4Play’s subtitle “New Work by Excited Writers” is an apt description for this fun, optimistic set of theatre. Divided into Program A and B, each evening includes two short plays, written and performed by current students and recent graduates of Studio 58.

Opening “B” is Madhushani Ramaraju’s Perfect, directed by Leslie Jones. Perfect is a warm-hearted look at cultural differences and the tension involved in choosing one’s destiny over family expectations.

Chirag as Jai Rao in Perfect
[Chirag Naik as Jai Rao in Perfect]

Set in Mumbai, Perfect follows bright graduate Maya as she decides between her lover of a differing religious background or a new suitor favoured by her family. It’s a considered story and the passion with which the actors perform it is palpable.

But the magic really happens (almost literally) in Karaoke: The Musical – a glee-inducing hour of pithy dialogue and rollicking songs, directed by Cameron Mackenzie.

Max Wallace, Laena Brown in Karaoke
[Max Wallace, Laena Brown in Karaoke: The Musical]

Holy Hal’s Kosmik Karaoke Bar may seem like your average dive bar, but for the seven individuals who brave its threshold, it becomes so much more. The pub is a form of limbo (something I’m sure we’ve all felt in similar establishments at one time or another). Hal (Max Wallace) and his fierce companion, Faith (the electric Laena Brown), are tasked with transforming the lives of all who enter.

They’ve been working on this for 600 years and have just one more evening to save a total of 1 million souls in order to get their wings. That’s the last time I criticize my air miles loyalty program.

Throughout the evening, Hal and Faith identify the weaknesses and hurt in their guests’ lives, nudging individuals into action. This culminates in a personality rebirth and suitable karaoke song. Forget meditation and Hail Marys: 80s rock is now the answer to both self-improvement and salvation.

Each song is a karaoke classic with updated lyrics: Queen and David Bowie’s “Pressure” becomes a duet about the fear of being a virgin sung by two star-crossed lovers; “Don’t Stop Believing” is really a tale of self-discovery from an uptight commune girl; Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” is – appropriately – “Karaoke is a Place on Earth.” Some renditions are one step up from what you’d hear in a real karaoke joint, but this doesn’t detract.

There is so much self-awareness and pleasure in both the script and in the performances that Karaoke is a charm to watch. The dialogue is sharp and clever, with original turns of phrase dotting each conversation.

A fine hour of entertainment, and likely the most fun you’ll see at karaoke in millennia.

Program B continues at Studio 58 on Wednesday, November 20 and Friday, November 22 at 8 pm, and on Saturday, November 23 at 3 pm. All photos by David Cooper.

About Our Contributor Zoe Grams

Zoe Grams

Scottish-born Zoe Grams is Principal at ZG Communications and has spent much of her life in theatres and bookstores. Her work has appeared in publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Tyee, Back of the Book, GUM and Skinny Mag. Zoe's lifelong passions include the arts and exploring new cities.

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