REVIEW: Theatre Orangeville’s Step Right Up a great start to season

From the opening scene to the final bow, Theatre Orangeville’s Step Right Up is a winner.

It is hard to imagine a better way to celebrate  15 years of suc­cessful local theatre, than with the world premiere of this hilarious musical comedy about a rag-tag group of carn­ies looking to make it big during the depression.

The production opens with disgruntled shopkeeper Todd (Cyrus Lane) surprising his wife Myrna (Shannon McCaig) with the News that he has sold the shop to fulfill his dream of opening a travelling carnival.

Understandably, Myrna is not impressed, but she – and the entire audience – is won over by Todd’s heartfelt appeal during the production’s first musical number.

Most will find it hard not to sympathize with Todd’s yearning for something more than the mundane life of a 1930s shopkeeper in small-town Ontario.

From that moment, the audience is captured and em­barks on a remarkable journey, guided masterfully by playwright Eric Wolfe and the brilliant music and lyrics of Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey.

While often billed as a “freak show” this production features characters that are anything but abnormal – on the inside, anyways.

Lane and McCaig are join­ed by Kevin Dennis and Heather McGuigan, and all four play multiple roles, each with unbridled enthusiasm and flare and each bringing emotion and realism to their respective characters.

Lane is great as Todd, but it is his portrayal of the 800-pound female freak Voluptua, that really has the audience enthralled and in stitches on several occasions.

Voluptua’s love-hate re­lationship with Viscount Smidg­eon (McGuigan), who’s billed as the world’s smallest knife thrower, is a riot.

McGuigan alone is worth the price of admission, as she lights up the theatre every second  she’s on stage, whether as Smidgeon or as the French Cana­dian seductress Rachelle.

Not to be outdone, Dennis is masterful as the compassionate “half boy” Jordan and as the veteran carnival director Corky, not to mention his comedic relief as Wendy the dancing chicken.

And McCaig is particularly charming as Myrna. She carries the production emotionally and is dead-on in her portrayal of a 1930s housewife and the heart and soul behind the carnival.

There were a few gaffes in the preview show, including some botched footwork during choreographed dances and a couple of fumbled lines.

Yet those mistakes were minor and did not detract at all from the production’s overall success.

Audiences will love the characters, the jokes, and the marvels of the carnival.

But what really will blow them away is the superb quality of the music and lyrics, as well as the vocal talents of the actors.

In introducing the musical, director David Nairn said he expects Step Right Up to enjoy much success on many other stages.

And after witnessing the world premiere, it is nearly impossible to imagine he’s wrong. 

Step Right Up runs until Oct. 12. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295.