Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Small Town, Big Dreams - Miss Caledonia - Theatre Review

Miss Caledonia - Tarragon Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Melody A. Johnson, Musical Score by Alison Porter
Directed by Rick Roberts and Aaron Willis
Runs until Nov. 22nd, 2012

Miss Caledonia, written and performed by Melody A. Johnson, is a wonderfully cute little one-woman show (sort of) that pays tribute to her mother Peggy Ann Douglas growing up in small town Ontario in the 50's and by extension, it is also a wonderful tribute to Johnson's grandmother. After hearing of Debbie Reynolds' story of a girl who gets plucked to Hollywood stardom after winning the Miss Burbank pageant, Peggy sees this as a route to leave the dirt roads of her small town life and hopes to use the Miss Caledonia pageant as a stepping stone to something bigger than the farm life standing before her.

Performed with aplomb and flair, a charming Melody A. Johnson switches characters from Peggy, to Peggy's parents, from pageant host/town auctioneer, to many more, with such an ease that the transitions are sometimes so startling because they seem so effortless. While the tale is genial and grin-inducing, but not totally surprising, it is Johnson's performance that elevates the simple story and makes it such an endearing show.

While I say the play is a one-woman show, it is not exactly true, as Alison Porter sits on the side adding a musical score that in itself, becomes a character of its own. While never actually ever interacting with Johnson, the musical score gives the piece such a wonderful third dimension, that you can almost see the scenery solely from the score, while there are many moments in Porter's instrumentation that adds humour and characterization into the play.

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