Shirley Dreaming? Surely, I wished I were dreaming.
A dream sequence peppered with stereotypical characters, and odd song and dance numbers, The Apron Theatre Company’s production, Shirley Dreaming, wasn’t exactly a bedtime fantasy. Though whimsical at times, the majority of the new musical lacked substance, and though it seemed as if the point was merely to entertain and not to provide a new perspective of the material at hand, well…it was just kind of a snooze.
Shirley Dreaming follows our protagonist, Shirley (Joani Maher), through the first day of her first job (or what she hoped to be her first job). She is a recent college graduate who studied music, and therefore is unsure of where to turn to practically apply that newfound knowledge and pay the bills. Yawn. Upon arriving at work—a publishing company that specializes in children’s literature—she is met by her grouchy boss (Cassandra Hannan), and the snarky intern (Ezree Mualem). Yawn. Shortly afterwards, the audience meets the last two characters—an old lady, Wanda (Caroline Mahoney), and a charmingly awkward co-worker, Steve (Adi Stein). Zzzzz…! Oh, sorry, yes, yes I am still awake.
Aside from the lackluster premise, the actual performance was a bit dull as well. The pit band was much louder than the actors, and therefore a lot of their singing was drowned out. This unbalance between performers and pit might have also been the reason behind the wrong notes, and inconsistent tempos. The cast’s vocals were weak, thus it was no surprise that the pit overpowered them.
The musical did, however, have a sprinkling of bright moments, particularly when the characters told stories. A projector is used to add cartoon images to the play, enhancing the short stories told by some of the characters. These blurbs were enticing—specifically the story told by the co-worker, Steve (Stein). Stein colors his words with a building energy; he is captivating to watch and listen to as he draws in the crowd, speaking as if telling an exciting bedtime story. Stein seems most aware of the dream world he is playing in, and his performance reflects that.
The premise of the musical seems promising—in fact, it would probably make for very charming children’s theatre. However, the execution is lacking. The show seemed like it wanted to be cartoon-like, perhaps nodding at the creativity and imaginary quality of children’s literature. But, if that’s the case, the execution needed to be far more exaggerated. The dream-like premise was only present when the characters made some direct comment about it, or for example, at the end when Shirley wakes up.
Is it a Fringe nightmare? Certainly not. But is it a Fringe fantasy? Sorry, Shirley, keep dreaming.
written and directed by Tyler and Craig Budde
presented by The Apron Theatre Company
Running time: 85 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?