Toronto’s Second City kicked off their 2014 Mainstage Revue last night in glorious 80s fashion. The red carpet was decked out with balloons and tulips, and the classic tunes and paper mache streamers gave the Mercer St building the appropriate prom-esque atmosphere. It was the ideal setting for a show whose title is a clever nod to John Hughes, king of the eighties rom-com and director of ‘Sixteen Candles’.
Sixteen Scandals may not have Molly Ringwald or a classic geeky girl meets and falls in love with hunk storyline, but it has plenty of laughter, sexual innuendo and even some risque nudity. It’s sharp, creative, it’s political and there’s some romance thrown in for good measure. This is a comedy show for the masses – with something for everyone.
The evening kicks off with a hilarious attack on Mother Nature’s unpredictable weather, and segues nicely into a scene that takes stabs at Mayor Rob Ford and the suburban lifestyle. Instead of going for the easy jokes, Sixteen Scandals instead focuses on Etobicoke dwellers who hold the threat of re-electing Ford over their downtown friends heads. It’s unexpectedly brilliant and rescues the audience from having to hear the same tired Ford gags that have become commonplace in Toronto.
Under the inspired direction of Chris Earle, the cast of six is allowed to shine, each conveying a unique personality and grasp of the comedy genre. The set design is playful and allows the cast to make use of the expert choreography to remind the audience why physical comedy is so damn funny. Watching Craig Brown demonstrate what ‘you really look like drunk’ was almost enough to make one never drink again – equal parts tragically accurate and completely hilarious.
The females get some of the best material, especially when they’re tasked with playing men. Watching Ashley Botting, Sarah Hillier and Alison Price ‘dick bump’ is worth the price of a ticket alone, while their examination of the teenaged males approach to dating serves as the cherry on top of this comedy sundae.
The gender bending doesn’t end with the women – it turns out Craig Brown, Connor Thompson and Kevin Vidal make for some attractive church going cougars. In another of the show’s best scenes they rebel against their dull suburban lives by shoplifting Burt’s Bees and lamenting that ‘Targets in Canada are nothing like they are in the US!’
Not every skit is a winner, some drag on longer than they should and others fail to hit their mark, but overall the laughs are enough to make you forgive any weaknesses.
If there was any lingering doubt, Brown and Hillier erase it completely with their hummable rendition of ‘Scandals in the Neighbourhood’ – performed in the nude. There’s nothing like a man wearing only a strategically placed Paddington Bear style yellow hat to make you beg for more.
If you’ve never been to a Second City show, you’re don’t know what you’re missing. And if you’re a regular, Sixteen Scandals is bound to surprise you as it pushes the boundaries of comedy and raises the bar yet again.
As for me? I’m going to think twice before ever clicking on a Facebook ad again (especially if it’s for a Vitamix) and have immediate plans to track down Bill Nye on Twitter. If he’s cool enough for the Second City gang, then he’s cool enough for me.
Sixteen Scandals is on stage now at Second City Toronto. For tickets please call 416-343-0011 or go online at https://www.secondcity.com/performances/toronto/calendarandtickets/