more out of necessity than choice.
"In Toronto we have these great, hilarious playwrights, but it's difficult getting them interested in writing a musical," he says. "Basically, every time the script gets exciting they'd have to step aside and let the songs happen. Who wants to do that?"
Simpson says he wishes there were more cooperation between the musical theatre world and so-called legit theatre. Most of the musical types he knows hail from the worlds of comedy and musical revues. And there's lots of untapped talent in the music scene.
"We have these great songwriters like Bob Snider, Kurt Swinghammer and Lori Cullen," he says. "It'd be fascinating to commission them to write a score and just see what happens. We need people who don't care about the previous 150 years of history of the genre."firstname.lastname@example.org