The Ballad of Frank Allen is playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival and it’s a zany, musical funhouse. The premise, which concerns what happens when one man lives in another man’s beard, zigzags into unexpected — but wonderful — territory. It’s a story of a science experiment gone astray, of boy meets girl, of heartbreak and struggle, and ultimately, of learning to lean on our friends through the hairy parts of life.
Produced by Weeping Spoon Productions, the show stars Shane Adamczak and Al Lafrance, both of whom knock it out of the park. They sing, they strum, they stomp, they sweep. They both brought a very physical sense of humor to the stage, jumping (often quite literally) into a myriad of wacky characters. They bang out several cheeky musical numbers, and fast, funny dialogue (fair warning: featuring mature language). They use their bodies enormously, much to my delight. I especially loved how wiry Adamczak was, continuously twisting and contorting himself across the stage, like a flailing inflatable tube man.
The sound design of the show is great fun, and serves the science-experiment-gone-astray storyline quite well. The sound effects made by Adamczak are especially hilarious and a highlight of the show. Both Adamczak and Lafrance looked like they were having a ball performing this show, and their giddiness was contagious.
I laughed my way throughout the show and I certainly wasn’t the only one. The Ballad of Frank Allen is a real treat and an unexpected ode to friendship. While the plot twists in madcap directions, it eventually lands in a heartwarming place. This is a funny, musical show, and a delight to see.
- The Ballad of Frank Allen plays at the St. Vladimir Institute. (620 Spadina Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; not recommended for children.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible through a secondary route. After the building’s business hours, a staff member will need to escort you through this route, so plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for evening shows.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 8:15 pm
- CANCELLED – Friday July 5th, 10:15 pm (The performance of “The Ballad of Frank Allen” on July 5th will be replaced by a presentation of Shane Adamczak’s “Zack Adams: Love Songs For Future Girl”.)
- Monday July 8th, 6:30 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 5:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 2:15 pm
- Friday July 12th, 9:45 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 8:15 pm
Photo of Shane Adamczak and Al Lafrance by Matt Duboff