Nup­tials could use a wed­ding plan­ner

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ali­son Mayes

THE show ti­tle My Mother’s Les­bian Jewish Wic­can Wed­ding couldn’t be more fringe fes­ti­val-es­que, un­less it had the word “sex” wedged in there.

This in­gra­ti­at­ing mu­si­cal com­edy got its start at the 2009 Toronto Fringe Fes­ti­val. And de­spite its ex­panded length (about 100 min­utes with­out in­ter­mis­sion) and the fact that it got picked up for a Toronto run by Mirvish Pro­duc­tions, it’s still a fringe show.

That is, it’s ex­u­ber­ant, goofy and cute, as well as half-baked, in­sub­stan­tial and semia­ma­teur­ish.

There’s been talk of it mak­ing it to Broad­way be­cause it was well re­ceived at the 2010 New York Mu­si­cal Theatre Fes­ti­val. But judg­ing by the Win­nipeg Stu­dio Theatre pro­duc­tion that opened Thurs­day at the RMTC Ware­house, this wed­ding has as much chance of a solid Broad­way run as Kim Kar­dashian’s mar­riage had of sur­viv­ing its first year.

There’s no ques­tion MMLJWW has its heart in a pos­i­tive place with its af­fir­ma­tion of di­ver­sity, self-ac­cep­tance and same-sex mar­riage rights. But charm and an up­lift­ing po­lit­i­cal mes­sage only get you so far.

David Hein and Irene Sankoff, the mar­ried co-cre­ators who based the show on the true story of Hein’s mother, Claire, are novice play­wrights. Their di­a­logue and lyrics sorely lack comic bite and orig­i­nal­ity, while the shal­low nar­ra­tive has lit­tle con­flict or dra­matic shape, com­ing across more like a mu­si­cal re­vue.

The story traces Claire’s post-di­vorce iden­tity quest as she moves from Saska­toon to Ot­tawa in her late 30s, ac­quires a les­bian room­mate, falls in love with the Wic­can Jane, comes to terms with her Jewish her­itage and heads for the crowd-pleas­ing nup­tials promised by the ti­tle.

Annabel Ker­shaw and Rose­mary Doyle, the Toronto leads im­ported to play Claire and Jane, are well matched, vo­cally strong and have con­vinc­ing ro­man­tic chem­istry. Di­rec­tor Kayla Gor­don, though, al­lows a few of Ker­shaw’s mo­ments at the ends of scenes to de­scend into mug­ging.

The gui­tar-strum­ming Hein is so smi­ley and whole­some, he’s al­most in the Ned Flan­ders zone. He nar­rates the au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal tale, of­ten sit­ting with the ca­pa­ble four-piece band.

Scott Peter­son does a fine job of play­ing the teen and univer­sity-age “Davey” in the past, and then in a funny mo­ment, Hein boots RMTC Ware­house To May 20 Tick­ets $22 to $29.50 at 942-6537 or www. mtc.mb.ca/wst

out of five him out of the role and as­sumes it him­self.

Sankoff also plays her­self as Hein’s girl­friend, then wife. The pair are fringe/univer­sity-cal­i­bre per­form­ers. The rest of the 10-per­son cast is un­even, but men­tion should be made of Win­nipeg’s fast-ris­ing Stephanie Sy, a sparkling triple threat who milks ev­ery ounce of com­edy from her en­sem­ble roles. Kami De­silets also shines as the dyke Michelle.

Too many of the num­bers are overly sim­i­lar, mu­si­cally bland and fail to cap­i­tal­ize on their satiric po­ten­tial. But there are sev­eral win­ners, chore­ographed for abun­dant laughs by Brenda Gor­lick.

When Claire’s se­date, cardi­gan-clad ex­hus­band (John Blueth­ner) hears that she’s in­volved with a woman, he has a very funny, porn-in­spired mu­si­cal fan­tasy of “hot les­bian ac­tion.”

The true tale of how Hein’s two moms were in­tro­duced to Sankoff at a Hoot­ers res­tau­rant es­ca­lates into a big, raunchy pro­duc­tion num­ber that’s bouncy in more ways than one.

The song A Short His­tory of Gay Mar­riage, set at a Par­lia­ment Hill gay rights rally, is a pale cousin of the gospel-pop Sea­sons of Love from Rent. Still, it’s emo­tion­ally stir­ring with its an­themic “Le­gal­ize love!” re­frain and evoca­tive use of pro­jected news pho­tos and head­lines.

Pho­tos of the real-life cou­ple’s glo­ri­ously non-tra­di­tional nup­tials are a de­light­ful touch at the end. But like many sin­cere fringe pro­duc­tions that arise out of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, MMLJWW is prob­a­bly too mar­ried to what re­ally hap­pened. A com­pelling mu­si­cal play needs a story arc and some strug­gle be­fore the wed­ding cake is wheeled out.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

The en­sem­ble cast per­forms the up­lift­ing num­ber A Short His­tory of Gay Mar­riage.

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