Magic has arrived in Calgary this holiday season, and I’m not talking about Santa Clause. I’m talking about Maggie Mumpling – otherwise known as Rebecca Northan. Ms. Northan is somewhat of an institution in Calgary, known for her unique style and improv gifts which have translated into many successful theatrical performances over the years.
For her latest installment, Legend Has It offers its audience the ability to break the fourth wall and participate in a ‘choose your own adventure’ style fairy tale, complete with evil villains, hilarious sidekicks, odd ball supporting characters and a hero chosen from the crowd. That is what makes Ms. Northan’s show so special – her ability to pluck a ‘regular’ person out of the crowd and integrate them into the action on stage for a full two hours. No easy feat, but one that the cast of Legend Has It executes with ease, personality and tons of laughter.
The premise of the show is simple – The Mumplings, of which Maggie (Northan) is the Matriarch, live in the land of Jaro which is being ruled by the evil Haldor. Mumplings are being snatched from their homes and taken to his castle, and Maggie must enlist a hero from the audience to help defeat the evil ruler and restore peace to the land.
Legend Has It breaks the fourth wall almost immediately – eliciting cheers and boos from the audience and encouraging them to participate in the action as wildly as they want. Northan then selects her hero and explains the rules of the show to him. The Legend Has It team may be pros, but it’s important to provide their hero with a safety net given he is being asked to be on stage in front of 4oo+ people for nearly two hours. He’s provided with access to a time-out, makes choices concerning how he wants his adventure to proceed, and then enters the magical land of Jaro for the adventure to begin.
On opening night our hero was ‘Phil’, a husband, father and electrician who’s children were in the audience and clearly impressed that their Dad was going to be the one to save the Mumplings. Phil was an excellent sport, led gently by the electric Northan who was encouraging and inspiring every step of the way.
The ensemble is made of up of an incredibly talented bunch of improv artists who clearly understand both the rules of improv and how to bring the best out of their fellow players. Jamie Northan was an excellent villain in the role of Evil Haldor, eliciting boos and jeers from the audience normally only seen at a Ross Petty Panto. As Maggie’s Gran, Christy Bruce was charming, funny and transitioned into various other characters with ease. Bruce Horak and Josh Bertwistle round out the group, each playing multiple roles and handling whatever was thrown at them by our wildcard hero like pros.
Credit also needs to be given to the incredible production team who have to create lighting, sound and theatre magic without knowing how the show will progress each night. Just like the actors on stage, they need to improvise behind the scenes to ensure that what is unfolding before the audiences eyes match what the actors are saying and doing. I enjoyed the unique cues the cast used to help instruct the behind the scenes team, especially the ‘low squat’ they insist the hero make before going into battle, and the slow motion fighting that allows for time to cue the necessary sword fighting noises.
Much praise can be lauded onto the improv skills of this group of performers, and the fun and kooky quality of the show that they’ve put together. But perhaps the most important thing to note is that it really is it’s own type of magic. The ability to bring someone up on stage and make them feel so welcome that they forget their fears and insecurities and jump wholeheartedly into the action, is at its core, a type of magic. So many people would cower at this proposition or run in the other direction, yet night after night at The Martha Cohen Theatre the gang at Legend Has It inspires their hero to accomplish greatness, experience joy and to be fearless. What could be more magical than that?
This holiday season forget your worries and get ready for lots of laughs by entering Jaro and checking out Legend Has It – you won’t be disappointed.
When and Where?
Legend Has It
Alberta Theatre Projects
On now until December 31st, 2015
For more information or to purchase tickets please visit http://atplive.com/whats-on/legend-has-it/