If you have a love of open-mics, be they musical or comedy, then you will absolutely want to check out Lighters In The Air produced by Dive Bar Theatre and playing at the Monarch Tavern as part of the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival.
If you don’t care for open-mics but enjoy theatre and live music, you will probably enjoy this show nonetheless, because everyone performing is exceptionally polished. And if you’ve never been to an open mic, then prepare to have the bar for your open-mic expectations set ridiculously high.
As someone who has frequented Toronto’s open mic scene, mostly in comedy but with some dabbling in music, I was extremely excited to snatch up Lighters In The Air for one of the few Fringe shows I’ll be reviewing this year. This show did a great job of capturing the gritty (but full of heart) vibe of a healthy mic scene in the Monarch, dubbed The Empty in the show and owned by the instantly likeable character Stacy (Anna Douglas).
While the characters’ musical styles differ slightly, the songs and book are unified by what I can only describe as an emo-pop-punk-ish style of writing. This show, written and directed by Kris Hagen is very on-the-nose, and that sometimes feels like a bit much. However, the payoff to this brazenness is that often you’ll hear something both remarkable and extremely relatable in the monologues and songs.
Overall, I really enjoyed what Kris Hagen has created in this show, but I did find his writing inconsistent at times. For instance: Taylor Whittaker opens the show singing beautifully as the charming (but morally reprehensible) Benji. Later the focus of the show shifts to Leo (Kris Hagen), but it took a while for me to realize that Leo was actually the protagonist.
I also found different characters’ attitudes towards infidelity to be inconsistent and confusing. The act is reviled when one character does it, but anothers’ cheating is not given the same gravitas.
That said all of the other actors are delightful and their characters well realized. Most get a chance to show off their acting and singing chops. I was chuckling at the jokes, particularly Natalia Bushnik’s blunt humour as Bea, and I was wowed by everyone’s voices.
Like any open-mic artist, Lighters In The Air takes it’s chances onstage with a reckless confidence that I truly admire. Not every moment lands, but the show moves on with its ridiculously multi-talented cast, immersive atmosphere, and rough-around-the-edges charm. I can’t think of many open mics I’ve been to that have sounded this good, and I absolutely recommend seeing this show.
- Lighters in the Air plays at the Monarch Tavern. (12 Clinton St.)
- 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 (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Mature language; Unconventional venue.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 8:00 pm
- Thursday July 5th, 8:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 6:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 7:00 pm
- Sunday July 8th, 7:00 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 8:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 6:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 3:00 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 7:00 pm
Photo by Sarah Delignies. Left to right: Natalia Bushnik, Raechel Fisher, Anna Douglas, Taylor Whittaker, Amanda Silcoff, Cody Crain, Olaf Sham, Belinda Corpuz, Kris Hagen.