From Divine Providence to Starry Starry Skies Halloween Special for Victoria, BC

1 Jun

Final show:
June 1st, 8pm

Intrepid Theatre
1609 Blanshard St
Victoria, BC

Spoiler Alert

Tickets at the door or online.

Victoria, B.C. is ripe with fantastic talents contributing to the local theatre scene. While some may think Starry Starry Skies is a collective of performers who love Van Gogh, their artistry is with the unique shows they have in production. One of their first is Divine Providence, a work-in-progress look at the early days of baseball and one of its first all-star: Old Hoss Radbourn, veteran pitcher for the Major League Providence Grays. He won 60 games, setting a record that has never been broken.

This musical comedy looks at the life and times of this individual. Writer Corin Bert Wrigley (who plays rival Charlie Sweeney) said as a huge baseball fan, he’s always wanted to create a production about the early days of this sport. He also loves the comedy from that era. From the silent films of Mack Sennett to Laurel and Hardy to The Three Stooges (Groucho Marx especially) to Abbott and Costello, he made sure certain acts (namely the latter’s who’s on first routine) had to be honoured–even if it meant screwing up the timeline as the golden age of cinema featuring these greats spanned decades than just one.

Writing parts of the play and having contributions from every member of this troupe can be tough. In what’s offered is a very hilarious and whimsical take of what Radbourn endured in 1884. The story was not scattered since it had to make leaps to specific moments in its approximately 100-minute runtime. The show allowed for cabaret and vaudeville-style moments in between the drama. The songs are terrific, offering a diversity of genres true to the time. The ragtime, jazz, country, and barbershop quartet numbers stood out. My favourite numbers were “The Ballad of Harry Heitmann,” “Casey at the Bat,” “That Holy Light” and “Who the Hell’s Gonna Pitch.”

The meta humour works very well, and I chuckled every time the critic came on stage saying this is all wrong and interrupting the narrator (played by Rebecca Thackray). I was reminded of the Dudley Do-right and George of the Jungle cartoons. Also, Wrigley exuded a charm in his performance which made me think of Brendan Fraser. Carrie Stanhope (Marcela Lagos) was his lady than Radbourn at the time. Hoss had to change his ways before she would take a shine to him.

At the Intrepid Theatre, the performance was definitely intimate. I believe Divine Providence has the potential to be big and hope it will make a return engagement as certain elements are fleshed out more. Most of it concerns space and being able to dance or getting into a crowded bar-room brawl without hitting the wrong person than the performances by the 15 person cast. The expansion possibilities are more to do with the set design since there’s no projection of the setting–namely the speakeasy or stadium where the action is taking place. I have to admire the fact this show is historically accurate with one detail. Players back then played without gloves! The use of protection did not come into prominence until after 1885, when the design became patented.

If the nearly full show I attended is any indication, it’s already a hit amongst locals. The production is a nostalgia-fueled up-roaringly good time. The live music had me smiling throughout and I absolutely adored the costume design. When the show had a bit of everything for sports, musical and classical comedy fans to enjoy (including a very hilarious Alien style moment with a tape-worm in “Brimstone and Treacle” in the style of Mel Brooks Spaceballs), I believe Divine Providence is a home run.

That said, their next production will be one for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. They are parodying the musical episode, “Once More With Feeling” and it’s going to be performed this Halloween season! I can’t wait!

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