A Perfect Bowl of Pho
Book and lyrics by Nam Nguyen, music by Wilfred Moeschter. Directed by Steven Hao. Through July 17 at Ada Slaight Hall, 585 Dundas Street E. fringetoronto.com and 416-966-1062.
Nam Nguyen’s surprisingly good soup musical has all the ingredients for a future far beyond the parameters of the Toronto Fringe Festival.
There’s no noodle about it: Nguyen’s songs are catchy, masterfully avoiding clichés, and his subversive songwriting is top-notch. Hosted by a glorious cast of young actors and superbly directed by Steven Hao, Nguyen’s soup show is serious without being sickening, funny without being irritating. Although the version of “Pho” performed at the Toronto Fringe is rambling, it is so full of heart and talent that any errors in the staging are quickly forgiven.
Loose in plot but tight in pacing, we follow Nam on a meta-theatrical journey as he writes an early draft of “Pho”, interfacing with pretentious Toronto playwrights and dodgy friends as he struggles to gather a complete room. The tie of “Pho” is Vietnamese cuisine – as you might have guessed – but dark vignettes about the Vietnamese diaspora, as well as a wonderful musical love letter to pho in the show’s final moments. , nullify any undeserved sentimentality.
The cast is alarmingly strong and uniformly strong, but standout performances quickly emerge from Chris Vergara as Nam, Kryslyne-Mai Ancheta as Amy, and Joshua Kilimnik as Leo. A super tight pit band led by Kevin Vuong hold the fort against Nguyen’s demanding and energetic songs – the orchestrations are also excellent.
While “Pho” has earned itself a life past the Toronto Fringe’s sell-by date, this iteration is up for grabs if you can – you’ll want to brag that you saw it before it deservedly hit the charts. bigger scenes. It’s (pardon me) soup.
Correction, July 14, 2022: This article has been updated to note that the music for the piece is by Wilfred Moeschter.