Theatre Review: Top Gun! The Musical
By Brianne Hogan
Top Gun! The Musical (Image: Ian Laird)
“Highway to the Danger Zone” was right. The latest adaptation of Top Gun! The Musical, playing at the Lower Ossington Theatre, spins out of control almost as furiously and tragically as the F-14 jet that crashed in Top Gun the movie, killing Maverick’s lovable partner, Goose.
The premise of Top Gun! The Musical sounds like a big joke: it’s a show within a show about a director that’s trying to bring the popular Tom Cruise action flick to the stage as a mega-musical. Here’s the hook: he doesn’t do it very well. And in a classic case of art imitating life, the same can be said for this former Toronto Fringe Festival hit.
The initial impression of the stage’s set is disappointing. A single chair strapped onto a piece of rolling plywood is the centerpiece. Plastered across the walls are hand-made drawings of the characters. A large folding table is downstage left with a Ziploc bag of Goldfish crackers sitting on top of it. By all accounts, the set looks nothing like a stage but a rehearsal space — and that’s exactly the point.
Top Gun! The Musical tells the story of a stressed out stage director named Billy (played by a very harried Liam Volke) and the zany cast of actors hired to bring the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster to the stage. The real life actors play actors who are referred to by their characters’ names only, which is fitting, since their personalities match their iconic alter-egos.
There’s Maverick (Stephen Cullen), who makes the ladies swoon, but is more clueless than cocky; Charlie (Alicia Coelho), the diva, who slept her way to the top, and Iceman (Jay Mitchell), the other diva, who doesn’t hesitate to exaggerate the homoerotic moments between himself and Maverick (including the popular “jaw snapping” scene). There’s also the director’s nerdy assistant Wendy (played by the talented Michelle Jedrzejewski), who has a crush on her oblivious boss, and The General (played by a bawdy Michael Lambert), the producer with sketchy investors who would prefer Goose be called “Duck” instead. And speaking of Goose, he’s now a she (played by the scene-stealing Meghan Barron) in a surprise gender-switch that is never explained.
I wanted to like this play. Being a huge fan of ‘80s flicks, shows-within-shows and Tom Cruise’s smile, I wanted this production to be equally as awesome as the movie. It had promise. The opening number, with Goose pushing Maverick around in that aforementioned rolling chair apparatus (which is supposed to be a cockpit, apparently) singing “We’ve Got a Plane to Catch” is, well, catchy. But soon after, the show quickly takes a nosedive. The actors just continue to act out scenes from the movie and perform random musical numbers, which would be all right if the majority of the actors could carry a tune.
Although the film Top Gun still holds a special place within my cinephiliac heart, I’ve definitely lost that loving feeling for Top Gun! The Musical.
Top Gun! The Musical, The Lower Ossington Theatre, 100A Ossington Ave., 416-915-6747. To June 29.