Toronto
2 min

Mad about the boygina

Inspiring hometown girls & Hollywood dames

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING. Damien Atkins is poignant and charming in the Buddies re-mount of Real Live Girl. Credit: David Hawe

“Where’s your god damn foot-long false eyelashes, sweetheart!?” was the thought that kept running through my head as I sat enchanted by an evening of song sung by a beautiful young man in white shirt and casual slacks. I am a drag-aholic and when a handsome diva sings at me I have uncomplicated needs – a long black dress, a small cocktail table and a bottle of beer. Is that too much to ask? Functional alcoholism is an oft-neglected aspect of theatre seating and a minor quibble considering the high quality of entertainment represented by Damien Atkins’ Real Live Girl, currently running at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre until Sun, Dec 21.



Atkins is a superb singer whose immense acting talents infuse each melody with poignancy and charm. The second act is a little heavy on the Sondheim-style of ponderous narrative song, but Atkins does each so well one cannot help but forgive this slight indulgence. His opening rendition of Charlene’s “I’ve Never Been To Me” and his encore version of “I Will Survive” shall remain within the lexicon of this middle-aged faggot’s memorable cabaret moments as truly inspiring spectacles. And that is the irony of this show’s enormous appeal, re-mounted at Buddies after a successful run in 2001. In a spectacle both understated and effusive, one wonders where is the real live girl in Real Live Girl? The culturally constructed neutrality of the costumes Atkins wears, alongside a spectacular drag inspired set, both by Sarah Armstrong, beg, at the very least, for a momentary sojourn into black gown and evening gloves. But as they say, different strokes.



In a kind of musical version of Sybil, Atkins channels the voices of girls – hometown and Hollywood – who lived in his mind as a boy. Brief monologues between songs provide hilarious insights into growing up fey and gay. Atkins has mastered so many forms of vocal expertise-cum-disguise one is instantly swept away by his performance. David Oiye’s direction and Jane Johanson’s choreography move the lithe performer subtly around the theatre as he speaks and sings to his audience in a devilish way that lightly chides but ultimately endears. Sweeping softly from stool to microphone he glanced at pianist John Hughes and muttered “You strange little man.” Here one sensed a moment of tenderness worthy of Dame Edna Everidge on a good day. But Atkins is careful to never over indulge this side of his youthful stage persona. Running the gamut from chanteuse to stand-up comic, storyteller and camp impersonator, he pleases a wide range of audience members.



Don’t miss this re-mount of the two-time Dora Award-winning show. In another city it might have a six-month run at a posh supper club. Now, in our town, in a fab gay space, it is a brief opportunity to see a Canadian star in the making. As for the foot-long eyelashes, God willing, they must belong on another boygina.



* Real Live Girl continues at Buddies (12 Alexander St) until Sun, Dec 21; call (416) 975-8555.