DOWN WITH UP WITH PEOPLE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ANTHONY CURTOLA
One Yellow Rabbit
Runs until October 7
Big Secret Theatre (Epcor Centre)
"Im full of shit. Oh, Im full of shit," moans Antony Curtola, lamenting how the combination of a bad olive, pudding and a bathroom line-up can spoil the perfect cocktail party. Yes, Antony runs off at the mouth at times at all times, it seems but the audience gleefully hangs on every word. Full of shit or not, Antony is pretty sharp. His take on Calgarys urban sprawl is precise and cutting: "Why dont you build more of those suburbs? Theyre so well-thought out. Such care is taken in building them. And there are so few." Or he asks: "Have you ever been driving north or east or west or south and been like EEEAAAAAAUUUGH?!?"
The stage is sparse, except for a raised dais with a chaise lounge. At first, it seems fairly improbable that 100 minutes will pass tolerably with a minimal set and a cast of four, only one of whom speaks. But the performance is so engrossing that your ass doesnt even start to hurt. Andy Curtis, who both created and plays the faux-dapper Curtola, is in complete control of the audience the entire time. It is actually impossible to tell where Blake Brookers excellently funny script ends and Curtis improv begins.
And, of course, theres the music, spot-on parodies of timeless hits, done Curtola style. From George Jones to Snoop Dogg, Curtis warbles hysterically through them all with special help from his trio of special ladies, The Olés (Au Laits? Oh, Lays?). Denise Clarke, Onalea Gilbertson and Kyrsten Blair make up this sassy entourage, who are Antony Curtolas life-long imaginary friends. Together, they take on Carl Orffs "O Fortuna" (truly one of the shows highlights) and the ever-ridiculous Lord of the Dance ("No apologies whatsoever to Michael Flatley" reads the program).
The Olés are remarkable for their presence, despite not speaking much. Clarke demonstrates her usual charisma, demonstrating why shes one of Calgarys top performers. Blair gives the trio its surly snarl and shows her dancing chops. And Gilbertson once again breaks out her golden voice. The trio harmonize magnificently behind the aping Curtola, but Gilbertson especially shines when she sings Loverboy in Pig Latin.
Brooker, who wrote the show, once again proves that hes no slouch in the directors chair. One imagines trying to wrangle Curtola and his sassy ladies, and it cannot have been an easy task. However, as good, funny and irreverent as the writing is (in true Brooker style), its good to have the feeling that he is not so attached to his own pen that he wont let Andy Curtis riff. Again, it becomes really difficult to tell when Curtis is on script and when hes improvising there are scripted flubs, and there are clearly moments when Curtola is in complete control. During the preview, an elderly couple left shortly after the second half began (why not leave during intermission? Was it the white-bread Snoop Dogg cover?), prompting Antony Curtola to shout, delighting the audience, "Oh, are you leaving? Well, thats okay. Weve already done all the best bits anyway."
But once again, he was full of shit. The show was engaging all the way through.