The stalls are alive in Brampton with the zany première of Wake Me When It’s Over: A Twelve Step Musical. Unlike the terror that springs into the minds of patrons-of-the-arts at the mere mention of twelve-tone compositional techniques (pioneered by Schönberg, Webern and Berg—cross-references below), this psychosocial primer on the ups and downs of mid-life crisis is a breezy compilation of songs, monologues and gags that is sure to bring a smile, guffaw or belly laugh to anyone who has experienced the trauma of divorce, writer’s block or childhood humiliation. Not to mention bowel movements, which from the premise-serving self-help book, Flush, to the “shit happens” finale add yet another, er, layer of commonality between the stage and the audience.
The lyrics and lines flow from the saucy pen of Vince Grittani (size jokes with “wit,” even an ode to “rejection”), who even incorporates the annoyance of unwanted cellphone rings into the revue. The music—with more homage to the past than forward-thinking craft—burbles along easily from composer Rosalind Mills’ score largely due to the handiwork of the DeSouza Tones (led with spirit by music director Myron DeSouza).
As Roger Starky, D. Kirk Teeple brings a great comedic sense and better-than-average singing voice into his traversal of the dozen steps to personal salvation. Only the top of the range leaves something to be desired, but once into the stratosphere he powers forward with conviction.
The two female roles are required to produce and portray a covey of characters that flit in and out of Starky’s life. Virginia Cowan has a marvellous Lily Tomlin telephone technique and is a wonderful whipping nun (think The Passion of the Sister). Still, there can be too much of a good thing: her torch song sequence skitters over the line of self-indulgence from time to time. And perhaps her musical maitre D' might refresh her martini in the appropriate glass.
Christine Ford lights up the room with every entry. Her view to the future in the Expo ’67 sequence is a hilarious showstopper that manages to parody everything from early Star Trek to shallow sales techniques. Still, the homo line seems trite heard through 2006 ears.
Director Robert Woodcock has done a fine job keeping the pace moving forward while letting his troupe do their thing. However, the band/stage balance is a mixed bag: the voice-overs get lost, but the songs are loud and clear.
Little things can jar any performance. The “Evita” knockoff song is fun, but a woodblock in the percussion? Let’s fundraise for some castanets. And the failed screenplay gag slips a few notches when it’s unveiled, lacking the standard brass-round head fasteners that even novice writers use before shipping their masterpieces off to a producer.
Details aside, Wake Me When It’s Over is a wonderful tonic to the summer’s heat. Step on by and see for yourself! JWR