Theatre Review: Bloodless
By Allan Gould
Bloodless plays at the Panasonic Theatre until Oct. 28 (Image: Ashton Doudelet)
Last week I saw a new Canadian company, Theatre 20, using a Mirvish-owned theatre to present its first-born production, Bloodless. What could be more satisfying and exciting than discovering a promising new musical? The only disappointing thing to report: it closes Oct. 28, so you have only a few weeks to catch it.
Bloodless: the Trial of Burke and Hare — a very Stephen Sondheim-esque musical that is more musical than comic, but very funny nonetheless — is about two Irish serial killers in 19th century Scotland who make a good living by selling the bodies of their victims to anatomy schools.
What a joy to experience the birth of a new Toronto-based musical theatre company, one that is dedicated to “evocative Canadian-made and story-driven works.” And what a special treat to see that one of Theatre 20’s founders (and the director of Bloodless) is a warm acquaintance of mine, Adam Brazier, whom I first discovered onstage a decade ago in a semi-professional (and superb) production of the charming, classic American musical, Godspell. Throughout his extraordinarily successful career, he has performed in Sondheim’s brilliant musical, Into the Woods, on Broadway, and produced a superior production of Sondheim’s haunting, dark and insightful Assassins.
The playwright/composer of Bloodless is Winnipegger Joseph Aragon, who had a raved-about production of a much-shorter version of Bloodless at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, where it won the “Best of Fest” award.
The music has witty and wise echoes of Sondheim throughout — but is highly original — and Mr. Aragon’s lyrics are astonishingly complex and accomplished. Lots of laughs throughout, even if they’re occasionally morbid.
Bloodless is hardly perfect, of course: it’s low-budget, and the sound and microphones were not always top-notch. But being able to land tickets for as cheap as $49 makes it worthwhile to see some of the finest performers in Canada of the past few years, including the grand Evan Buliung, a founding artist of Theatre 20 along with Brazier, and other greats whom I have seen and admired in shows at Stratford and Shaw for years. Brilliant singers, too. Well, this is a real treat.
I am so glad to have experienced the very beginnings of this potentially game-changing new company. Bravo to all involved in this very satisfying — even thrilling — new company and show.
Bloodless, Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St., 416-872-1212. Now - Oct. 28.