Sunday, February 25, 2024

Review: Boy Falls From the Sky Soars At Theatre Aquarius

Who: Theatre Aquarius
What: Boy Falls From the Sky
Length: 80 minutes, no intermission
Where: 
Theatre Aquarius Mainspace (190 King William Street)
When: October 25 – November 4, 2023
Tickets: $20 and up
To Buy Tickets: https://tickets.theatreaquarius.org/

For a musical, there’s not a lot of original music in Jake Epstein’s one-man show Boy Falls From the Sky. Instead, there’s an array of Broadway-quality performances of Epstein’s most successful performances, including Spring Awakening, American Idiot, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. And through the course of Boy Falls From the Sky, Epstein takes the audience through his professional highs and personal lows of his career to date as a theatre performer. 

It’s fitting that Boy Falls From the Sky is the first musical presented by Theatre Aquarius since the company announced itself as developing the National Centre for New Musicals. The one person musical memoir is all about trying to achieve one’s dreams- not unlike the company’s goal to change the Canadian theatre landscape through the development of musicals. 

For the new audiences that Theatre Aquarius has actively been courting, the musical represents the up-and-coming. Boy Falls From the Sky was the smash hit of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival before being picked up for a run by Mirvish Productions, where it played at the Royal Alex Theatre to rave reviews. Like most shows that emerge from the Fringe, Boy Falls From the Sky maintains its simplicity and an element of grit and integrity. During opening night, Epstein had several stumbles, notably with his audio equipment. The errors, which paused the show momentarily, were handled by Epstein in a way that made them charming, rather than a distraction. It’s the hallmark of a true professional- and Epstein, with an enviable resume of Broadway performances and TV productions, is exactly that. 

For those who are longstanding Aquarius members, there is delight in the peek behind the curtain that Epstein provides, both into his rise to fame, stories from tours and the well-known actors and artists he interacts with along the way. At several points during the show, those around me murmured in delight as Epstein slipped in the name of someone he shared an elevator with, or a show he attended in New York. “Give them the old razzle dazzle,” Epstein repeatedly sings throughout Boy Falls From the Sky– and he does. 

True to its roots as a Fringe show, Boy Falls From the Sky has a simple set- a chair, a table, and three musicians (Music Director/Keyboards Daniel Abrahamson, Bass Abby David and Drummer Justin Han). For the 80-minute duration of the production, the three of them remain onstage with Epstein. In addition to an accompanying band, the three of them (Abrahamson in particular) play a few different roles, providing colour to Epstein’s journey- from a road trip with his family to see his first musical to singing lessons throughout his career.

Boy Falls From the Sky is ultimately a love letter to theatre. While we try not to identify target audiences in our reviews for productions, those who will identify with the show and find it most endearing will be those who are- or have ever considered themselves to be- theatre geeks. Those who have held similar dreams to Epstein will find joy in his successes, empathize with his disappointments and find redemption in its conclusion. 

While the jury is still out on the success of Theatre Aquarius’ National Centre for New Musicals, the choice to program Boy Falls From the Sky sends a strong message that bodes well for the company. The underlying message was that even if there are bumps in the road, lofty ambitions are still achievable- and can be accomplished through song. 
Boy Falls From the Sky is at Theatre Aquarius as part of a larger tour that includes both Barrie and Montreal. It has a comparatively short run at Theatre Aquarius, which closes on Friday. For Epstein’s razzle-dazzle, it’s worth it.

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