Checklist for a successful fringe musical:
Songs that are irreverently tacky, but leave the tune stuck in your head?
A cast of mostly young twenty-somethings running around the stage half-naked?
Numerous references to Judaic traditions mixed in with tongue-in-cheek humour?
Check and check.
The Mid-Life Crisis of Dionysus, a brand new original musical to hit the fringe theatre scene has all the right kitsch and tawdry humour to make it a bonafide hit. The plot is as thin as they come for musical theatre, but when you are having that much fun at a show, it really doesn’t matter.
Dionysus (Paul Van Dyck), once the god of “wine, wine, women and song,” as the opening number proclaims, is running fast and loose with Paris Hilton-like models and getting drunk out of his mind. But the hardcore partying is finally catching up to the greek god, and because he is no longer immortal he is beginning to – gasp – age. He has difficulty keeping it up during sex, he is beginning to bald and worst of all he has begun receiving subscription notices from Centaur Theatre.
Things are not going well for Dionysus at home either. His wife (Nichole Carlone), an uptight blonde with Stepford-like demeanor, wants Dionysus to stop drinking, start eating healthy (poached tofurkey is her new dish of choice) and actually have a decent conversation with her over dinner. However, mealtime turns into a missile airstrike of insults with their servants standing alongside them, singing out what husband and wife are thinking.
“You aren’t half the man I married,” the female servants sing.
“You are twice the woman I married,” the male chorus responds, leading to a food fight to end all food fights.
Dionysus’ last resort to staying youthful, aside from Viagra and Botox, comically portrayed by a dancing blue pill and a nurse with a large needle, is to ask his father Zeus, who headlines at a casino in Mount Olympus, to deify him. Like any good musical, Zeus (Tristan D. Lalla) is the pivotal Jewish character, spewing out idioms right and left, which only makes Lalla’s portrayal, with his booming voice and velvet croon, all the funnier.
The show stopper however, is the act two Fiddler on the Roof send-up, that has three Jewish bubbies giving Dionysus advice on keeping his youth and changing his slogan to “shekles, shrumping and shiksas.” The three actresses, who relentlessly offer him tea and biscuits, kept the crowd laughing throughout, Jewish or otherwise. One yenta even had the nerve to compare Dionysus to his successful sibling. ” You could have been a doctor like your bother, but no (slap)- bleech! Theatre.”
As Dionysus, the multitalented Van Dyck (he directed Penumbra at the Wildside festival and is also artistic director of Rabbit in a Hat Productions) knows how to work an audience, especially when he asked a woman in the front row to pick a grape off of the bundle attached to his crotch.
Van Dyck is never given a chance to sing, as nearly all of the musical numbers composed by Jeremy Hechtman and Patrick Goddard are sung by the chorus. For the next go around, give Dionysus a song and cut the melodramatic act two number and the show could even travel to Off-Broadway.
The Mid-Life Crisis of Dionysus has the makings of a cult hit, and with this young and uninhibited cast, it is certainly worth checking out.
The Mid-Life Crisis of Dionysus plays at Mainline Theatre every night at 8 p.m. until March 6. Tickets: $20. Visit mainlinetheatre.com for more information.