The Tragicall Historie of Nick Wade: So You Want to Be a Rockstar?
Ozzy, Mick, Sid, Freddie, and Kurt, names so famous in rock history that I don’t even need to include their last names and you already know who I’m talking about. Despite spanning different musical styles, these artists have one major thing in common: absolutely captivating stage presence.
If you grew up during the “golden age” of rock’n’roll, the birth of punk, and the emergence of grunge (or are at least familiar with music from the late 60s to the early 90s) then you understand that it is the frontman (or the lead singer) that, typically, makes or breaks a band. What would Led Zeppelin be without Robert Plant? Or U2 without Bono? Unimaginable. In a joint production by Backpack Theatre and MayCan Theatre, The Tragicall Historie of Nick Wade (and Other Fuck-Ups) channels its inner This is Spinal Tap and showcases the history behind the rise and fall of one punk-rock band.
Now, I will mention this as somewhat of a disclaimer: if you personally know any of these performers, you might have some difficulty putting these connections aside and delving into the real meat of this piece, especially since the performers use their real names and act pseudo-naturally. Moreover, this punk-rock cabaret, of sorts, can be quite polarizing (i.e. you’re going to love it or hate it) and I would go so far as to argue that this show is meant solely for an audience who grew up being in bands, or hanging around or dating people in bands, or generally for people who love that “rock band scene”.
If you’re looking for musical virtuosity, then you’ve come to the wrong show (6 Guitars and The Greatest Guitarist in the World are both playing in the Arts Court Library), their musical ability is not the point here. The Tragicall Historie of Nick Wade is the story of Cory, Jonah, and Tony and how one frontman, Nick Wade (OTS graduate Nick Fournier), would change their band forever. Like the title suggests, the play ends in tragedy, a throwback to Ancient Greece if you will, and has the band questioning its responsibilities and motivations.
Set up in T.A.N. coffee shop, the audience is kept within close proximity of the stage and the alleyway seating configuration creates a longer, more dynamic, stage space for the performers to play in. The musical instruments are set up on the stage at one end and the only other set piece, a stool on top of a small block that is mostly used by moody musicians, sits at the opposite end of the alley.
Tony Adams (MayCan Theatre) is hilarious as the jealous bass player (though in real life, this is typical of the lead guitarist) who plays in the band as a way to get chicks and distrusts the new band member from the very start; Cory Thibert (MayCan Theatre) hits the drums well and has what’s got to be one of the funniest moments on stage ever; and Jonah Allingham (Backpack Theatre) on lead guitar as the only band member who has The Fuck-Ups’ best interests in mind and seems to be the only one who genuinely cares about the music.
However, the real show stealers for me were Kevin Reid, who was perfectly cast in this show as a radio host who follows the comings and goings of Nick Wade and the Other Fuck Ups (also, did you know that his voice sounds like butter?!); and Nick Wade himself, who is a dangerously engaging frontman and stands in complete contrast with his other band mates: he’s quiet and detached (when he’s not singing), incredibly tall and long, and there’s an awkwardness to him that draws the audience eye every time he’s on stage.
Another big shout out has to go to Madeleine Boyes-Manseau as the Director/Dramaturg of this piece as she manages to keep this high octane story on its proper track. Handling an alleyway configuration is no easy task either, yet Manseau does the best that she can with the space that she’s given.
I think what interested me the most about this show are the questions it raises in the final moments of the performance: to what end are musicians, and even more specifically the frontmen, responsible for their audiences’ behaviour? Should they be? Bands like The Who, where eleven fans died at their 1979 show in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Judas Priest, who were named defendants in a lawsuit alleging that their albums caused the suicide attempts of two young men, have certainly witnessed the extreme power of their music and the mass hysteria that often comes as a result of it, but is that the musicians’ fault?
This is a question not easily answered, though it certainly makes for engaging discussion, and Nick Wade, through a solid and well-rounded performance, takes a look at what happens internally to a band when both great fame and great responsibility are at once thrust upon you.
The Tragicall Historie of Nick Wade (and Other Fuck-Ups)
Presented by Backpack Theatre & MayCan Theatre
Directed by Madeleine Boyes-Manseau
Tony Adams as Tony Fuck-Up
Jonah Allingham as Jonah Fuck-Up
Nick Fournier as Nick Wade
Kevin Reid as Kevin Earl
Cory Thibert as Cory Fuck-Up
Playing at T.A.N. Coffee BYOV H