Registered Critic: Bob Leggett

Jul

Squeeze My Cans

Cathy Schenkelberg is a true treasure, a gifted voice over and stage actress with something to say. There have been quite a few high profile defections from Scientology, but no one has given us as many details as Schenkelberg does. She is brilliant, funny, and high energy as she takes us on this compelling journey to ultimate freedom. As she quotes, “I’m broke, but not broken.” Come be inspired by this amazing true story.

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Jul

meg jo beth amy & louisa

Louisa May Alcott is an American literary treasure, and I’m sure she would have loved this interpretation of her book, which is told from the POV of Alcott as she wrote the stories. Tier5 has created a masterpiece of theater that should appeal to just about every living, breathing human, and director Ariel Francoeur captures every nuance of the story, giving his amazing cast everything they need to bring it to life. Musical director Michelle Walker, who also plays Beth, truly adds to the process with original and borrowed music, leading the rest of the cast to bring their all to their performances.

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Jul

How I Became A Superhero

It was an honor to check out his show. It paid homage to the MCU, complete with cartoon intros to each scene and a post-credits final scene. The show is hilarious in that it does not take itself too seriously. Every cast member turned in amazing performances, making this one of the “must see” shows of HFF19, especially if you are a Marvel fan. Not only that, it has what we think is the best flyer and poster.

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Jul

POCKETS

Thank God for Robot Teammate. After creating the amazing musicals Turbulence and Thug Tunnel, they have truly knocked it out of the park with a walk off, two-out grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. They still rely on their “core” crew, but this time around have added an entire company of worthy performers to the mix. Hats off to Kat Primeau (Duchess), Chris Bramante (Veegan), Molly Dworsky (Bellamina “Pockets”) and Dave Reynolds (Rob Cryer/ Barkley St. Piggins/Jim Val Jim) for their incredible work on this show. We also congratulate and thank the rest of the cast for their great support and breathtaking performances. Last but not least, three cheers to Branson NeJame and the rest of his amazing band for their incredible live accompaniment. If you love great musicals, this one is a definite contender for this year’s Best Musical.

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Jul

Son of a Bitch

Son of a Bitch is a brilliant piece of historical fiction that captures the spirit of the intriguing story of Lee Atwater and his role in the 1988 Presidential elections that resulted in George Bush‘s victory over the more popular Michael Dukakis. Director Billy Ray Brewton has perfectly captured the intelligent writing of Lucy Gillespie, with amazing performances from Ben Hethcoat as Atwater, Dennis Gersten as Vice-President Bush, Luke Forbes as “Jr.,” and David McElwee as the Vice-President’s Chief of Staff Jim. Chloe Dworkin (Cass) and Corsica Wilson (Gladys) turned in excellent supporting performances. If you care about politics, then this is a must see.

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Jul

Temple Tantrum

Kimleigh Smith has directed a very interesting story of survival from a cult that led to freedom for Nicole Steinwedell. The show felt like Steinwedell was the poster child for ADHD, as she told her story in short bursts of non-stop energy. Thank goodness she summarized it all during the final 10 minutes, because it was hard to keep up as she hopped from event to event in a truly non-linear approach. She definitely kept her sold-out house intrigued and engaged, and for that alone she should be praised. See it for yourself and you’ll know what we mean. Thanks for shedding light on this important story of triumph over emotional abuse.

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Jul

The Mayor's Debate of Tranquility, Nebraska

If you’ve spent much time at the Fringe, then you’ve probably seen Jim Hanna in at least one show. If you haven’t, then this is the show to see. Not only is he part of the amazing cast, but he also wrote this masterpiece that mixes politics with the supernatural. The magical cast of Hanna, Emily Dorsett, Kate Hellen and Lucie Beeby will whisk you away and provide a thought-provoking look at small town politics. There is so much great humor in this show, and the chemistry of these four is palpable. Suffice it to say that it stands as one of the best comedies at this year’s Fringe, and definitely worthy of your time and money.

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Jul

Squeeze My Cabaret

Back in 2017, Cathy Schenkelberg created the incredibly popular Fringe show Squeeze my Cans. She’s back with a musical version that is naughty, funny and so much fun, and once again pokes fun at the cult to which she gave 20 years of her life and nearly $1 million. This lady has an incredible voice, and a wicked sense of humor, and it all comes out during this show. If you aren’t worried about retribution, go and enjoy this “take no prisoners” musical cabaret.

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Jul

Straight White Men Trying to Woke

Chris Valente has been a part of the Fringe for many years but I have never been able to make any of his previous shows. Luckily, I was able to squeeze this one in, and very glad I did. He has written five five hilarious vignettes that are presented by an amazing cast that included Brian Lally, Steve Brewster, and Victoria Ippolito on “Fandom,” William Gabriel Grier and Valenti on “Polite Racism,” Jim Nieb, Ian Gray and Anna Luiza on “Suicide Pact,” Jeff Elam, Ippolito and Christine Ditillio on “Brittle Trombone,” and Gray, Valenti, Nieb, Brewster, Lally, Luiza and Grier on “Fantasy Football.” It was a humorous way to address these serious issues, and was well received. Come on out and laugh at these white man “mistakes.”

