Tuesday, 24 January 2017

OUT OF SIGHT: Frank the Freak wins you over with amusing, melodic musical comedy

LOOK THE PART: Campbell (as Ken) and Mignott (as Frank) have a heart-to-heart as action heats up.

Frank the Freak (Jambiz Productions) 
Director: Trevor Nairne and Patrick Brown 
Cast: Glen Campbell, Akeem Mignott, Sakina Deer, Keisha Patterson and Courtney Wilson 
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston 

Is Frank the Freak a fresh, original spin on the classic Beauty & the Beast fairytale? That’s debatable. But it’s certainly a very funny, very well-lit and very Jamaican version. Taking on multiple roles, as he so often does, Glen Campbell will have you rolling in the aisles with his spot-on portrayals of everyone from a mischievous imaginary friend named Ken to a cool-and-conscious West African named Killa to Christian divo Brother Ezekiel, who has a tendency to ‘baptize’ his conversation companions with his saliva. 

But in the end, the show truly belongs to the pair of Akeem Mignott, donning a grotesque face and a Quasimodo hunchback to convincingly portray the title character, and Keisha Patterson, who sings and dances her way into our hearts as Cutie, the good-natured 17-year-old daddy’s princess, who wins his heart. 

No stranger to Jamaicanizing storybook-derived fantasies, Patrick Brown uses Frank the Freak to not only offer the loyal Jambiz fans a hugely enjoyable musical comedy but to rigorously explore ideas and themes surrounding inner and outer beauty, cruelty and compassion. The end result is a sometimes touching, frequently humorous, but always entertaining theatrical experience. 

When blood-thirsty residents, hurling all sorts of invectives and accusations, chase Frank from his place of residence, he takes refuge behind the sprawling mansion that belongs to uptight patriarch Tiny (Courtney Wilson with a wiggle), the overprotective father of precocious Cutie, who accidently stumbles across Frank’s hideout. They strike up a friendship but, as expected, things soon get complicated. 

But not in an entirely bad way. Could Cutie have genuinely tender feelings for this unsightly man-creature who many would say has a face only a mother could love? That’s precisely how peppery housekeeper Munchie (Sakina Deer, firing on all cylinders) feels, not to mention Cutie’s father, who flatly believes no boy in the world is good enough for his baby girl. Throughout it all, the meanness and the heartache, Frank’s imaginary friend Ken (Campbell) is there by his side, rooting for the big guy and riddling him with insults. But all in good fun. 

There are tense moments and some heartfelt ones that give you pause, but there’s also a playful energy to the whole thing that bolsters the show’s appeal. As for the intermittent musical numbers, they are catchy and lively, particularly tunes like “Make Him Fret” and the empowering anthem “Love Will Never Die.” 

So even though the narrative is familiar and the ending a tad predictable, Frank the Freak is a melodic musical comedy that has a lot going for it. Best of all, it’s loudly beating heart is in the right place. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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