Theatre review: Flop! is cause for celebration

Let’s be honest, the very thought of a new musical is cause for some excitement in our household, but one by a Vancouver writer and composer that is as successful as Anton Lipovetsky’s Flop! is downright cause for celebration.

Flop! tells the story of theatre director Jimmy Labbe who finds himself in Okotoks following the failure of his directorial debut in Toronto.  Lamenting what he considers a new low in his career, Labbe is forced to work with a rag-tag group of high school students in a production of Romeo and Juliet.

Lipovetsky plays all of his characters that include the adult Labbe and some of the students involved in the production, effortlessly moving from one to the next with the use of a single prop for each: the wide-brimmed glasses for musical theatre geek Stephen, the backwards baseball cap for the perhaps not-so-cool Robbie and the scarf for teenage airhead Kimi whose first reaction to reading Romeo and Juliet is to remark that it appears to be written in “Icelandic or something”.

Then there is the innocent Sarah who Lipovetsky channels with a small headband and becomes the catalyst for Labbe’s transformation.  Where Lipovetsky gives his other characters broad strokes for laughs, the contrast with his Sarah is at times remarkable.  If Lipovetsky was a sixteen year old girl with big dreams he would be Sarah.

At times the transformations between his characters are so quick that they go by in a blink of an eye and even when props did not cooperate, Lipovetsky saw it as an opportunity.

Anton Lipovetsky in the Delinquent Theatre production of Flop!
Anton Lipovetsky in the Delinquent Theatre production of Flop! on stage at Studio 1398 through April 1, 2012.

Of course this is a musical and while at times Lipovetsky had to work hard to be heard against the wonderful piano accompaniment provided by Mishelle Cuttler, the songs were varied and interesting with a rock edge that had me thinking of Rent.  Lipovetsky doesn’t make it easy on himself as he has written a number of high notes that he doesn’t always hit and his laser focus misses its target in an ending that felt a bit muddled.

With a boundless energy and obvious love for his material and characters, at only 45 minutes it would be hard to see how Lipovetsky might sustain if the show was pushed to full-length; given what I saw on stage Saturday night I’m hoping he will give it a go.

Early in the show Labbe talks about being “suspended in infinite possibility”.  Lipovetsky proves how true those words are with Flop!.

4 Out of 5 Stars Flop!

Written and performed by Anton Lipovetsky.  A Delinquent Theatre production.  On stage at Studio 1398 on Granville Island through April 1, 2012.  Visit http://delinquenttheatre.com for tickets and information.

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