Every Fringe festival boasts a number of musical comedy shows, but Alli Harris’ High School High is not one to be missed. It’s an impressive tour de force of nonstop singing and guitar for the full hour, and on top of that the show is just plain funny – partly through the clever lyrics that comment on universal high school experiences, and also through Harris’ own excellent comedic timing and facial expressions.

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Photography by Shawn MacDonall

High School High has a lot in common with a musical comedy album. It’s more or less sung all the way through, with Harris providing an overarching narration connecting the various songs/characters in the shape of one student attempting to explain how weird her new school is to the audience. Along the way you’ll meet such characters as the preppy girl who bullies everyone into buying bake sale goods, the kid who looks way too young to be in high school, and the young lesbian who was sort of hoping her parents would be less tolerant. There’s a good blend of silliness with identifiable experiences in high school that everyone’s had – is “French supply teacher” not the most thankless job in Ontario?

Harris gives a great performance all the way through, although it must take a lot out of someone to be continuously strumming a guitar and singing for a whole hour. The opening number, “Bake Sale B*tch,” includes some improvised asides towards an audience member who fulfills the role of the titular b*tch’s useless assistant, and the facial expressions Harris pulls at these moments are just priceless. Various characters weave in and out of the narrative – there’s not really a story so much as a setting that almost everyone can relate too (unless you were home-schooled or from a country with a different education system), and there were always people in high school you saw everywhere even if you didn’t know (or care to know) them. Even if there’s no grand message to High School High, it provides clever comedic stylings on what is common ground for nearly everyone. I must admit I don’t really have much to criticize with this show – not all of Harris’ lines truly rhyme, but if I have to get that picky to find something to critique then that’s an excellent sign.

High School High might not be hugely socially relevant, but it’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun delivered by one truly talented girl with a guitar, and I can’t think of a show description that’s more Fringe than that. I get the impression this show already has good buzz around it, but I have no problem with adding to it. A solid recommendation.

High School High

Written and Performed by Alli Harris

Directed by AL Connors

Stage Management by Caterina Fiorindi

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