Caught Stratford actor Bruce Dow 's late-night cabaret show Bruce Dow Goes Bananas a week or so ago, part of the Stratford Summer Music series. And while we expected that he might throw some of the yellow fruit to the audience or show off a Carmen Miranda hat, instead we got an evening of songs delivered by the second bananas in musical productions, those secondary figures who have some great tunes but never take the final bow.
This summer Dow's playing the Baker in Stephen Sondheim 's Into The Woods , so it's no surprise that the cabaret included Sondheim melodies from Follies, Company and Merrily We Roll Along. In these and other pieces - from Chicago, Cabaret, The Most Happy Fella, Titanic and his own show, Hard Hats - Dow proves he can turn a song into an emotion-filled story and give it real personality.
Amazing that after five shows in three days and this midnight concert he still had the energy to end the evening with the skyrocketing Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat, the Guys And Dolls song he performed onstage at the festival last summer. It's worth checking out Dow's new CD, Lucky To Be Me, for some memorable singing.
A look at the Toronto arts scene of the 90s (and maybe today?), A Brush With Death sketches in its characters but never fills them out. Mulling over the death of a local celebrity in their circle and planning a memorial for him, a quartet of artists offer some thoughts about the local art world and, unknowingly, insights about themselves.
The script, by K. Michael Gordon and Liz Hunt , has the occasional good zinger about poseurs, sponsors and the unreliability of success. But in addition to the fact that there's not much to the figures we meet, the work's narrative has a forced quality. Staging it in the Cameron, an artists' hangout in its own right, creates the proper mood, but atmosphere can't make up for the play's flaws.
Adrian Griffin gives a nicely over-the-top energy to the pretentious Randy, who recalls his glory days as a visual artist in New York City. Too bad the writing fails to give Darryl Pring as the other visual artist and Jenn Hall as a poet/performer much to work with. Jeffrey Aarles does better as Christopher, the writer whose fulsome language helps define the self-centred scribe.