You may have seen a touching coming-out-of-the-closet tale at the Fringe – but never one like this.
And you may have seen a Broadway show tune revue – but never one like this.
Elegantly combined in Handel: The Musical! (Stage 16), the result is sublime.
George Frederick Handel is arguably the most popular composer who ever lived. Everybody knows the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. Everybody. Don’t even bother to argue. It’s only four notes. But what notes!
Edmonton playwright Ron Long has written a winner, and is perfect in the titular role. He’s a fine singer who delivers an emotional punch to his performances, with a strong range betwixt tenor and baritone; he’s a convincing actor – especially festooned in the upper class male fashion of the 18th Century – and a master of comedy and timing.
Long came up with a hell of a story, too: Since Handel arrived in Heaven in 1759, “I have fallen in love with your Broadway,” he tells us, and so God has allowed the great composer to come back to Earth to perform one night of show tunes. Just one catch: God picks the songs. George is happy to oblige.
With selections that include Not My Father’s Son from Kinky Boots, Not Getting Married Today from Stephen Sondheim’s Company, and I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folles, it slowly dawns on Handel that “this is not your standard Broadway repertoire.” He wonders what God is up to. That God, what a trickster! You can see where this is going.
Along with masterful live piano accompaniment from Julia Davis, the audience also has a role in this play. As mentioned, everyone knows the Hallelujah Chorus – all four notes – and so Handel bids his audience sing it, first separating the “tops and bottoms” (sopranos and basses) teaching them their respective parts, before asking, “Now who here self-identifies as an alto?” When it’s all arranged, the Holy Trinity Anglican Church Sanctuary Space (you couldn’t ask for a more fitting venue) echoes with glorious four-part harmonies of those four notes written 275 years ago – or close enough for rock ‘n’ roll.
5 out of 5 - Mike Ross