Fringe Day 5, Part 2 - August 10, 2004, 7:00pm
U Betcha! eX-posed!
Hamel Road Theatre Project
For what it was, this was cute. This latest installment in an ongoing and popular spoof of boy bands works best when its dealing with the song and dance numbers - the majority of those having choreography that's quite hilarious. The lyrics are a little less successful but still on the plus side. The harmonies are surprisingly good.
They chose to shape this show around the idea of a talk show format and those are the segments in which it stumbles. This is unfortunately what makes up the bulk of the show. Even here, there are promising elements that could, with some additional work, be quite effective and consistently funny.
Greta Grosh does great work as the desperate host of a cable access talk show will delusions of being a cross between Geraldo and Oprah. She works the crowd from the moment the house opens and people start filing in. At the same time she applies the final touches to her image, she recruits volunteers from the audience and walks them through the set up of the show, all the while also dealing with her gruff and peculiar production assistant Skip.
One video segment - a memorial tribute to the band's lecherous drunken manager - was a genuine hoot.
Each of the guys in the band has honed his persona to a great degree and the comic moments that come out of character are the ones which work the best - particularly the "street tough" band member with an attachment to what he can find in dumpsters, and the "sensitive" pretty boy who has a hard time holding anyone's attention or respect and always makes sure the camera catches him shedding a little tear.
I got the feeling Greta and the boys in the band needed to work together more on doing the improv bits of the show, which was most of it. The guys seemed fairly connected to one another, and on an individual basis, Greta could land good moments with each of them. But the constant chatter of all of them vying for attention ended up just being distracting.
The technical elements were also in kind of a shambles. I got the very real indication that some issues, like mikes not going on and such, were often deliberate. Other things, like issues with video projection (which took up a lot of stage time), seemed clearly to be unplanned and troublesome. Moments such as those took me out of the story on stage and had me feeling bad for the actors and technicians alike. It took awhile for the show to recover from these problems and get the flow of the story back. To have that happen several times in less than an hour put the production at a disadvantage.
It could well be that the group was using the Fringe to try a whole lot of new things at once and some attempts were more successful than others. They're to be commended for pushing beyond their own safe routines.
An added nod must be given to the group for fostering Fringe community by including ads for other shows in between segments as commercials for the talk show.
It also seems like the guys are planning for the future, since the last five minutes of the show were essentially a musical and video commercial for their next Bryant Lake Bowl show about U Betcha and a Haunted House escapade (a la Scooby Doo).
U Betcha fans will no doubt love that, as they did this. The rest of us look forward to a show with a bit more polish so we know what they're truly capable of.
(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit www.matthewaeverett.com)