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Theatre review: Cool Beans is totes amazeballs

Taking swipes at love, hipsters and Vancouver’s coffee obsession, Anton Lipovetsky’s Cool Beans is totes amazeballs.

In his new musical, Lipovetsky takes on book, music and lyrics to tell his story of a group of 30-somethings caught  in the cross hairs of love and in search for meaning in their lives.  Set inside the independent coffee shop of the title, Lipovetsky has gathered a group of eccentric characters that one could easily imagine inside such an establishment on Commercial Drive or on the fringes of the Downtown Eastside.

Among the group is hipster poster-child Holden, played with hilarious conviction by Jay Clift, who is as serious about his coffee as he is about his obscure music (vinyl of course).  Joining him in running the coffee shop is owner/girlfriend Meadow, played by Gili Roskies with heart and one of the better singing voices of the night, who has adopted her new name to help fit in with a new lifestyle that includes yoga and chakra cleansings.

Surrounding the couple are Katey Hoffman  as Andi, the hilariously ditzy customer who desperately covets the idea of Holden, and Josh Epstein as ex-boyfriend Patrick who returns from living the high-life in Dubai with hopes of getting Meadow back.  Hoffman and Epstein make great counterpoints to Clift and Roskies as they dip their toes into hipster world and their duet “The New You” is a definite highlight.

Jay Clift, Josh Epstein, Gili Roskies and Katey Hoffman in Antony Lipovetsky's new musical Cool Beans.

Jay Clift, Josh Epstein, Gili Roskies and Katey Hoffman in Antony Lipovetsky’s new musical Cool Beans.

Surprisingly, given there are some good musical moments among the cast, including Hoffman and Epstein’s duet and Roskies’ “How Do I Let You Go”, a number of songs, including those that feature all four voices, miss their mark.  But while their voices might not always gel, where this cast really excels is in delivering believability to their odd characters.

While ironically sending up the hipster culture, the bigger irony is that Cool Beans comes from someone who at a single glance just may very well be the antithesis of a hipster.  Leaving few hipster clichés untouched, Lipovetsky may not look the part himself, but it is evident he knows of what he talks (“I think you should go”, “I think you should get a shave”).

And while his book suffers somewhat from a rushed ending, where Cool Beans really shines is in the music; a wonderful combination of rock and Broadway it at times had me thinking of Elton John’s earlier (and better) work.

Combined with his freshman Flop! which made our top ten list of theatre productions in 2012, Cool Beans continues to solidify Lipovetsky’s status as one to watch in the musical theatre arena.

Cool Beans

Book, music and lyrics by Anton Lipovetsky.  Directed by Rachel Peake.  A Solo Collective Theatre production.  On stage at Performance Works on Granville Island through December 1, 2013.  Visit http://www.solocollective.ca for tickets and information.

Mark Robins on Google+

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