Facebook friendships, relationship breakups and identity crises are all tackled in song in Ignition Theatre’s season-closing musical, Edges.
Edges has no standard characters or plot line, but manages to take on some powerful themes about becoming an adult through “fabulous, incredible” songs, said Ignition Theatre’s artistic director Matt Grue.
Grue said he was so smitten by the clever lyrics and infectious melodies in the unconventional musical, written two years ago by then-college students Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, that he decided to stage it as Ignition Theatre’s last production of the season. It opens on Thursday, May 21, at Red Deer’s The Matchbox.
Music director is local musician Morgan McKee, who has composed scores for other theatrical productions and who helms Central Alberta Theatre.
The six cast members, including Ignition stalwarts Richard Meen and Curtis Labelle, will not take on any ongoing roles in Edges.
Instead, the singer/actors will depict certain characters during a particular song, then change costumes and become completely different people for the next song, said Grue, who got the writers’ permission to pare the song list down to 15 tunes and expand the usually four-person cast.
What holds Edges together is its thematically-linked music about the challenges of leaving one’s student years/salad days behind.
Grue admitted he covered much the same territory in last year’s Tick … Tick … Boom!, about a man turning 30 who feels compelled to make some tough life choices.
But while that musical, based on the life of Rent creator Jonathan Larson, was about the struggle to make it in the creative realm of musical theatre, Grue said Edges has a much wider scope.
Most adults, regardless of their backgrounds, have made so many compromises, adaptations and sacrifices in life, they are in danger of leaving their true selves behind, said Grue. “The theme song of the show is the first song, Become. It’s about trying to answer the question we all have of who are we, and what do we want to become?”
Grue said the strength of Edges is its ability to deal with life themes in a light-hearted and entertaining way.
“We do a lot of shows that are designed to make you think. This is a fun show. We’re hoping people will come to the theatre and have an amazing time.”
A satirical song, Be My Friend, is about the public fascination with Facebook relationships. “It’s about making electronic friendships online instead of talking to friends face-to-face, or going out with them . . . the reason it’s funny is because so many people are guilty of it,” said Grue.
Another comic song, In Short, with its chorus of ‘I hope you die,” is about an immature reaction to a relationship breakup.
The Pasek and Paul production takes musical theatre to another plane, said Grue — where between-song dialogue and characters are unnecessary, and there are no filler songs.
There will still be plenty of wardrobe changes, however, thanks to costumers Stephanie Ridge and Caitlyn Shoreson, and an abstract set designed by Patrick Beagan.
Grue believes good music has the power to elicit honest emotions and laughter from an audience. “We want to knock people’s socks off. We want people tapping their toes and telling their friends.”