Toronto
2 min

Anything you can do

Queers can do better

HOMO HAVOC. The classic mistaken identity plot gets a modern twist in the lovely Anything That Moves, starring Juan Chioran, Tim Howar and Glynis Ranney. Credit: Xtra files

Over the last few years, the big, throbbing brain of Ann-Marie MacDonald has conjured up a play, a novel, an opera and a musical – all wildly different, but all share a remarkable generosity and compassion.



It’s no wonder her appeal is so broad, encompassing the blue-rinse set, young hipster queers and everyone in between. Her audience loves her characters – warts, neuroses, demons and all – because MacDonald so clearly does, too.



The messy, addled and thoroughly likeable folks that populate her musical, Anything That Moves, are a perfect example. Joel (Tim Hower), a sensitive, straight, but slightly immature florist, is introduced to Jinny (Glynis Ranney), a research scientist, by his best friend Tyrone (Juan Chioran), a rakish gay lawyer.



Jinny’s mother Fleur (Judy Marshak) is a recovering alcoholic and new age grief counsellor struggling to make amends with her prickly daughter. Joel’s dad Arthur (George Masswohl) arrives upon the scene with a secret and his own rocky father-son relationship to mend. Finally, there’s Alberta, Joel’s friend and best customer, a bossy lipstick lesbian undertaker with baby fever.



The original production premiered at the World Stage Festival last May and won a Dora Award; the storyline of the re-worked and finessed Anything That Moves is basically the same.



Joel falls for Jinny at first sight. Jinny, still stinging from a series of bad relationships, assumes that Joel is gay and involved with Tyrone. She adopts the sensitive Joel as her new best gay friend – launching into a song entitled “Why Can’t A Straight Man (Be More Like A Fag)” – and tells him that she’ll spend the next year celibate to break her bad dating habits. To stay close to Jinny, Joel plays along, dragging both a reluctant Tyrone and a militant Alberta into his ruse. I don’t think I’m ruining it to say that Jinny and Joel do end up together, but first they both must address their fractured relationships with their parents.



For all its modern sexual politics, Anything That Moves is essentially an old-fashioned Noel Coward / Oscar Wilde romp set to music. Aside from a lacklustre opening number, “Anything That Moves,” music director and composer Allen Cole and lyricist MacDonald have created some lovely songs, in particular Jinny’s beautifully haunting “I Thought I’d Never Fall In Love Again” and Fleur’s bluesy showstopper “Menopausal Mama.”



The dialogue, penned by MacDonald, with assistance by director Alisa Palmer, is snappy and sassy. Chioran is utterly charming as the caddish Tyrone – he’s captivating even when he’s just watching the other performers. And Caldwell’s Alberta is a sexy collaboration of snaky curves and sharp angles (“You look like a tourist,” she lasciviously tells a flirtatious and curious Fleur).



Capably directed by Palmer, the already hugely talented and hard-working cast has a real outstanding performance in Glynis Ranney’s. An unconventional musical heroine, Jinny is both hard-edged and sweet, sharp and clueless, disappointed and optimistic. Ranney inhabits her fearlessly, even belting out “The Wardrobe Crisis” dressed only in a bra and panties.



Unfortunately, some of the zip is lost in the second act. Too many loose ends must get wrapped up in an overly long final dinner party scene, slowing the action down and short-changing the character of Arthur. But that’s a small complaint for this otherwise delightful musical.



ANYTHING THAT MOVES.

PWYC-$32. 8pm. Tue–Sat.

2:30pm. Sat & Sun.

Till Sun, Jun 3.

Tarragon Main Space.

30 Bridgman Ave.

(416) 531 1827.