Firehall Arts Centre, February 14 - March 8
TALKING SEX ON SUNDAY
My Two Cents
I love a good musical. Talking Sex On Sunday is definitely that. Don’t let the title put you off - though if frank discussions of female sexuality make you uncomfortable, this might not be the show for you. But even if you’re a bit wary, I’d still recommend checking it out. There’s not many chances to see a new Canadian musical with production values this high and a cast this stellar.
Margot (a heartfelt and vulnerable Janet Gigliotti) is holding a sex toy party with her best girlfriends. There’s her divorced friend Carol (Catriona Murphy) and her lesbian daughter, Frankie (Sara Vickruck), the inexperienced and bookish June (Katrina Reynolds), free spirit widow Sissy (Irene Kara Loeper), and Margot’s sister, Olivia (Jennifer Lines). Rounding out the cast is Seana-Lee Wood as Odessa, the husky-voiced saleswoman who matter-of-factly shares a suitcase full of delights all focused on providing female pleasure.
The performers are uniformly excellent, and each are given plenty of moments to shine. Katrina Reynolds absolutely slays her first act number “Alter My View” (at least I believe that’s what it’s called - there’s no song list in the program). Jennifer Lines tackles her role with sensitivity and pathos, making the most out of her flawed character. I’ve been a fan of Catriona Murphy for years, but I feel this might be her best role yet. Carol is richly complex, a woman with a healthy sexual appetite, but still navigating feelings about her gay daughter. As Frankie, the daughter in question, Sara Vickruck once again proves what a treasure she is to the musical theatre scene in Vancouver. She’s consummately charming, selling even the corniest of lyrics with panache.
That being said, the score by Nico Rhodes and Sara Jeanne-Hosie, is, overall, delightfully modern, evoking the quirkiness of Heisler and Goldrich with some beautiful and occasionally complex vocals, coupled with tight orchestral work. There was even a clever music-related gag (that I won’t spoil) that made me laugh out loud. It sounds fantastic and polished.
Brian Ball’s set is exquisite - Margot’s apartment is all floral and cubes. Hosie’s choreography leans heavily on rubbing crotches with object, but then what do you really expect from a musical about a sex toy party? Everyone on stage is having a blast. I had a goofy grin plastered on my face for the entire first act. I will say that come act two, the shift in tone was slightly jarring and I felt it got almost too heavy considering the levity of first half. The conclusion wasn’t exactly as satisfying as one would get from a Rabbit. The Ricardo sequence borders on absurd, but by then you’re so committed to these characters you’re willing to just go with it.
The Firehall Arts Centre should be commended for the consistent support of new Canadian content. There’s not enough female-centric musicals, nor are there enough that delve so deeply into discussions about female sexuality. It’s a goldmine that is great to see finally being tapped. There’s plenty of fun to be had and plenty to learn. The women of Talking Sex On Sunday will take you on a hell of a ride if you let them. My hat’s off to director/artistic producer Donna Spencer. To quote another sexually adventurous musical: “give yourself over to absolute pleasure” and see this wonderful show.