ARTS Parker in­dulges her ’80s ob­ses­sion with the VSO

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - By

John Lu­cas

icole Parker comes by her love of the mu­sic of the 1980s hon­estly; born in 1978, the mul­ti­fac­eted per­former lived her for­ma­tive years in the decade that brought us the Moon­walk, the com­pact disc, and Reaganomics.

“I was a kid of the ’80s, but I also had an older sis­ter, so what­ever she was lis­ten­ing to as a teenager, I was def­i­nitely into,” Parker says when the Straight reaches her by phone in Wash­ing­ton state, where she’s pre­par­ing to sing as part of an ’80sthemed pro­gram with the Seat­tle Sym­phony. “She had her OMD and Tears for Fears posters up on the wall, and Wham! and George Michael. We tried to dance like Michael Jack­son, and I tried to sing like Cyndi Lau­per and Madonna.”

That makes Parker a nat­u­ral choice for the show in which she cur­rently ap­pears, which comes to town this week in a ver­sion that also fea­tures singer Aaron Fin­ley and mem­bers of the Van­cou­ver Sym­phony Orches­tra, all un­der the ba­ton of con­duc­tor Stu­art Chafetz.

Songs such as “Care­less Whis­per”, “The Fi­nal Count­down”, “Ad­dicted to Love”, and “In the Air Tonight” might seem out of place in a sym­phony hall, but Parker points out that the ar­range­ments (most of them by com­poser Sam Shoup) re­quire the skill and pre­ci­sion of an orches­tra.

“A lot of the mu­sic cer­tainly ap­peals to the pop sen­si­bil­ity, but at the same time I’d say what’s cool about a lot of these ar­range­ments is that I don’t think they could be played by peo­ple with­out clas­si­cal train­ing,” she says. “There’s a ver­sion of ‘Smooth Crim­i­nal’ that fea­tures a vi­o­lin solo that to me is as com­pli­cated-sound­ing as any clas­si­cal piece, and it’s a pretty ex­tra­or­di­nary mo­ment and a fea­ture for the first vi­o­lin, so I’m re­ally ex­cited for ev­ery­one to see that. It’s one of those great mo­ments when you fuse a pop tune with clas­si­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties, and I think it’s a nice ex­am­ple of that fu­sion.”

Parker ought to be up to the chal­lenge of bridg­ing those mu­si­cal worlds. Her CV in­cludes the role of Pam­ina in The Magic Flute as well as a stint play­ing El­phaba in both the Broad­way and tour­ing pro­duc­tions of Wicked. She is likely best-known, though, as a cast mem­ber of MADTV, where for six sea­sons she did im­pres­sions of ev­ery­one from Hil­lary Clin­ton and Sarah Palin to Jessica Simp­son and Brit­ney Spears.

She has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with cos­tume changes, then, which serves her well in the cur­rent show. Ev­ery­one on-stage is decked out in ’80s at­tire, and au­di­ence mem­bers are en­cour­aged to come dressed in their own era-ap­pro­pri­ate out­fits, whether they be head-to-toe acid-wash-denim en­sem­bles or Ghost­busters jump­suits.

“We re­ally stepped up our game this year,” Parker says. “We’re re­ally com­ing in hard with the ’80s out­fits, so the more peo­ple dress up, the less ridicu­lous we’ll look.”

Kath­leen Oliver

A YEAR AF­TER his first testos­terone in­jec­tion, Kit Red­stone faces an­other mile­stone in his tran­si­tion: his first visit to a men’s locker room. Kit won­ders, “Does the way we look cre­ate our per­son­al­ity or does our per­son­al­ity cre­ate the way we look?”

Testos­terone

is the au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal tale of Kit’s pass­ing through this sweaty gaunt­let and, more broadly, into man­hood. Red­stone de­scribes it ex­plic­itly as “a jour­ney into my head”.

The show has a bit of a manic cabaret vibe, as we jounce from child­hood mem­o­ries to fan­tasies to the mun­dane re­al­ity of the locker room. There are some dance num­bers, chore­ographed se­quences, and Wil­liam Don­ald­son as the Diva has se­ri­ous pipes. He belts out tunes by Chaka Khan and the Weather Girls. I, for one, have never be­fore heard Kelis’s “My Milk­shake” chanted as a kind of trans in­can­ta­tion.

At the cen­tre of it all is Red­stone, who plays him­self. He’s our guide and cipher as he in­ves­ti­gates “what on Earth it means to be a man”. He cov­ers a num­ber of highly rel­e­vant cul­tural touch­points—sports fel­low­ship, pickup artistry, sex­ual ha­rass­ment—but also con­fronts the ter­ri­fy­ing nor­mal­i­ties of life in the locker room. Red­stone’s is a very bar­ing and, there­fore, brave per­for­mance.

Two other per­form­ers, Matthew Wells and Ju­lian Spooner, round out the cast. Spooner has a par­tic­u­larly good turn in a mono­logue where he ha­rangues us about 10,000 years of toxic mas­culin­ity, all “be­cause of the co­in­ci­dence of a chro­mo­some”.

Al­berta Jones’s set puts mas­culin­ity un­der the mi­cro­scope. The stage is framed by benches and banks of lock­ers, so that the play­ing space is quite tight. How­ever, Jones has added a huge sloped mir­ror on the up­stage side of the space, en­abling us to wit­ness small mo­ments in re­flec­tion.

There were also some sub­tleties in Jones’s cos­tume de­signs. When Red­stone en­ters, he is wear­ing Ever­last shorts, clas­si­cally a box­ing brand. This feels quite ap­pro­pri­ate, as Red­stone has en­tered a kind of box­ing ring.

Testos­terone

has a ram­shackle loose­ness to it, which I ap­pre­ci­ated. How­ever, I did oc­ca­sion­ally wish that Spooner, who di­rected the show, had paid more at­ten­tion to the seams be­tween the scenes. Those tran­si­tional mo­ments felt clunky at times.

This is the third play I’ve re­viewed in the last two years set in a male bath­room or locker room. As theatre gets more di­verse and in­clu­sive, are we also tak­ing a sec­ond look at these smelly cham­bers of mas­culin­ity?

If you don’t mind spend­ing 65 min­utes in this men’s room, you’ll find Testos­terone a charm­ing, heart­felt show that looks be­yond the linoleum.

Darren Bare­foot

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