You can't Handel this brilliant musical! FIVE STARS!

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 BootsNot 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.

Hallelujah!

5 out of 5 - Mike Ross

Four Out of Five Stars - Edmonton Journal

Precisely 259 years after his death, Baroque composer George Frideric Handel is zapped back to life by God, and, His Almightiness has some requests.

Show tune requests, that is.

So, here’s Handel (Edmonton singer and voice teacher Ron Long) — creator of The Messiah, composer for British royalty — clad in his embroidered jacket, powdered wig and short pants, standing at the altar in Holy Trinity Anglican Church, leafing through the Lord’s playlist.

At first, it appear’s Long’s — er, God’s song selection is a device to teach us more about Handel’s life, until recurrent tunes about identity and belonging become awfully specific.

Long covers Stephen Sondheim’s “Getting Married Today,” “Not My Father’s Son” from Kinky Boots, and “Gay or European?” from Legally Blonde, The Musical. Also, “Better with a Man,” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

With not-so-subtle encouragement from the Lord in the form of thunder and lightning, Handel ultimately confronts more recent speculation about his sexual orientation.

Accompanied by pianist and organist Julia Davis, Long ultimately emboldens Handel to embrace his identity.

“I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses,” Long intones from the musical La Cage Aux Folles.

It’s a particularly powerful sound to behold soaring across the cavernous church sanctuary.

Musical theatre fans will particularly enjoy this show. Bonus: you don’t even have to know about, or appreciate, classical music to enjoy the journey.

— Janet French

First review is in... Four Stars!

I have something of a weakness for history delivered via musical, so “Handel: The Musical” is pretty up my alley. Ron Long takes on the eponymous role to deliver some Handel bio facts and address some historical speculation between Broadway musical numbers in a set list chosen by God. But it soon becomes apparent that all the songs have a pretty set theme. Long delivers a Handel that is just a little bit smarmy, and a lot charismatic. He’s also a divine—or at least divinely inspired—singer, and the Holy Trinity Anglican Church’s Sanctuary is the perfect setting for him to argue with God. About mid-way through it started to feel like the production was one big, groan-inducing joke, but it found redemption in the climax and denouement. Ultimately, Long’s performance is most definitely something you should see. - Chelsea Novak from edmontonfringe.ca