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Friday, 09 November 2012 08:14

Original script, outstanding music: May and Joe is a can’t miss

Written by  Ryan Dahlman
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From left, Aaron Krogman (Joe), Nathan Schmidt (the Angel), Lauren de Graaf (May), Sarah Penner (on piano), Joel Stephanson (bass) and Paul Zacharias (guitar and composer). make up the cast of May and Joe. From left, Aaron Krogman (Joe), Nathan Schmidt (the Angel), Lauren de Graaf (May), Sarah Penner (on piano), Joel Stephanson (bass) and Paul Zacharias (guitar and composer). make up the cast of May and Joe. Photo by Morris Ertman

Review, May and Joe
Who knew living in Winnipeg and moving to Thunder Bay would be such an enjoyable ride?
May and Joe is the current musical production at Rosebud Theatre’s Opera House Stage which is running until Dec. 22.

It's an original production written by Rosebud’s artistic director Morris Ertman and Heather Pattengale, a Rosebud School of the Arts alumni.
Rosebud’s description of the plot is that it’s “An angel, reawakened after 2,000 years by the innocent love between a young unmarried May and Joe, offers an unexpected gift that turns their world upside down.”
From there, the characters are then drawn into an original Canadian story which has an element of the true Christmas story with a miracle pregnancy of a young woman. Her down-on-his-financial luck boyfriend can’t fathom the touched-by-an-angel pregnancy scenario and initially believes she cheated on him.
Through all the turbulence, they stick together and show what true love is about with a touching yet humourous ending which has an It's a Wonderful Life feel.
The script is excellent and Ertman and Pattengale should be commended on putting an original and modern spin on the Christmas message. Those who didn’t feel warm and fuzzy during the denouement weren’t paying attention.
There is more than enough humour interspersed throughout the show. The Angel explaining about why “it’s easier to travel by donkey”, “the death” of a poor mouse crossing the highway and the well-timed “Hallelujah” climax were particularly amusing.
 The acting throughout is excellent. Nathan Schmidt as the Gabriel the angel is a pro’s pro. To start the play, Schmidt dominated the stage and was really able to grab the audience’s attention. However, Schmidt was able to gradually pull back and allow May (Lauren de Graaf) and Joe (Aaron Krogman) to tell the story.
Krogman was a completely believable blue-collar guy who the audience feels for in his emotional dilemma. He’s been in many Rosebud productions and was particularly solid in this one.
de Graaf is a third-year student at the Rosebud School of the Arts and is well cast for the part. She has stage presence and has a sweet, innocent look which came through in spades during the show. de Graaf had the audience rooting for May and will undoubtedly be starring at Rosebud or elsewhere for years to come. She will be an interesting one to watch down the road.
This review was of the Theatre’s second day and despite a couple of slight flubs, the performers made it almost non-noticeable.
The script and the acting were solid but what makes this production tick is the outstanding original music and songs by Paul Zacharias who at times is reminiscent of The Barenaked  Ladies’ frontman Ed Robertson.
Sometimes when you have a musical that has so many original songs, it gets overwhelming or even choppy. The play will have no flow. Not so with the flawless May and Joe. The timing of the original songs and their cues were perfect and Zacharias should get high praise for the music. The rockabilly feel to many of the songs really gave this production and “everyman” feel. There was no dragging of the play’s flow and the music didn’t intrude in the telling of the story. In a lot of ways it was critical. Many of the pieces had dabs of traditional and familiar Christmas tunes, but were orchestrated and woven tightly in an already fairly brisk script.
Zacharias’ vocals and his excellent guitar playing blended well with gifted pianist Sarah Penner and large bass player Joel Stephenson who each added back-up vocals. The trio also doubled as downtrodden angels who make up a musical group.
This production is a must-see. If you’re not into theatre, let alone a musical, do check this one out. It will make you a believer of the performing arts and at worst, it will still highly entertain you. It’s well worth the trip on the well-winding road to Rosebud.

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