Take a 2nd chance: A roundup of returning hits at the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival
Fringe 2018 may look like the 'greatest hits' edition, as Josephine, Elephant Girls, 6 Guitars all return
This year's Winnipeg Fringe Festival is looking a little bit like the "greatest hits" edition.
True, there are some big names who aren't back this year. Where's Promise and Promiscuity star Penny Ashton? Or comedy duo Peter n' Chris? And fans of local improv will be sad to see that neither musical comedians Outside Joke or Crumbs are back this year.
Nonetheless, a look through this year's program shows about two dozen shows in the 179 at the fest that we've seen here before — including, unsurprisingly, some of the biggest hits of recent editions of the Winnipeg Fringe.
Here are some of the returning shows you should catch if you missed them the first time:
2 Ruby Knockers, 1 Jaded Dick: Back for a third round, Australian Tim Motley offers up a thoroughly entertaining blend of magic, mentalism and comedy that's "a bit of saucy fun for young (not too young) and old" and a "sure bet," our reviewer said in 2014.
6 Guitars and Nashville Hurricane: This one's a two-fer, but both are repeats of repeats — 6 Guitars is back for a remarkable fourth time at the Winnipeg Fringe, Nashville Hurricane for a third. For good reason — Chase Padgett blends great music and remarkable storytelling in a pair of must-see shows.
A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's: Fringe superstar TJ Dawe returns with this fantastic bit of storytelling — about his time as a bartender at a British holiday resort — which he last presented here in 2005. I called it "magical theatre by a master storyteller — absolutely not to be missed" at the time, and reckon I'd stand by that today. (You can also catch him in a brand new show, Sad-Ass Cabaret, a storytelling/music hybrid he created with his partner, singer/songwriter Lindsay Roberts).
Caws and Effect: CBC's Iris Yudai called this "a gorgeous and wondrous work of art" that uses overhead projections, masks, movement and "a lovely layered soundtrack" to immerse the audience in a fable about two birds. See her five-star review of the show here.
DnD Improv Show 11: This show is probably now more popular than actual Dungeons & Dragons in Winnipeg. The incredibly long-lived serial improv show is back again, featuring some of the city's best improvisers riffing on the classic fantasy roleplaying game.
Elephant Girls: Margo MacDonald's incredible one-woman show about a vicious all-female gang was one of my favourites of the 2016 Winnipeg Fringe. She says it's been revised and expanded, but more Elephant Girls can't be a bad thing. If you didn't get in the first time, don't miss this chance.
Flight: "A lovely, pared down piece of children's theatre," reviewer Michelle Palansky said last year. This physical theatre show, based on The Little Prince, draws on "astonishing acrobatics and the collective willingness of the audience to imagine worlds beyond the stars and just over the next wave of the ocean." The creators behind Flight will also bring their newest show, Terms & Conditions, to this year's festival.
Hot Thespian Action: Classic: This Winnipeg sketch comedy troupe has built a devoted following for a reason — they're among the very best comedy bets at the fest. This year, they put a fun spin on a "greatest hits" show, letting the audience vote online on which sketches they'll perform at each show. "It's kind of like Netflix, but for theatre," HTA promises. Hilarity will, undoubtedly, ensue.
James and Jamesy in the Dark: The much-loved comedy duo give this 2015 hit another run at the Fringe before they take it to New York for an off-Broadway run this September.
Josephine, a Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play: No surprise to see this show — probably the hottest ticket at last year's festival — back for another run. Tymisha Harris gives a spectacular performance as Josephine Baker. See our five-star review here.
Kafka and Son: Toronto's Alon Nashman gave a spectacular performance in 2007 with this remarkable production that transports the audience into the tumultuous relationship between German writer Franz Kafka and his brutally authoritarian father. "By the show's beautiful ending, you'll feel as if Franz is an old friend," I said in my 2007 five-star review. "Go. Take your dad."
The Merkin Sisters: This "fringiest of the Fringe" hit from last year "defies easy description, and also defies audience expectation at every turn, with often-hilarious results," I said last year. (You can also see Merkin Sister Stephanie Morin-Robert with James and Jamesy's Alastair Knowles in Bushel & Peck this year, while Merkin Ingrid Hansen is in Interstellar Elder).
A Midsummer Night's Fever: Not technically a remount — this 20th anniversary edition of the show (just me, or did you just feel old?) features a brand-new cast. No matter — Leith Clark's disco-drenched take on the Shakespeare comedy will still undoubtedly offer up good booty-shaking laughs.
Pretending Things Are a Cock: Imagine "a travelogue presented by someone with the bad-travel stories of Bill Bryson" and "the sharp wit of David Sedaris," our reviewer said of Jon Bennett's show in 2013. But you do get what the title promises. "Maybe don't take your grandmother to this one," was our reviewer's advice, "but if you want a fast hour of laughing, go see this show."
Shadows In Bloom: "If we were to establish a modern pantheon for the arts, then we should strike the Fringe theatre god's likeness in the image of Gemma Wilcox. She's that damned good," our reviewer said of another returning Wilcox hit, The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over, last year. The fringe goddess is back this year with Shadows In Bloom, last seen here a decade ago.
Also returning this year: the goofily entertaining Hamlet Chapter Two: Back In Black, Monster Theatre's Jesus Christ: The Lost Years, perennial Fringe faves Sound & Fury with Cyranose, Jon Lachlan Stewart's remarkable Big Shot (he also performs Cranbourne this year), the family friendly Puss In Boots, local writer Kim Zeglinski's Middlehood (performed earlier as Mittelschmerz), and Ryan Gladstone's Every Story Ever Told.