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Jul

Shiva For Anne Frank

Like many of you, I read The Diary of Anne Frank in school, and never knew there was so much more to the story. Comedian Rachel McKay Steele delivers a moving and emotional tribute to the legacy of Anne Frank, and teaches us Goy a thing or two about the Jewish faith. This show will make you laugh (a lot), but it will also break your heart, and (hopefully) leave you with a desire to do a better job at being less judgmental. She also taught us the importance of noshing. Come early and enjoy the treats.

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Jul

Human Fountains

This show lifted physical theater to an entirely new level. Now pared down to three performers (Benjamin Tillis, Sam Kaufman and Joel Lowinger), they wasted no time to wowing the audience with their “human interpretation of the Bellagio fountains in Vegas.” The show was magical from start to finish, and told with amazing music and absolutely no words. Each performer had his moment and the chemistry between the three was palpable. It was quite obvious that they loved what they were doing, and their audience interaction and involvement weresome of the best we have ever seen at Fringe. This show may very well turn out to be the surprise hit of the Festival.

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Jul

Raised By Wolves

Once again a brave solo artist has given us an absolute gem that is easily one of the best, if not the best, show at HFF19. All the way from Canada comes the compelling and emotionally draining story of Marla Black, and I was proud to be crying by the end of the show. I learned so much about the pack structure of wolves and sled dogs, and how it applies to every day living. This was a Ted Talk/Seminar disguised as a Fringe show, and would be a bargain at ten times the price. Don’t miss this priceless and thought-provoking show.

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Jul

If We Run

I immediately fell in love with Katie Oliver the second she appeared on stage. This two hander handles the serious question of choice – whether you go the “safe” route or go out on a limb and follow your heart. We won’t tell you what she choice, but the journey to that decision is what drives the show. Hats off also to Dingani Beza, who proved to be a worthy companion on this fun ride.

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Jun

A Bit Much

I met Stacy Dymalski last year when I saw her show The Other Side of that Razor Ribbon. This year’s show revealed an entirely different side of her amazing life. This one was more relatable, and filled with brilliant comedic moments. She held the audience in the palm of her hand, and we will forever be changed by her willingness to make herself vulnerable. The glaring lesson I learned was how stupid it is to try and hide who you are just to get people to like you. If they can’t take you at face value, then they don’t deserve to be a part of your life. Don’t sell yourself short.

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Jun

The Same Room

Kelly Pierre has written one of the most compelling shows of HFF19. Scott Golden has captured her intent and directed a show that is worthy of attention, praise and awards. Not only did Pierre write the play, but she appears with the amazing Fringe virgin Sam Sheeks in this outstanding two-hander. The play begs the question – what does it take for us to heal, forgive and have compassion on those with whom we interact? The Same Room is truly a MUST-SEE at HFF19, and definitely worth checking out

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Jun

Saving Cain

here are only a handful of “can’t miss” writers at the Fringe, and Aaron Kozak is definitely on that list. His latest, Saving Cain, is an extremely well crafted masterpiece that shines new light on the religious right and those that can’t meet their standards.

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Jun

Sorry About My Friend

Although it wasn’t quite what we’re looking for Award-wise, it was an impressive show that addressed the ever-growing college problem of alcohol abuse. The show is co-written by Scott’s real-life college roommate Xan Herring, and based on a true story. This two-hander delivers its point through a series of comedic glimpses into four years of being college roommates, with a very serious ending.

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Jun

CORINA, From Lap Dance to Sundance

Her show tells her back story of growing up in a musical family and working in a strip club to pay for acting classes and head shots. With the assistance of the talented Jessica Lynn Johnson, Calderon delivers a masterpiece, keeping the story real as she examines her path to the silver screen. This show is a strong candidate for best solo show at Fringe this year.

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Jun

Wigfield

Last year we almost missed out on the stunning Pamela Eberhardt show The Runaway Clone, but thanks to the persistence of Scott Golden, we made it just before the end of its run. This year Eberhardt has adapted a best-selling book into a project of love that has been ongoing for 15 years, and in the process has delivered one of the true gems of HFF19.

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Jun

FERTILE: A Conversation About the Expectation of Procreation

So many of us have always taken having children for granted. Thanks to the comic genius of Heather Dowling, we will never think of that topic in the same way we have before. Dowling delivered a gem in her last Fringe show back in 2015, the only year we did not attend, so we were determined to catch her latest show, and we’re so glad we did. She walked us through all the nuances of the assisted fertility industry, keeping this serious subject light-hearted and full of memorable moments.

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