Review: Dirty Laundry Musical – There’s No Place Like Rome
I thought February was going to be a quiet month for musical theatre in Calgary and then Dirty Laundry and Alberta Theatre Project’s Enbridge PlayRite’s Festival each snuck a musical into their normally non-musical lineup, so of course, I had to check them out last week. I did my Ash Rizin review first since they had another show on Saturday night, and Dirty Laundry doesn’t perform again until tonight.
February 13th was laundry night in ancient Rome with “Calgary’s only all-live, all-improvised soap opera” for their annual all-musical episode. I’ve gotten to know this group a bit this year because of my Strictly Show Tunes Sing-Along at The Auburn, Calgary’s theatre bar. Dirty Laundry performs in the Lunchbox Theatre space next door. Since our two shows are pretty much the only theatre-related action on Monday nights, and we both hang out at The Auburn, I chose to do my thing on their monthly night off so we don’t compete with each other. I saw a couple of their shows last fall, and although they usually throw a song or two in the mix, I was pretty excited to hear they were going to do an all-musical episode. As if improv isn’t hard enough! Co-producer and director Aaron Coates told me after the show that Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is one of his favourite musicals, so he had been looking forward to this one all year as well. We agreed that Mr. Sondheim would forgive them for not attempting any of his works.
This season’s theme is ancient Rome and the convoluted intertwining stories of the Testosteronus and Flavius households. With characters named Fellatia (Cheryl Hutton), Hiramus Succubus (Chris Enright), Chlamydia (Tammy Roberts), Testicles (Chantal Peron), Diptheria (Nicole Zylstra), Urethra (Karen Johnson-Diamond), Heppa Titamus (Layne Fox), Flava (C. Adam Leigh), Harrianus (Stafford Perry) and Herpes, Messenger of the Gods ((Trevor Rueger) who on Monday was found praying to the God of False Promises, Enronius), you can kind of guess where the humour is going to go, at least some of the time but it’s not (quite) as juvenile as you might expect – and if you like juvenile humour, there’s plenty of that too. Definitely for adults only, though. It’s nice to know they post the plots from previous episodes on their website so you catch up if you miss an episode (or several), but it’s not essential to do that – you can still pick up the thread even if you just drop in for one show. And you might even be lucky enough to catch one of their guest stars, which is always a treat.
The theatre was packed, even considering last Monday’s freak snowstorm, if it’s possible to consider a sudden snowstorm unusual in the middle of February – well, maybe this winter. There are obviously lots of loyal followers, along with the relative newcomers like me and my two friends from the Calgary Musicals MeetUp Group. In addition to doing their usual fine acting jobs, the largely professional cast did a great job with the music, most of which was original. On the whole, they were pretty decent singers, even if it’s pretty obvious most of them would prefer not to! Co-producer Karen Johnson-Diamond told me after the show that a few of their performers find themselves conveniently unavailable this time of year. Go figure.
In addition to solo numbers, there were some really interesting duets and back up choruses, and even some dancing, if only out of desperation (when in doubt, dance). I particularly enjoyed the singing telegrams where Chlamydia first berates her boyfriend, Harrianus, for not killing her uncle/his new adopted father so they can run away together, and he sends her his less than polite response, complete with back-up singers (who struggled until Herpes said there was a sale on gospel this week, so they might want to try that).
Even in their regular episodes, I’ve been impressed with virtuoso keyboard player Cam Ascroft’s wide repertoire and sense of musical humour – he always seems to be able to find the right song for the moment. And this is his show to shine, and work his butt off.
All in all, well worth the trip to the Calgary Tower on a cold Monday night. I’m sure the cast will be glad to get back to their usual non-singing routine, but I for one, am looking forward to next year.
Dirty Laundry runs most Monday nights at 7:30PM (including the Family Day Holiday today) at Lunchbox Theatre (and when they don’t run, my Strictly Show Tunes Sing-Along does, so come on down to the Tower anyway. There will always be something going on). Their shows do occasionally sell out, so it’s worth purchasing ahead. Seating is unassigned and the keeners get there early, so you may want to do the same if you want a good seat.
For more information go to Dirty Laundry