Vancouver Fringe Festival Pushes Boundaries With Music Taking Centre Stage

by Yasmine Shemesh

Music is a frequent co-star to theatrical performances at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, and this year is no exception. In keeping with the boundary-pushing energy of the festival, musical accompaniment takes centre stage in an eclectic variety, from punctuated outbursts to a complete rendition of one of rock music’s most important albums.

Here are BeatRoute’s picks of the Fringe:

Tommy’s Amazing Journey
Sept. 6-14, Red Gate Revue Stage

English mod pioneers The Who released their seminal rock opera, Tommy, in 1969, giving way to classics like “Pinball Wizard.” Now, 50 years on, Kevin Armstrong takes audiences on an “Amazing Journey” with his critically-acclaimed one-man-show, where he brilliantly portrays all the characters in the album while channelling his best Pete Townshend on guitar.

Sept. 5-15, Firehall Arts Centre

Making its Canadian debut at the Vancouver Fringe, this musical is set entirely in an elevator at London’s Covent Garden Tube Station. While the ride is only a minute long, it moves through eight different lifetimes and examines the many connections and miscommunications that so often take place in our daily interactions with one another.

Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me but Banjos Saved My Life
Sept. 5-14, Carousel Theatre

Keith Alessi was a high-powered CEO at a corporate office. Then, a major event changed the course of his life and made him re-evaluate everything. In his award-winning show, Alessi recounts his inspirational true story with banjo-picking that plucks at the heartstrings.

Carey, OK!: Timeless Timely Tunes Volume. 1
Sept. 7-15, Red Gate Revue Stage

Being compared to both Robin Williams and Reggie Watts is a tall order of expectation — but, in his mash-up of animated spoken word, singing, beatboxing, and dancing where he speaks about anxiety and that time he lived in Vietnam, Carey Wass delivers an energetic performance that really stands up.

Operatic Panic Attack
Sept. 6-15, Firehall Arts Centre

Fringe mainstay TJ Dawe is known for his beguiling autobiographical monologues. In this one, through bursts of opera, Dawe takes us back into his formative years as a theatre student, where he discovers his passion for Verdi and begins combating an anxiety disorder.

The Vancouver Fringe Festival takes flight September 5 to 15 at Various Locations. For tickets visit