IT'S A WONDERFUL TORONTO by Matt Baram, music by Waylen Miki (National Theatre of the World). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). To December 22. $20-$30. 416-504-7529. See listing. Rating: NNN
Pretty much the only silver lining to Rob Ford's embarrassing tenure at City Hall has been that his string of face-palm-inducing gaffes makes for great comedy. Writer Matt Baram (Second City) and composer Waylen Miki (An Inconvenient Musical, SARSical) mine this cache of comic gold in their hilarious Christmas-themed panto about the embattled mayor.
Framed as a troubled tech rehearsal for a holiday telethon starring Ford (Paul Bates), the show is basically a vehicle for airing the shockingly long laundry list of public blunders the mayor has committed over the past two years, including all those half-baked vapid statements, graceless confrontations and difficulties keeping his balance.
Bates's spot-on impression of Ford provokes constant laughs. Despite looking nothing like the man, he's mastered the mayor's nasal whine and halting mannerisms to the point where you can close your eyes and imagine you're at City Hall - or more likely at a Don Bosco Eagles practice.
Other characters in the show include the mayor's football-playing niece Krista Ford (Jenna Warriner), an Equity-obsessed actor (Ashley Botting), an image consultant (Aurora Browne) and the framing show's eternally frustrated director (Brandon Firla), who, as the recently fired artistic director of the Factigon Theatre, is an amusing amalgam of local playwrights Ken Gass and Michael Healey.
Miki's silly tunes are serviceable but clearly not the comic focus, except in one fictional episode in which Ford rewrites Mele Kalikimaka and unintentionally loads it with insensitive ethnic stereotypes.
Despite the laugh-a-minute pace, the panto genre has a built-in lack of intellectual depth, so while the critique of the mayor is scathing, it's clearly intended for the already converted.
While the fact that Ford is mayor (at least for now) remains the ultimate joke on the citizens of Toronto, an hour of laughs at his expense makes things go down a little bit easier.