Way Off Broadway, episode 6: Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

Way Off Broadway, episode 6: Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

Way Off Broadway, Episode 6

Things are finally starting to pick up on Way Off Broadway, and with five weeks to showtime, we begin the leg of the journey that involves finalizing the sets, costumes, show location and props. Oh, and Sarina’s dad touches down to teach the cast how to give a good smackdown.

Because director Sarina and musical director Shelia can’t afford to hire a professional contractor, Sarina’s son Quentin—call him “Q”—and her nephew, Miles, come to the rescue—sort of. During their initial meeting to discuss set ideas, her nephew is eating a red pepper—on camera, during an important meeting—because he “didn’t eat dinner.” Is this just for dramatic effect? If so, a script supervisor needs to be fired. Still, Sarina is having none of it and we just want to applaud her no-nonsense, scolding real talk—you know, when people actually deserve it. But we’re going to go ahead and say it: we have absolutely no confidence in these boys. They only “think” they’ve built something before, they spend half their time in the hardware store giving each other high fives and bro-ing out, and while poor Sarina asks if things are getting done, they’re off having beers with their friend Sean, the Tinman, who’s also been playing rounds of Guitar Hero in lieu of practicing his fancy tap dance steps. If it were up to us, we’d fire them right away and put up a Craigslist ad for an amateur into D.I.Y.—hey, it’s the theme!—who is willing to work in exchange for TV time or dance lessons.

You know who does have it together? Costume designer Gail Leger. With the help of cast member Frank’s husband Rosario, she conceives of and designs over 150 costumes for all 21-plus actors and munchkins. Gail is also responsible for translating Sarina’s wacky character visions, bringing to life those Mae West trees and flying monkey “rock stars” she’s been talking about. (Is that the band Slayer playing in the background?)

With costumes in order, events take a turn and become emotional and toothache-sweet with the guest appearance of Sarina’s estranged father, former pro wrestler Tony “Torpedo” Condello. He’s touched down in Toronto to choreograph a “fight scene” between the main cast and the Winkies and the Flying Monkeys—it all gets confusing when everyone’s jumping on top of each other, especially considering Sarina wants it to be “almost Cirque du Soleil-style.” Honestly, Sarina, we wish we knew what you were seeing in your head, because we don’t think we’re thinking the same thing. Still, the idea of an acrobatic fight scene with people in kooky costumes is titillating, and we also won’t deny that it is fun watching the cast wail on each other. Amidst the poundings, we meet new cast member Kathleen, a yoga instructor who beats the crap out of Jon, the Scarecrow, and Rebecca—who, duh, takes any excuse to get into the spotlight—steps up for a session with Tony and ends up having an uncomfortable conversation with her boyfriend (she has to explain why she will be seen on national television straddling 19-year-old Sean). “I sort of have to straddle the Tinman because Tony said so,” she tells him. He responds: “Well, as long he keeps his Tony Torpedo in his pants.” Zing.

Michael, the ensemble superstar. With a bunch of smaller, yet demanding roles (and a solo!), Michael—who moved home to focus on the play—wants to make a splash in the “real” musical theatre world, so he asks Sarina for advice on making the big leap. Sure, his biggest role could end up being the aspiring actor who waits tables while waiting for his next big audition, but he’s still going after what he thinks he wants, and most don’t even make it that far.

Gail, the costume designer. We love her because she’s got some sass. When they visit the show’s “renovated” venue, Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall, her first observation is: “What is this? Buy a ticket and get a hardhat?” She identifies problems and then quickly works toward solutions. After hot-and-cold Taz repeats, “I don’t show my arms” at least three times, Gail finally acknowledges her, saying, “Are you telling me there’s something we have to do to deal with your arms?” We think the costumes are going to look stellar.

Sarina, our director. Although we’re (justly) tough on her, Sarina is probably the most invested in this production. Plus, she made us all misty because she clearly misses her father. Because he was touring and absent for much of her childhood, it had been a life-long dream to work alongside him: “You get to that age where you realize your parents are getting old and you haven’t spent much time with them.” Even though we hate that soft piano emotional trickery, this week, we saw a little bit more of Sarina’s true heart. And she was a good sport about being (lovingly) slapped in the face by dad. Talk about blood, sweat and tears.