Has social media reached its plateau? Some seem to think so, and that the social media scene, is actually a Broken Social Scene.  No one knows this more than musician Kevin Drew from Canada’s multi-member musical outfit, Broken Social Scene, who has written his first theatre production that brings Toronto music and theatre fans something new and refreshing to the stage.

A&R Angels is currently playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest Guloien Theatre in Toronto’s east end. The story premise is about a once top-of-the-charts musical duo, who have recently fallen from the limelight, and are being pestered by the record label reps to produce another “hit” in the same format as their previous number one songs. Drew is one-half of this duo, alongside fellow musician, Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz.

It’s a heartfelt tribute to the great rock and roll anthems that have saved our very souls, and an irreverent send-up of the music industry, Straddling our world and the afterlife, Loud Angel (Drew) and Soft Angel (Kowalewicz) have been pulling people back from the brink with their music for decades. However, times have changed, and their tunes just aren’t connecting to listeners like they used to, their numbers are down, and the universe is out of balance. Have they lost their touch? Or is something else going on?

Drew does a great job in the role of the tense, hyperactive half of the duo, while Kowalewicz is equally as effective playing the more subdued, rational dude. As much as these two big names from the music industry might draw people to the production, it’s the other actors onstage that deserve equally as much focus. Gordon Miller doesn’t have a speaking part, but his role as the first and second “suicider” is utterly remarkable. The “suiciders” are people who give up on life, and are the actual inspiration for writing hits for the dynamic duo.

During the opening scene Miller offs himself by hanging from the rafters, which he does for about 10 minutes suspended in mid-air, not twitching or blinking an eye, while other actors continue with the show around him. Seriously, try and keep your eyes on him, as he plays this role flawlessly. Equally as good was his second scene where he sits still with the pistol pointed inside his mouth with his hand on the trigger, before he finally blows his brains out and splatters blood all over Loud Angel. 

Maurice Dean Wint plays Sir, the hard-hitting A&R executive who wants to make things work, but also has the ultimatum to make money for the label, and makes it clear that time is of essence for another hit before they become just another has-been act. Richard (Graham Cuthbertson) is Sir’s number crunching, strategizing assistant, who is continuously contemplating on ways to keep both parties in discussion to reach the ultimate goal of the next big thing. There’s many a time where Sir has to tell Richard to back off, yet their relationship is so fine tuned, you know they’ve fine tuned things together well.

There’s lot’s of talk about verses and chords, and the right mix to incorporate, which no doubt musicians in the crowd will fully grasp. Equally so, the references to how music relates to listeners will be of interest to any music fan who’s fawned over a band or singer. Just what is it that makes a song a hit? Is it the catchy rhythm, the vocals, the lyrics, or a combination of everything?

Ngozi Paul also gives a strong performance as the only female in the cast, playing the third and final “suicider” in the play, who actually survives. She then becomes part of the puzzle in trying to recreate the glory days for the boys. Finally, director Chris Abraham does a fabulous job of wrapping all elements of the production together. He also happens to be the Artistic Director of Crow’s Theatre as well The stage set up is quite simple, with some lengthy, and often comical, sauna scenes with the actors onstage in nothing but robes and towels. Overall a refreshing piece of new theatre, and emerging talent.

So, in the end the A&R Angels have to write a hit or be eternally benched by the higher-ups. Can they write that killer song that will give life to the living? Find out by catching this show before December 9 at Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw Avenue) in the Guloien Theatre.

Shows are scheduled Monday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m with Saturday matinees at 2:00 p.m. It’s advisable to get tickets in advance for this one, and consider paying a bit extra for the premium front row centre seats.

Tickets are now available for Crow’s 2017-2018 season with regular tickets starting at $20 and Frequent Flyer Passes starting at $120. Get online information and make ticket purchases at crowstheatre.com.

Be sure to check out the rest of the 2017/2018 programming as well as there’s quite a few productions slated.

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About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.