The Fringe likes it when you watch - and we like it when you guess at what this year’s hit shows will be. Here are ten shows I’m looking forward to at this year’s Fringe:
Executing Justice (Bessie-Jean Productions, Venue 3): Local comedian and raconteur Bill Pats wowed audiences with his brutally honest autobiographical shows I Hate Bill Pats and I Hate Bill Pats Too. This time, he tries his hand at the not-autobiographical story of an inmate in Canada of 2030 - who’s on death row.
Ludwig & Lohengrin (Kyall Rakoz, Venue 5): A one-man show about the “mad” king of Bavaria might sound like a stretch, even for the Fringe. But Kyall Rakoz’s solo performance has earned him raves in his hometown of Calgary.
Action Figure (Chris Kauffman, Venue 6): Writer/performer Chris Kauffman is half of the comedy duo Harrington and Kauffman - who had a great track record with their past (infrequent) Winnipeg Fringe appearances (2000’s Hotel California, Nharcolepsy in 2002, and Cabaret Terrarium in 2010).
The War and Peace Show (Peaceniks Inc., Venue 12): War - what is it good for? Apparently, assembling a great team of local writers to take on war, peace, and social justice. Writers include Winnipeggers Rick Chafe, Sarah Constible, and Alix Sobler, plus Fringe fave TJ Dawe.
Nashville Hurricane (Chase Padgett Productions, Venue 16): Chase Padgett made his Winnipeg Fringe debut last year with one of my favourite shows of the festival, 6 Guitars. He returns with more characters and guitar wizardry in a show that’s hopefully just as good.
High Tea (Life & Depth, Venue 19): The comedy duo James and Jamesy were a hit with last year’s 2 for Tea. This new show promises a story of friendship, and more tea.
Suddenly, Last Summer (The 28th Minute, Venue 21): This young local company, taking on a Tennessee Williams play this year, has produced two exceptional dramas at recent festivals - last year’s Rope and Orphans the year before.
Taxidermy 2: Another Musical (Shwawawa Productions, Venue 22): A surprise hit at last year’s Fringe from more local youngsters, Taxidermy was one of the festival’s most goofy, entertaining romps - and one of the year’s hottest tickets.
Quo Vadis (That Way Production, Venue 29): It’s ambitious for the Fringe - a two-hour-long musical about Nero’s Rome. But it’s got a great creative team, with music by Olaf Pyttlik (The Wave), a book by Angus Kohm (whose Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre was one of the biggest hits in festival history), and director Ron Jenkins (who helmed what may still be my favourite Fringe show ever, the 2000 production of The Black Rider).
We Glow (Theatre 4.669, Venue 30): It’s been a while - and too long - since the Winnipeg Fringe last saw Emily Pearlman, half of the Ottawa duo behind the absolutely magical Countries Shaped Like Stars. She returns with collaborator Brad Long for a site-specific production - at the United Way on Main Street - that should be worth seeking out.
And there are plenty of other festival favourites returning, like Drive Dance (Accelerate), the Wonderheads (The Middle of Everywhere), Crumbs (Made Up Truths), Die Roten Punkte (Eurosmash!), Martin Dockery (The Surprise), Winnipeg Studio Theatre (Godspell) and Jayson McDonald (Magic Unicorn Island).
Plus, this year’s festival offers a sizable crop of remounts - so if you missed them the first time, look for past favourites like Joseph Aragon’s Bloodsuckers! The Musical; the “gorrific edition” of the goofy zombie comedy Brain Cravers: The Curse of Extollo; Keir Cutler’s original Teaching Shakespeare; Rob Gee’s Fruitcake - Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward; Chris Gibbs’ Like Father, Like Son? Sorry.; comedy duo Peter ‘n Chris in The Mystery of the Murder Motel; Randy Rutherford’s Singing at the Edge of the World; Bruce Horak’s provocative This Is Cancer; and Penny Ashton’s hit Jane Austen musical from last year, Promise and Promiscuity.
And look for some of the standouts from the Toronto Fringe which we’ve already reviewed, like Nancy Kenny’s festival favourite Roller Derby Saved My Soul, the western comedy Watch Out WildKat! (Yer Dealin’ With the Devil), and the haunting Civil War-era song cycle The Legend of White Woman Creek.