Review : : HELLO! – A Playful Alien Existentialist Musical

by Shannonn Kelly
6:54PM EST, August 03, 2012

Sometimes in this city you get a little something unexpected when you go out for an evening –

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“Up With Aliens” – Cast Dance in “HELLO – The Musical”

Last night I went to a performance of “HELLO! – The Musical” by 1st time director Mandy Leon and I felt I was abducted and taken back in time to when I lived in New York City pre 9/11.

Given the fact that “HELLO” was staged at the “Electric Theatre” with big blue eyes of an extra terrestrial staring down at you as you enter; your hopes rise that the show will follow suit and offer you a little something ‘not of this world’ in terms of entertainment.

HELLO” has only 2 reviews and not a lot of advertising. Last night the venue was less than ½ full. That’s a bit of a shame.

It deserves with an appreciative audience who knows what they’re in for when they step past those big blue Alien eyes.

So why is “HELLO! – The Musical” not packed every night?

I’m going to say it right now – The ticket price is too high – The theme too vague

People want to know what they’re signing up for when they buy a ticket. People need to know what they’re seeing to make an informed decision. People buy on emotion and how they’re feeling. People need to be able to connect to an emotion and a theme.

I overheard people ask:

Question: What is “HELLO!? A Comedy, A Drama, A Thriller?
My Answer: HELLO! Is a playful “Alien Existentialist Musical”. A Dramedy
The Theme(s): Fear of the Unknown. Appreciate the here and now. Value the life you’re given.
The Solution: Email the show writer / director Mandy Leon and ask for a Discount of $10.
Call it the Indie Stage Supporter Discount. Tell ’em I sent you! You’ll both get a great deal. “HELLO” with a packed house. You and your friends with a fun night out at experimental theater in a funky, super friendly new venue.

Here’s why you should see “HELLO! – The Musical”:

“HELLO! – The Musical” is an alien themed existential play that features a cast of 14 actors in different stages of their career (all get paid a modest stipend), a fun experimental soundtrack by musical Director Kait Ast, film projections, light displays and a clever costume design for about ½ of the cast all done on an ‘indie budget’ with a little help from SuperFanSuits.com.

There is a social media component to “HELLO” where audience members can ‘tweet’ to the characters using their character handles. The social media nerd that I am, I of course, got quickly on that train.

As I took my seat, I got the feeling that this should have been staged as a Toronto Fringe Play. It has that grungy/garage feel. This was a good thing.

I was reminded of my time in New York City spending many a Thursday and Friday night at off, off and off, off, off Broadway shows, many of which are my favorites to this day – I Am My Own Wife, Stomp and Blue Man Group.

Many ‘Broadway’ shows got their start far away from the glittering footlights of Broadway. The reason was due to the ingenuity exercised in these independent productions (but also by seating and salary). A number of Off-Broadway musicals have had subsequent runs on Broadway. These have included musicals such as Hair, Godspell, A Chorus Line, Little Shop of Horrors, Sunday in the Park with George, Rent, Grey Gardens, Urinetown, Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Rock of Ages, In The Heights, Spring Awakening.

Now, I’m not saying this play is Broadway bound, but with the storyline (fear of the unknown), soundtrack, light displays and clever costume design you definitely feel you’re experiencing a different theater going ‘event‘.

Motivated by concerns of our daily collective, “HELLO” also focuses on the economy, the afterlife, terrorism, real news versus fake news and being slaves to the aliens, which is code for “Government” or “Big Brother” (my take at least).

My colleague and I agreed one of the highlights of “HELLO” is the movement.

Erin Brookhouse, a newly transplanted Aussie is listed as Choreographer and responsible for a tight group on stage. Speaking with Brookhouse after the show, she very graciously said she “tweaked” Leon’s ideas into shape. But you can tell (not only from her bio) that she has loads of experience in dance, singing and acting. In the future look for something more abstract and ‘artsy’ coming from Brookhouse. My opinion is that Aussies are not afraid to reach way out of the box to express themselves, as I’ve seen in countless Australian films.

I was lucky to catch Brookhouse in the lead role of “Amanda Kipso” (normally played by Victoria Fuller), the plucky, career climbing news reporter who’s ready to cover the ‘big stories’.

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Erin Brookhouse having a meltdown as news reporter “Amanda Kipso” gets comfort from Adrian Yearwood as “X” in “HELLO!”

She gets more than she bargained for when mysterious crop circles appear that sends the whole town into a tizzy. Soon, the whole world gets involved in a media frenzy over alien visitation and abduction after eye witnesses report Alien fleets roving all over China.

The movement and dance numbers of “HELLO” were successful. All actors skilled or not were well choreographed, very well rehearsed, staying in character during all their sequences.

Cast Standouts:

  • Louisa Zhu – can sing, dance, act and speaks Mandarin for her role
  • Russell Underdown – the “things are black and white” goes with his gut, rebel, “Russ”, friend to
  • Adrian Yearwood who plays “X”, the emotional, “things are sometimes grey” love starved philosopher
  • William Nishri plays “Mikey” for comedic relief with slacker zeal
  • Erin Brookhouse – a quadruple threat – Next year she could be the ‘Queen of Toronto Fringe”
  • Marcus Starks – “Man in Black” – the soul of the entire play (IMHO)

I single out Starks out because his “Silver Surfer-esque” clad “Man in Black” character was the grounding element for me in “HELLO!”.

He was the “Conscience” or “Thought” of “X” if you will. Always and literally shadowing his man “X”, reaching out for more defined emotions when “X” struggled to steel himself to his convictions. If X couldn’t flip the bird to some belligerent bureaucrat, he could leave it to the “Man in Black” to get the point across. Hello_The_Musical_Electric_Theatre

Originally from Chicago, this is Stark’s acting debut. If this is what he’s able to do not uttering a single word and dressed as a mute ninja, I can only imagine what will happen when he gets a chance to open his mouth. We hear he’s a pretty intense and dedicated sound engineer in his day job.

No need to fear the unknown, because now I’ve crystallized what “HELLO! – The Musical” is about.

I recommend catching “Hello” before it says Goodbye

HELLO – The Musical
The Electric Theater
299 Augusta Avenue, Toronto – Map
Remaining Shows:
August 9, 10, 11
August 16, 17, 18
August 23, 24, 25
August 30, 31
Ticket Price $25 – but email for Indie Stage Supporter Discount and get $10 OFF

Sidebar: Top off your après show experience with a yummy gourmet cheeze sandwich from The Grilled Cheese and a frothy beer from Ronnie’s conveniently located across the street from each other at 69 Nassau Street.

Enjoy Kensington Market to the fullest. Especially now during the summer patio season.

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