Top Gun! the musical
book and lyrics by Denis McGrath, music by Scott White, directed by Colin Viebrock, with Drew Carnwath, Dmitry Chepovetsky, David Collins, Steve Gallagher, Alison Lawrence, Rachael McCaig and Mary Francis Moore. Presented by the TG!TM Co-op at the Factory (125 Bathurst). Runs to June 22, Tuesday-Friday 8 pm, Saturday 8 and 10:30 pm, matinee Sunday 2 pm. $20-$30, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Call it the fringe fest dilemma. Outside of the carnivalesque, $8-a-pop atmosphere of the summer festival, even a hit like Top Gun! The Musical - dubbed the most successful show in Fringe history - loses much of its horsepower.With book and lyrics by Denis McGrath and music by Scott White, this satiric look at the creation of a musical based on the Reagan-era Tom Cruise flick fails to reward on second viewing.
There are still lots of laughs around the bad lyrics and mugging in the musical-within-a-musical. Dmitry Chepovetsky stands out again as the dim-witted lead who's blissfully unaware of the homoerotic subtext between his character, Maverick, and Steve Gallagher's flaming Iceman.
The rest of the cast, especially David Collins as a sinister producer called the General, and Alison Lawrence's lovelorn stage manager, reprise their roles with aplomb.
But directed by Colin Viebrock, the work's original flaws stand out more. The constant gay references grate - enough is enough, dontchaknow. The pastiche of musical styles feels uneven, especially in a number almost directly lifted from A Chorus Line. And the lyrics are only occasionally clever, as in the punning on the word "plane" in the best number, the sentimental send-up That Goose Is Cooked. McGrath also gets bonus points for finding a rhyme for the word jejune.
Compared to that other Fringe musical that grew, The Drowsy Chaperone, Top Gun! gets medium marks.
Burn, baby, burn
BURN THIS by Lanford Wilson, directed by Matthew Kutas, with Patrick Garrow, Kathryn Winslow, Neil Girvan and James Greenwood. Presented by Little Fish Co-op at Tallulah's Cabaret (12 Alexander). Runs to June 15, Thursday, Friday and Sunday 7:30 pm, matinee Saturday 2 pm.$15, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNlanford wilson's burn this looks at an incendiary relationship that you'd expect to ignite and then consume itself in the best tradition of flaming romance. You know, hot sexual passion, then nothing. But Wilson's got a few tricks to play, so his writing and, ideally, a pair of strong performances keep stoking the fire.
Choreographer Anna (Kathryn Winslow) lives with two gay men, Larry (James Greenwood) and Robbie, the latter recently killed with his lover in a boating accident. Despite support from Larry and her screenwriter boyfriend Burton (Neil Girvan), Anna can't let go of Robbie, a dancer who seemed her soulmate. The arrival of his brother Pale (Patrick Garrow), drunk, abusive and guilt-ridden, offers her a strange and dangerous release for her feelings.
There's lots to admire in director Matthew Kutas's production, even though the play requires a larger venue. The staging in Tallulah's is sometimes awkward, with actors running up and down the stairs and the theatre's ramp.
Girvan gives Burton a believable energy and three-dimensionality, while Greenwood reveals the warmth and concern behind Larry's campiness. They share a marvellous tender moment near the play's end.
Garrow imbues the complex Pale with an often delirious, animal-like verbal and emotional heat, and with rapidly shifting moods - turning from sweet to sour in three lines - he's a proper focus for the production. But there's little chemistry between Garrow and Winslow, because her restrained, neutral Anna conveys little emotion. We feel and see his pain, passion and bewilderment; hers is rarely suggested.