The quirky rock opera wows Montreal festival-goers with its profanity and power ballads
On Friday I got to see Johnny Legdick: A Rock Opera at the Centaur Theatre during its 18th annual Wildside Festival.
The verdict? You lot should give Johnny and his merry band of oddballs a leg up by catching the show as well.
The story goes that Johnny (played by Colin Macdonald) was a man born with a leg in lieu of genitalia, and was sold to the Suckadacocka circus as the latest addition to its freak roster. Johnny and fellow oddities Hannah Handvag (Arielle Palik) and Steve the Steed (Travis Martin) plan an escape to Diversus Homo, a land where they won’t suffer from the stigma of their eccentricities. Bananas, basset hounds, a bearded lady, a bad man and a bunch of puns intertwine throughout their journey to freedom.
If the crude sexual humour doesn’t entice you, the music most likely will. The seven-man band played a range of styles that included classic rock, blues, doom metal (personal favourite), and a power ballad. The variety eased the pacing transitions. The catchy music combined with the singing—particularly Johnny’s—was the best part of the show.
The plot is not exactly new—it is rife with fantasy tropes and nods to well-known works like The Lion King and The Rocky Horror Show. Nonetheless, Johnny Legdick is a breath of fresh air because it’s hilarious in its treatment of itself. It is lightheartedly self-reflexive and immature in tracking the perennial quest to belong and to find oneself. The immaturity is funny as well as a commentary on the childishness of how hard it has been and continues to be for some to feel accepted.
Johnny Legdick is a perfect fit for Wildside. Curated by Johanna Nutter, the festival is a self-described plunge into the adult world while keeping its roots in childhood. The Legdick team represents this splendidly in a combination of witty writing and dynamism.
One of my two only quips concerns the scene where Johnny, using his third leg, displays his lack of mini golf technique. I think it would have been funny if I could actually see it. I was seated a row or two ahead of the middle row, slightly off-centre and had to crane my neck to get a partial view of the action—a problem that could be easily fixed by placing Johnny three steps back.
The second quip concerns costume. I have no complaints regarding Johnny’s dangling pseudo-genitalia, but Hannah’s handvag had so much potential. For future runs, the team should consider filling her handvag with liquid so that when the inevitable union of their not-so-naughty bits occurs it will genuinely be an explosive affair. No, that’s not too immature for the Suckadacocka circus.
Johnny Legdick is currently on its third run. The piece is a collaboration between Playwright Hero, a Montreal theatre company, and The Jem, a local acoustic rock trio. The rock opera premiered at the MainLine Theatre last year and was revived during the Montreal Fringe Festival. Critically, it’s been well received and lauded for its hilarity.
Catch it at the Centaur Theatre on Jan. 15 and 17.