The 8th Edition of CETM’s Next Wave – Canada’s Festival for New Musical Theatre kicked off this Wednesday, September 14th with the world premiere of A SONG OF FICTION – A New Musical presented by Kaleidoscope Theatre Montreal. Playing for only 2 more performances on the 15th and 16th at 9PM at Salle Paul Buissonneau (3819 Calixa Lavallée Ave.), this original new works by playwright, composer, lyricist and director Trevor Barrette is an intriguing take on the trials and troubles of separating real life from fantasy when it comes to the process of creating art.
A musical of a musical, A Song of Fiction is a rapid-fire, two-day account of the lives of childhood penpals and friends Max (Lee Clapp) and Aaron (David Noel) who have come together after being commissioned to compose and write, respectively, a new musical theatre piece. When they start to draw from their own relationship problems and to dig into the dark depths of their private lives to find inspiration, however, their work heavily begins to reflect their inner turmoil, triggering further distress and madness.
With only 30 days left to submit their collaborative creation of 75 minutes of cohesive book, music, and lyrics, Max and Aaron’s frantic pressure of coming up with a compelling storyline and resolution for their two main fictional characters is building up. Mason (Sean Colby), they name and decide, is an ambitious young gay man struggling with his parents’ divorce who has recently left the suburbs for the city to pursue his aspiration of becoming a successful singer-songwriter. Jesse (Jonathan Patterson), we learn, is the dark, tall, handsome and mysterious waiter who takes a liking to the newcomer and brings him under his wing. “On Top of the World”, they serendipitously meet, salsa dance the night away, and get cozy in one of Jesse’s up-for-rent downtown pads.
As the creative duo brainstorm the unfolding of their protagonists’ fiery but complicated affair in Max’s eclectic Montreal apartment, elements of their own personal drama surface. Caught up in their own ideals of love and success, they bicker, argue, and clash in developing their characters’ motives and fateful actions. Slowly but inevitably, however, they find themselves lost in intertwining their realities with the imaginary lives that they’ve fabricated for their leading men and project their unfulfilled desires onto them. What’s real and what isn’t, no one can quite tell, but disappointment, envy, anger, guilt, and heartbreak are strangers to none.
Reflecting the inherent “work in progress” nature of the narrative, A Song of Fiction takes form in an acoustic concert or reading of sorts; as Max plays his keyboard and Aaron ouvertly materializes his script, the guitar-strumming Mason and tap-dancing Jesse take cue and simultaneously reenact the tentative – and highly amusing – scenarios that are being constructed for them. (When left alone to their own devices, hilarity ensues).
The powerhouse quartet of actors form a true ensemble and each equally contributes in fully extracting and expressing the desires and vices of their individual characters. David Noel is charming and engaging as the quirky, anxious playwright and Lee Clapp provides for a balancing contrast as the virtuoso but more subdued musical composer. The dynamic duo of Sean Colby and Jonathan Patterson bring their lines to spirited life, quite literally, and have believably chemistry among them.
Patterson and Barette here both take choreography credits. The dance breaks, while inoperative in advancing the plot, are a delightful addition to the production and can be welcomed as a gentle nod to the multidisciplinary nature of musical theatre. A Song of Fiction is a musical by musical connoisseurs for musical connoisseurs (but not exclusive to them) and a genuine, heartfelt love letter to the art form.
A departure from the razzle-dazzle of their widely popular and critically acclaimed Captain Aurora superhero musicals, Kaleidoscope Theatre’s latest original production is more book-focused, deep-seated, and, well…arguably closer to home. A compelling feat in storytelling, it speaks openly of the struggles of any creative process and brings to the forefront themes of the human search for identity, meaning, and connection. When the lines between reality and fiction become blurred, how do we bring ourselves to face and accept the truth while coping with our frustrations of unmet expectations? How far should we go in terms of looking to our own stories for inspiration in art? Ultimately, how do we stay grounded without losing sight of our dreams and hopes?
A Song of Fiction plays at the Next Wave Festival for only 2 more performances on September 15th & 16th at 9PM at Salle Paul Buissonneau (3819 Calixa Lavallée Ave., Montréal, H2L 3A7). Tickets can be purchased at the venue door or in advance online. General admission: 20$ | Students / Artists: 18$ | Box office: firstname.lastname@example.org / 514-504-9339
Running time: approximately 1h15m
For mature audiences 18+
Director, producer and stage manager: Trevor Barrette | Musical director: Luce Belanger | Technical director, lighting and sound designer: Kevin Conforti | Costume and set designer: Rachel Quintero Faia | Starring: Lee Clapp, Sean Colby, David Noel and Jonathan Patterson