REAL LIVE GIRL created and performed by Damien Atkins, directed by David Oiye. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to December 21, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Ok, let me be clear from the start. Damien Atkins is a real live talent. Need proof? Check out Real Live Girl , his double Dora winner remounted - with a few changes - at Buddies . An exploration of Atkins's feelings about his feminine side, the show alternates the writer/performer's monologues with tunes originally written for women to sing.
Right from the first workshop, Atkins has been a masterful singing actor.
His plaintive top range gives nuanced meanings to such songs as Roxie, I Had Myself A True Love and I Enjoy Being A Girl. I've seen the show four times and been entertained at each performance.
And from the outset, Atkins has worked marvellously with musical director John Hughes .
The growth this time around is in the series of characters whose lives prompt the songs. Atkins and director David Oiye have tweaked and tightened the material so the links are more assured, and both the comic and touching elements stand out more clearly.
Vulnerability and strength combine in the characters, no more so than in the surprising transition from talking about a fearsome schoolyard bully to singing I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.
He's a good ad-libber, too. On opening night, cheers from outside the theatre prompted a clever comment about The Producers, which was premiering down the street.
At the show's end, Atkins admits that he can't really know the man he is until he's acknowledged and become all the women within him. He celebrates the realization with an encore, a zippy rendition of the drama/drag queen's paean I Will Survive that brings the house down.