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Jukebox Hero: have we been waiting for a show like you? - Drew Rowsome - 416 Scene - MyGayToronto

Jukebox Hero: have we been waiting for a show like you?
23 March 2018

Standing in the rain, with his head hung low
Couldn't get a ticket, it was a sold out show
Heard the roar of the crowd, he could picture the scene
Put his ear to the wall, then like a distant scream
He heard one guitar, just blew him away

Once again the world has Diana Ross to thank. In the mid-'80s, while ensconced in an airport VIP lounge due to a delayed flight, Mick Jones the lead guitarist and key songwriter for the band Foreigner, Miss Ross reached out her hand and offered some advice. According to Jones, Miss Ross, just recovering from her experience with The Wiz, said the Foreigner's new album 4 contained "songs that would lend themselves to the theatre." Decades later, Annerin Theatricals is going to test that assertion.

Foreigner is a universal guilty pleasure, try not to crank the volume and sing along when one of their many hits swells out of a car radio. Try not to sing the title of the Ross-inspired musical Jukebox Hero, it can't be done, the title is already an ohrwurm. And jukebox musicals are also a guilty pleasure, despite desecrations like We Will Rock You there have been those that are irresistible like Mamma Mia!Forever PlaidLeader of the Pack and Rock of Ages. So why not shoehorn Foreigner hits - "I Want To Know What Love Is," "Hot Blooded," "Urgent," "Cold As Ice," "Waiting For A Girl Like You," etc, etc - into the tale of a rock star revisiting his down-on-its-luck gritty hometown and reviving his rivalry with his brother who stayed home?

The reason Jukebox Hero is of particular interest is that it is being mounted by Annerin Theatricals, a new and proudly Canadian producing company. And, notably, the all-Canadian cast includes local heroes Graham Scott Fleming (Kinky BootsNext to NormalRentAvenue QLegally Blonde and Miss Saigon on Broadway) and David Michael Moote (Jesus Christ SuperstarAssassinsLegends of Horror and the Foreigner-rivalling band Operus). When Fleming stepped up to the microphone to unleash his contribution to a quartet-of-leads version of "I Want To Know What Love Is," Miss Ross was nodding in delight in being, as usual, absolutely correct. And the audience member nearby couldn't resist sotto voce remarking of Moote, "Why is the best looking cast member in the ensemble?" And that was without Moote flexing his formidable pipes.

Tickets - on sale Monday, March 26 - will be sold. Before that, there will be out of town (or as an amiably rumpled and sleepy at 11am Mick Jones quipped, "Here in Canada, out of the spotlight for now") tryouts in Calgary and Edmonton. Co-writer Dick Clement, known for the jukebox films Across the Universe and The Commitments, defensively asserted that there will be "a narrative spine that keeps everything going," while director Randy Johnson bristled and opined that Jukebox Hero might be a jukebox musical but it will be "a legitimate piece of theatre."

Nothing wrong with legitimate theatre or compelling gritty narrative, but two rising stars (and the rest of the cast is exciting as well) and a heaping helping of guilty pleasure is already enough to create anticipation that is, as the song goes, "Hot blooded, I'm a little bit high/Hot blooded, you're a little bit shy/Hot blooded, you're making me sing/Hot blooded, for your sweet sweet thing . . ." Have we been waiting for a show like you?

Jukebox Hero begins on Thursday, February 21 at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria St. mirvish.com, jukeboxmusical.com

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