By Stephen Weir
After a week of non-stop plays, the annual Toronto Fringe Festival now has a stand-up comedy special with a Caribbean- Canadian connection.
It ‘s called Coconuts, Cedar Trees and Maple Leaves. The comics are two immigrants -Trinidad- born Jean Paul and Habib Siam who hails from Lebanon.
The show has been sold out at almost every performance for the past six day and patrons are being turned away.
“Right after our preview performance last week, the show has been sold out. It is a small venue and they have had to turn away people,” Jean-Paul told the Caribbean Camera.
“Before we did our first performance, I thought this would be a one-off thing. But the response has been so good, we are looking at taking this out to other cities and other festivals.”
“This is a lot of fun and a much different experience for us in terms of the people taking in the show. They see our performance as theatre, which is a long way from Improv in a comedy club.”
Coconuts, Cedar Trees and Maple Leaves is a story about culture, identity, and friendship that emphasizes individual experiences over generalized narratives.
Habib Siam completed a PhD at McGill University in Montreal before committing to comedy.
Jean Paul’s comedy has taken him to unexpected places, including Jerusalem. He has written for the CBC, with Russell Peters, and was nominated for a Juno award.
“As comics we tell our life stories. I came to Canada when I was young. So I talk about growing up, fitting in and becoming a Canadian. Habib has a different story but as immigrants there are so many similarities in our stories,” said Jean Paul.
“My 35-minutes is always changing. There are core points I want to cover, but what I do tonight will not be the same as tomorrow’s 80 minute show.”
The two men are on stage every night until July 15 at Sarah’s Café and Bar (1426 Danforth Avenue) in Toronto.
The Toronto Fringe Festival, now in its 30th year is the largest theatre festival in Ontario. There are 150 shows in this year’s festival at 45 venues.
A few years ago, you might have spotted Tymisha (Tush) Harris dancing behind Justine Timberlake and the rest of members of the Boy band N*SYNC, or later as a backup dancer for Lyte Funkie Ones (LFO), or briefly on Netflix in a few blood splattered movies.
But this week at the Randolf Theatre in Toronto, the Orlando-based singer and dancer is no longer a second banana on stage – although bananas strategically placed in her costume keep her one-woman play Josephine from being R-rated.
This award-winning off-Broadway musical tells the story of the iconic Josephine Baker, the first African-American international superstar and one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century.
Josephine shatters stereotypes of race, gender roles and sexuality in this intimate, charming and haunting cabaret show about Baker escaping American racism to sing, dance (often nude) and perform in Paris. The 60-minute show is at the Randolf Theatre (736 Bathurst St) in Toronto. It continues until July 14
Movin’ Melvin Brown
The Texas based singer, has done it all. Since his start in the early ’50s, Movin’ Melvin Brown he has been a soul singer, jazzman, tap dancer, male stripper, singing telegram artist and a US army private.
Now at the age of 73, he travels the world performing his life story at fringe festivals and summer theatre.
Brown channels the singers who have influenced him over the decades, including the king of rock’n’roll, Chuck Berry. This is a show that truly moves.
Movin’ Melvin is mixed with the dance and tap routines that have won Brown a faithful following worldwide. Each show Brown brings up a female from the audience and gives her taste of his stripper days – he has the body of 40-year old, but wisely never takes off his underwear.
Between the music, the tap and the peeling, Brown recounts the racism he has faced in his life. When the Caribbean Camera saw the show at the Robert Gill theatre, he ended the almost two-hour revue with a long soulful thanks to Canada for being so polite and such an open society.
Photos by: www.davidcyrphotography.com